By the mid 1970s, both of Koby’s parents had died, and she and her siblings were being raised by their older brother in Central Queensland. This didn’t work out, so a couple of years later Koby, then a young teenager, moved into a hostel. ‘That’s where the trouble started’, she said. ‘There was no control of the place.’
A few months later, Koby was sent to live in a state-run youth hospital in Brisbane. She remembers being a skinny girl who loved tennis and swimming, and who hated high school. She doesn’t remember why she was placed there. ‘I must’ve misbehaved at me brother’s. I don’t know.’
Over the next three years, Koby got into trouble with the police, probably for ‘swearing and doing stupid things. I don’t know my criminal history’. She was admitted to the institution more than 10 times, and ‘kicked out’ at the mandatory age of 17.
Each time Koby was readmitted, a male staff member nicknamed Dodge was ‘always there’. She remembered this ‘tall, big bloke’ bouncing her off the trampoline because she had tied a jumper around her waist. She recalled several occasions when he locked her in a detention room and raped her. She felt that it was not safe to tell anyone. ‘You get treated wrong if it got out’, she said.
Koby believed that Dodge was abusing other girls, but ‘we would never talk about it’, she said. She suspected that other staff members knew but just ‘turned a blind eye to it’.
When Koby left the institution, she went to live with a ‘good’ nun. However, before long, she was sent to an adult jail, and she spent the next 20 years in and out of prison, mainly for ‘stealing and bad language’.
While still young, Koby was with a man called Paul who loved her ‘madly’ and did the wrong thing by her ‘a lot’. When he found out that she had ‘been with a man’, he walked into her house and bashed her. He ‘broke my jaw, all the marks on me, he killed my baby,’ she said. Paul ‘got nine years for doing what he did’.
Koby miscarried, and still bears the scars Paul made in response to Dodge’s sexual abuse. ‘I’m gonna get straight here. How can I push this away when all these marks on my face is from the man who bashed me up? So I just drink, block it out.’
Koby had relationships with other men who didn’t hit or hurt her, but these didn’t last long. She had a child in her late 30s, and became a grandmother in her early 50s.
Shame stopped Koby from telling anyone what Dodge had done to her. She also doubted that the police would act if she made a report. ‘They wouldn’t believe me … When you get a criminal history, of course they wouldn’t listen.’ She also felt that people ‘thought that happens in the Aboriginal community itself anyway’.
However, in about 2007, Koby was helped to write a statement about the abuse for the Queensland redress scheme, and received compensation payment of just over $20,000.
Because of the impact of alcohol, Koby is now on a disability pension. She lives by herself in accommodation where some of the other residents are noisy and distressed. Distance and cost mean that she rarely gets to see her child and grandchild, but they speak on the phone every day. Through an Aboriginal service, she is receiving counselling for the first time in her life.
Koby would like to see staff in all institutions carefully checked. ‘If I had the power like youse have, I’d walk into the homes and check everyone’s record’, Koby said. ‘Why don’t they check the people that they’re employing? ‘Cause it’s happening in old people’s homes too. And I’ll be on my way there, and I don’t want that to happen.’