‘There is a thing that I’m calling sexual abuse. The police are calling it protocol, if you like, just normal - this is nothing wrong.’
When Western Australia Police arrived at her family home one night in the 1970s, Kerry thought they were there to tell her they’d found her lost property. Instead Kerry' who was then 16 years old, was taken to a juvenile detention centre and incarcerated for eight weeks.
While she was there, Kerry was one day made to queue up with other girls and each of them was taken individually into a clinic.
‘We were given what they are saying were routine internal examinations, okay. And I am going to put my foot down and say that the examination I had, I don’t think it was a medical examination. I just think … it was just some guy having a bit of look around.’
After three weeks in the centre, Kerry was driven to a nearby court where a magistrate determined her to be at risk of neglect. Although her mother was in the courtroom, Kerry didn’t speak to her nor does she recall details of the proceedings. She told the Commissioner she suspects girls in the centre were routinely given sedative medication.
‘In that place, in eight weeks all I remember was just padding around like a lamb, following like a lamb, like all the kids did. And we were supposed to be the worst delinquents in Western Australia. And in eight weeks I never saw one kid arc up, ever.’
Not knowing if she ‘was ever going to get out’, after eight weeks, Kerry ‘was released as mysteriously’ as she was put in there. Driven to a nearby boarding house, she was given instructions to turn up at a job the next day. This she did and over a period of time found more secure housing and employment. It took many years however for her to reconcile with her mother and brothers.
‘The thing is after I got out of there I never connected with my family again. That’s the whole point. I’m a whole different person after that and I’ve made a good enough life for myself because of what was put into me before I got put in there. If my mother hadn’t raised me the way she did, raised us the way she did, you know running around the beach, free healthy, strong kids. We were so strong and healthy. Never had welfare knocking on the door and stuff like that.’
In 2010, Kerry lodged an application with the Western Australia redress scheme and was awarded an ex-gratia payment of $5,000. She also elected for WA Police to follow up her complaint about the medical examination. Their investigation determined that the examination was carried out in accordance with statutory regulations of the time and her complaint didn’t proceed.
Kerry told the Commissioner that the relationship with her mother and brothers remained unresolved and the effect of her time in the detention centre continued to ‘trickle down’ to her children.
‘There’s a lot of things happened here - my family was taken from me. I was a prisoner and now every time I see TV or movies and I see people released from prison, I know that feeling. I know what it is to get in the van and the shock of the colours and the smells that you know, I didn’t need to know what that’s like in my life. That’s with me till I die: that I know what it’s like to be in prison.’