‘We always, you know, remember the good in life but we can never forget the bad either.’
Jules and some of her siblings were placed in a Catholic orphanage in Queensland in the late 1950s. The family had been struggling for some time after Jules’s father returned from World War II and her parents, who were strict Catholics, welcomed the suggestion of a local priest for some respite.
Jules was about four years old when she arrived with her siblings at the Sisters of Mercy orphanage. The older children were sent to different dormitories leaving Jules and her sister without ‘our security blanket’.
In the 12 months or so that Jules was in the orphanage she was sexually abused by nuns and priests. She described being dragged by the hair and made to perform oral sex, and being subjected to numerous rapes.
‘They sort of get you in you know, their trust basically, because they were nuns so they were you know, God’s people. Nuns and priests were God’s people so you should feel secure. They did make you feel like that for a little, tiny while but after that, forget it.’
Both Jules and her sister were sexually abused and she suspects other siblings were too, but when they went home, no one ever spoke of it.
‘How could you go to your parents and say, “That man done this to me Mummy”? And you know what I would have got? A flogging, because Mum and Dad would never believe that the nuns and priests would do that to anybody. It was child pornography.’
Jules spoke to the Commissioner by telephone and said she had never disclosed what had happened in the home to anyone else.
‘This is over the phone and I probably would not say to you, to your face, ‘cause I couldn’t bear to look at another person and feel I can talk about myself, and tell you to your face what was done to me.’
The abuse had left her with a lifelong sense of feeling ‘completely dirty’.
‘I mean seriously dirty. Even to look at myself, my body, everything, I couldn’t do it because every time I had a shower I had to wash myself more and more and more and more and get it out you know.’
The abuse affected her in ways that made her seem very ‘reserved’ throughout her school years, Jules said.
‘When we were in there, what we were told to do we had to do. So when you get older and someone says you have to do something, you have to do it. So you get reserved and you don’t actually want to do that. I had my first child by the time I was 16.’
Jules said she could never ‘connect’ with her child, something she thought might be handled differently nowadays. The gap that developed between her and her daughter was never reconciled.
She’d never been able to trust anyone, she said, and her ‘head was all mixed up, confused’. Although she knew about groups like the Forgotten Australians and other support services, the thought of going to a meeting to ‘have a morning tea with them and swap stories’ was not something she wanted to do.
‘I feel dirty all right? And I’m not going to let anybody else have my stories and I don’t want to know what happened to them, because I know what I’m going through and what happened to me in my life.’
Significant health problems and poor access to housing added to Jules’s difficulties. She didn’t have many friends and was estranged from most of her family apart from the sister who’d been with her in the orphanage. She didn’t like the people in the town in which she lived because they were ‘rude’ and ‘arrogant’.
Her main feeling in life was that she was being continually ‘punished’ by God. ‘I pray to Him all the time but you know, I don’t get a lot of the answers that I want, and I know He’s got a lot of people to listen to.’ She said she always had the feeling that God was ‘going to punish me for something else’.
‘I do believe that if my life hadn’t of gone that way, my life would have been better. Sometimes we get dealt a good hand in life, sometimes we get dealt a bad and I don’t think there’s anyone else out there that had the bad life that I fucking had all right, excuse the phrase.
‘As far as from the home upwards … And I’m just going to sit here and rot in hell and just take it to my grave because I’m just so ashamed of myself, and to think that someone was allowed to do that to my body, it feels filthy all the time. All the time. I could never take a compliment off anyone because I’d think someone’s trying to get on to me, you know what I mean? Let them in – I can’t let anyone in, and people say, “Well that’s your choice”. No, it isn’t my choice. It’s how I feel.’