Kalina grew up in Queensland in the 1980s. At 10 months of age she was made a ward of the state when her Aboriginal mother ‘gave her away’. As a child Kalina never had contact with her birth mother and didn’t know anything about her mother’s circumstances.
Kalina was almost immediately fostered to a couple, John and Margaret Graham, who couldn’t have children of their own. When Kalina was 10 years old the Grahams, who she calls ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’, adopted her.
Life was ‘okay’ until the abuse started.
Kalina’s uncle, Ryan Bellamy, would give her money and gifts as part of a grooming process. She was often at the Bellamy’s house as they would frequently look after Kalina on weekends or during holidays. ‘He just started out showing himself to me’ Kalina told the Commissioner, when describing her uncle’s abuse. Exposing himself developed into him touching her. Bellamy, then in his late 30s to 40s, repeatedly abused Kalina from when she was eight to 13 years of age. Whenever Kalina asked for money to go to the shop he would insist she participate in sexual activity before he would give it to her. Eventually she stopped asking.
Bellamy told Kalina not to tell her parents, saying they wouldn’t believe her or that she’d get into trouble. The threats got worse until Bellamy said he would have to kill her father if she told him. Consequently, Kalina never told her parents about the abuse.
Between the ages of nine and 11, Kalina came close to hanging herself a few times. She would get the rope ready but somehow talk herself out of it. No one else knew of this.
When Kalina was 13 her aunt witnessed an abusive event. Bellamy had his foot up Kalina’s nightie when his wife walked in. Horrified, Mrs Bellamy acted decisively and made sure that her husband was never around Kalina again. The abuse stopped from that moment and Kalina began to feel safer. However, it was never reported, not even to Kalina’s parents. She also had to see her uncle at family gatherings.
About two years later, when Kalina was around 15 or 16, she told her father about the abuse. He was very supportive towards Kalina and very angry at Bellamy. He rang his brother-in-law and confronted him. Later, at a family barbecue, he told him never to come near the family again. However, no professional support for Kalina was sought.
At the age of 16 or 17, Kalina managed to turn her life around. She’s not sure what gave her the strength. ‘Year 11, I wagged the whole year … and half of Year 12, and I had to catch up the whole lot of it in six months. And did! I was on the brink of getting kicked out of school.’
Kalina’s parents ultimately separated. When Kalina was 23 she told her mother about the abuse. Her mother didn’t believe her. This created a real problem in their relationship. Her aunt, who witnessed the abuse, ‘now says she dreamt it … which is making up lies’ Kalina told the Commissioner.
The abuse still replays in Kalina’s head. Her relationships have been affected. ‘I just get sicker replaying it over in my head ... It’s annoying, it just stays there and you just think about it … There’s no justice.’
Less than a year ago, Kalina reported the abuse to the police. She felt they did a good job and moved quickly. Legal proceedings are now underway.
Kalina has reconciled with her birth mother. She has just started counselling with a specialist in child sexual abuse and has a supportive partner and stepson. Kalina would like to see better background checks on the extended families of prospective foster parents.