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Julianne Rose's story

All Julianne remembers of her childhood in growing up in an institution. In the early 1950s, at one year old, she was separated from her family in the Northern Territory and placed into care. She was later told that her parents’ marriage had broken down, her father was absent and that her mother had a drinking problem.

At the children’s home Julianne was taught ‘white’ culture and was told to ‘forget’ about her Aboriginal heritage. She was not allowed to speak her language nor interact with Aboriginal people that lived in a reserve nearby. There were severe punishments for those who disobeyed the workers of the home, and she learned to be ‘ashamed’ of her Aboriginal identity and culture.

Julianne was subject to racial bullying by the staff and other children. She recalls being called a ‘dirty abo’ by other residents several times, and was physically abused by staff.

When Julianne was five years old she and her friend absconded from school and hid in the bushes. They were punished with a leather strap by Miss Blakemore and she had ‘big, purple bruises’ for weeks after the assault.

At six years old Julianne was sexually abused. She was in the kitchen ‘looking for food’ and had her back turned. A boy in his mid-teens came up behind her, grabbed her and anally raped her.

She knows this boy was a male resident of the home, but she still doesn’t know his name. ‘I didn’t actually see him because he came up behind me.’

After the abuse, Julianne became ‘a chronic bed wetter’. She was forced to clean her own sheets in front of the other children, which was ‘humiliating’.

Julianne ‘stopped talking’ to ‘survive’ at the home and never told anyone about the abuse.

When she was seven years old, she was flown to New South Wales and adopted by a white, Christian family. She found it difficult to adapt to their life, and was told that she didn’t need to think of her past as she was ‘with a white family now’. The family weren’t ‘overly affectionate’ and if Julianne cried they would say her tears were just ‘crocodile tears’. She endured racism and bullying at school.

Julianne ‘blocked out’ the abuse for a significant period of time, but it would return at night when she experienced flashbacks and would wake up screaming. She couldn’t tell her adopted family about it because she was told not to talk of her past, and felt they ‘wouldn’t understand’ or support her.

In her early 20s Julianne married and moved interstate with her husband. She began to drink heavily, and this would be the only way for her to have sex with her husband as she ‘hated sex’. During her marriage she had two children and often felt like she ‘couldn’t be a parent’. She felt ashamed of loving one of her children more than the other.

Julianne has struggled with connecting to people emotionally, and said ‘it’s easier to be alone’ because she doesn’t trust anyone. She experienced depression and sometimes felt suicidal. She developed impulsive behaviours in her adulthood, which led to her having multiple affairs in her marriage, and also a gambling addiction.

‘Even now occasionally I would do things and I would wonder why I would do it. It’s like I do things impulsively like playing the pokies. I hate the pokies and I had this urge to go. Later on I would ask myself why I went, I just lost $500.’

She reunited with her birth family after her husband passed away, but spending time with her siblings and mother was difficult because she feels ‘just so white’. She finds she ‘can’t relate’ to her family because she lost her Aboriginal culture and her lifestyle is very different from theirs.

Julianne wants things to change for Aboriginal people. She believes that ‘proper education’ should be adopted into the Aboriginal way of life and ‘breaking the cycle’ of drugs and alcohol with schooling would make a huge impact on Aboriginal communities. She also recommends that families should ‘encourage their Aboriginality’ and not be ashamed of it.

‘I feel like Aboriginal people are disappearing, it’s like their spirits are disappearing … They don’t seem to have a voice now.’

Julianne has never reported her abuse to the police nor taken civil action. She never told her late husband or her adopted mother about the abuse, but found it comfortable to discuss the abuse with her sister. Now she knows that all of her sisters were sexually abused as children. She came to the Royal Commission to share her experience in the hope of finding peace.

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