In the early 1980s Kylie was made a ward of the state in Queensland. She was only eight months old.
‘Foster care. My whole life.’
Kylie’s memories of her young life are scattered and she has trouble piecing together a chronology of her abuse. The physical abuse she experienced throughout her childhood, at the hands of a number of people, has affected her memory.
‘I was bashed when I was a kid and I had [my memory] bashed out of me … I got hard knocks to the head, like broom sticks … I’ve still got a dislocated jaw.’
With the help of the legal service, knowmore, she has recently obtained all her records and was relieved to find her memories were supported by the documentation from the welfare agencies. She found the extensive files very difficult reading and sat with her counsellor while she read them.
‘I had to put it down.’
In the first foster care home Kylie experienced harsh treatment.
‘We went pigging every weekend … We learnt to clean guns, make bullets and everything … we got flogged with the bullet belt … [had to] chop wood.’
One morning, when her foster mother was in hospital, Kylie woke up in her foster father’s bed all ‘hot and sticky’.
She can’t remember the actual sexual abuse but knows that she was molested by this foster father. She was just six years old.
Kylie was soon moved to a kinship care foster home with an aunt. Her birth mother, though, maintained contact with her and exerted considerable influence throughout her childhood.
When Kylie was eight years old, she was raped by her older brother while she was in this kinship care placement. She reported it to her aunt. The police were called and Kylie underwent a forensic rape examination.
‘I told them all about the bashings and the sexual abuse … [But] nothing happened to that relative because I was bashed [by my mother] and got told to blame someone else.’
The forensic evidence confirmed that she had been raped a number of times. ‘I was disgusted. That it happened, how it happened and that it happened more than once.’
After this incident, Kylie was placed with a new foster family but they were also violent towards her, ‘smacked in the mouth, bleeding noses’. On one occasion she was beaten with a leather belt across the face.
‘I ran across the road to the neighbours and they said to my foster mother, “No, Kylie stays here tonight. She’ll go home tomorrow”.’
She ran away from this foster mother three times and was then ‘shipped’ around in kinship care until she turned 18 years old. Her abuse had ‘all been documented’ but ‘they just kept me there’, in kinship foster homes.
Her mother was allowed to remain in contact with her and would often visit her in care. Whenever her mother visited, Kylie was physically assaulted. These assaults became more vicious after Kylie had reported her rape.
Kylie left state care when she was 18 years old.
‘I received a letter saying, “Congratulations Kylie, you’ve turned 18, you’re now on your own” … [I] cut all ties with my mother and just stayed in touch with my cousins and my aunty … kept busy by working and studying.’
She completed a number of business courses and held a number of jobs. A few years ago, her systemic health issues and her ongoing ‘anxiety, depression and stress caused by past life trauma’ meant that she was placed onto a disability pension.
She has had two relationships, each for a number of years. She didn’t disclose her sexual abuse to her first partner but did to her second and he held it against her, ending their relationship. She is the sole carer of their children.
Kylie has had a regular counsellor for the past nine years and believes that the relationship they have formed is vital to her ongoing wellbeing. She also believes that her last foster mother, another aunty but the woman she calls ‘Mum’, is the reason she is still alive.
‘I tried committing suicide three times and [the aunty] came in, caught me … and gave me a bit of a tune up and said “Hey, if you do that, you’re quitting. Don’t let them get the better of you” … and the other best message she ever gave me was, “You’ve got to learn to love and let go” … [But] you need someone stable.’
Kylie is also grateful to the people who did try to help her out as a child.
‘There’s some good things about it, being a ward of the state or foster care, it’s like a second chance at life, because I know where I would have been ... if it hadn’t have been for everyone [helping] – I know there’s been quite a few people who’ve stuck up for me.’
She is an active member of her community.
‘[I] keep busy … I do a lot of volunteering on the community [and] it gives me a bit of self-worth. It builds you up when people notice you and respect you and they look at you thinking, “If she can do that, I can do that”. I get a high off that.’
Kylie came to the Royal Commission, ‘Just to let you know … how it happened and how easy it is for things to happen to children’.