‘An 11-year-old child back then didn’t decide much of anything … I can’t see why they are still blaming me.’
Jewell was born in the mid-1950s, and was nine years old when she and her siblings were placed in a children’s home run by a non-denominational Christian service organisation in Sydney.
During the school holidays, it was usual for the home to send the children to a holiday house by the sea. However, in the late 1960s, Jewell’s sisters refused to go because one of them had told the matron that she’d been ‘kissed’ by the husband of a staff member the previous year.
The superintendent listened to the girl’s story and believed her. Jewell was then called to talk to the superintendent because her sister had said that Jewell had ‘something much more serious to tell’.
Jewell told the superintendent that she’d been sexually abused by the same man. The superintendent then took the girls to the local police station where they spoke to a detective and made statements. Jewell also underwent a medical examination.
The man was charged, and forced to leave the holiday home. He appeared in court and was on remand for a number of weeks.
During that time, Jewell and her sisters left the home. ‘I think we were pretty well kicked out of the home … I think so, in retrospect.’
Jewell had always believed that the man had been prosecuted, and had never worked with children again. However, when she accessed her welfare records, she was surprised to discover that the charges had been dismissed, and that the man had been re-employed by the organisation only to be removed again following an allegation from another girl.
‘I got a shock when I was given this paperwork … and was told he was put back into the home, because I believed for all these years that at least it had gone to the police and he wouldn’t be [able] to do the same thing again.’
‘Not only had he been put back into that home, but after he was … kicked out of that home - because it happened again – he was sent out to the Aboriginal missions … They seemed to be quite proud of the fact that they’d sent him out there after he’d done what he … [did] with white girls.’
Jewell was also shocked to read a postscript on her records that said ‘Jewell subsequently denied her statement and the charge against [the man] was dismissed in court’. Jewell has no recollection of this at all, and believes that she must have been pressured into withdrawing her allegation.
Reading about her sister’s allegation that she had been kissed by the man was also a shock. It verified her own story, but made her wonder why her sister did not tell her at the time.
‘That was the whole home system though. They used the old divide and conquer. My sister, some of the things she did to me you shouldn’t do to your worst enemy.’
The home split the sisters up, placed them in different dormitories, and ‘fractured’ their relationship. Their brother, who was also in the home, was sent to another town, and is now deceased. ‘They was playing one against the other. That’s what they did.’
The sisters have been estranged for a long time, and Jewell feels the loss of her brother deeply.
‘My brother could never talk about what happened … He was left to rot in there, basically. It wasn’t until we were in our late 40s that … we finally got to talk about it.’
As an adult, Jewell has spent time in a psychiatric hospital and has had significant trust issues that have impacted on all aspects of her life. She has had counselling for many years now and finds it helpful.
‘Your immediate issue is your immediate issue that you need addressed. You don’t always link it to what happened 30 years ago unless you stick at it.’
After obtaining her records, Jewell wrote to the organisation seeking an apology, but found their response to be inadequate. She has tried to convince herself that she shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed about the abuse, but the apology letter felt designed to put her back in her place, ‘back out in the dormitory’.
This motivated her to seek financial compensation.
‘I want them to pay. They had no right to keep him in those homes. How many warnings does somebody need?’
Jewell knows it took courage to report the abuse when she was child. ‘I didn’t expect it to go on this long, though.’