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Jessica Eve's story

Jessica arrived in Australia in the early 1960s with her mother and brother as part of a government and Church-supported migration scheme. Upon their arrival in Western Australia, the children were separated from their mother and sent to live in a residential farm facility.

Jessica ‘was very excited’ about going to the farm and in the few years she was there, had only good experiences. However as a young teenager she was taken away from the farm to look after her mother who ‘had a nervous breakdown and suffered with severe depression’.

In a written statement and during her private session, Jessica described the difficulty she had in moving back in with her mother. She ran away often because she ‘found it very hard to cope’. Often hungry, she stole food and truanted from school. At one stage she spent some time in a juvenile detention centre where she was ‘very afraid’ of a boy ‘who was sexually offending against other children’. He was the same age as Jessica and she was ‘absolutely terrified of him’.

Although the family was Anglican, some members of a nearby independent Christian church began visiting Jessica’s mother to offer practical and emotional support. Irving McGee was one of the people who visited the house and over a period of time he befriended Jessica’s mother.

During one of his visits, McGee went into Jessica’s bedroom to ask her why she kept running away from home. ‘Mr McGee sexually assaulted me’, Jessica said. ‘I have a very clear memory of this incident. I never told anyone about this at the time because I felt very frightened and confused.’

When Jessica was 13 her mother died suddenly and she and her brother were made wards of the state and ‘left to cope on our own’. Jessica was sent to live in a home run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. She described it as ‘a horrific time in my life’ with terrible food that had maggots and weevils in it and where she wasn’t allowed to have contact with other girls. She had no schooling and was put to work in the laundry where ‘the conditions were sweltering’.

The home had ‘lots of adult women there suffering from severe mental illness’ and Jessica ‘saw people and babies die there’. She wasn’t offered any comfort after her mother’s death and caught the bus by herself to attend her mother’s funeral.

‘I still to this day have that feeling of isolation and loneliness within me’, Jessica said. ‘I still feel disconnected, like I do not belong anywhere.’

While she was in the home, Jessica became pregnant and her son was forcibly taken from her. ‘I remember the nurses [at the hospital] saying that I had no one to look after me, that my mother was dead, and that I would have to give my baby up.’

As an adult, Jessica returned to the Christian church to speak to a minister about the sexual abuse she experienced as a child, but the minister ‘did not want to discuss the matter with me’.

The severe health problems she’d had throughout her life were a direct result, Jessica believed, of the sexual abuse she experienced as a child.

‘I don’t think I was ever right again. I don’t think I’ve ever been right since then.’

She told the Commissioner that her faith in God gave her strength, as did as ‘the deep love’ she had for her grandchildren. She’d had ‘many blessings’, she said, including the ‘wonderful’ moment when she was reunited with her son.

In the mid 2000s, Jessica participated in the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing program. She received $5,000, an amount she found ‘insulting’ particularly because of the labour she’d been forced to undertake in the nuns’ laundry.

Similarly, the $5,000 she received through Redress WA was disappointing. It made her ‘feel angry and as though I had not been heard or valued in these processes’.

Jessica said she ‘cannot comprehend how we were treated in ways that were so harsh and cruel’ at the home. As an adult she’d once visited the home and met up with a nun who had been there at the same time as her. The nun hugged her and apologised for the way she’d been treated.

‘She said to me, “I am so sorry that all of that happened to you. That should never have happened. You were never a bad girl”.

‘I remember her crying and crying. It meant the world to me to feel that she cared about me, and to feel in that moment that I was cared for.’

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