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Lenore Christine's story

'When they take children away from their parents, they should still know their parents, who they are. You've got to know where you come from.'

Lenore knows about not knowing. Made a state ward at the age of two weeks, her next encounter with her mother had to wait until she was 41. For her first 12 years, she was told her name was 'Catherine'. And just recently the 50-year-old from southern Queensland learnt that she has Indigenous heritage.

The road to these revelations hasn't been easy or happy. She suffered neglect and physical abuse with her first foster family. 'She used to hit me around the head constantly. She made me eat my own shit. They locked me in cupboards, they threw me in a cattle dip … they were horrible people.'

Lenore has obtained her early records. 'When I was three, the note says, "Possible signs of abuse". But they still left me there for another two years.'

At age five, Lenore was moved to a Brisbane children's home run by the Methodist Church. There she was sexually abused by some older boys and, when her behaviour became disturbed, given harsh treatment.

'They put me in the psychiatric children's hospital and drugged me with Neulactil, which you're not even supposed to give to children.

'No one's listening to me. I'm saying, "Someone's fucked me, someone's done this, whatever". They say, "This child is just acting out". But how would a five-year-old girl know about sex?

'The report says that I "knew too much about sex". Well, maybe you needed to listen to me instead of drugging me!'

After a year, Lenore was taken in by a second foster family, but changed circumstances didn't save her from molestation.

'The father, I remember him coming into the bathroom, masturbating while me and his daughter were in the bathtub – and he used to ejaculate into the bathwater.

'He used to perform oral sex on me – and stick his finger up my butt.'

Her medical records state that 'I denied that my anus was sore'. 'Well, first, why was a doctor looking at my arse? Because I've taken my children to the doctor, and not once did they want to look at my child's butt.

'And second, say you're getting raped, right? Well, you could probably get up and bash the prick, but something inside makes you freeze.'

Lenore believes the abuser's wife knew what was happening. 'She made me wear a nappy to bed, so that if it was undone in the morning, or the pins were changed, she'd know.' However, by a strange inversion, the wife treated Lenore as the guilty party. 'She used to beat me because she was jealous – punishing the child for what her husband is doing, because he's neglecting her.'

When Lenore was 10, the family decided to head overseas; she was shipped back to one of the Brisbane orphanages at which she had stayed before. There one of the male staff began to show an interest.

'He'd call you into his room where he's on the couch watching porn. Even from the doorway you can see what he's watching … He was always perving on the girls and enticing them with cigarettes and alcohol … He was into lots of kids, but I was saved by my big mouth.'

But just to make sure, Lenore absconded at age 13, and ended up on the streets for a while, before being sent to yet another orphanage – where yet another staff member raped her twice. She later reported this to police, but the investigation went nowhere.

'There's no real justice', Lenore says. '”Justice” comes from a very long line of men who use children as bed warmers.'

Her distrust of authority now extends to most aspects of life. 'I'm very antisocial. I can look at any situation and tell you every risk – and why you shouldn't do it.'

This has made her a watchful mother. 'I've protected my kids from what I was never protected from. They're in good shape – and they're not going to be rapists, paedophiles or any sort of sexual offender.'

Her adult children are aware of Lenore's troubled youth, but not overly sympathetic: 'They know my story but they don't want to know; they're totally embarrassed by it.'

And her reconnection with her own mother hasn't been a success. 'You watch all them TV shows, like Find My Family, and you think, "Oh, look at everybody all happy, and the crying and the hugs” …

'When I met my mother, I just walked in and said, "Oh, yeah, how ya goin'?" It was like two people doing a job interview.

'And when I left, I thought, "Was that it? I waited 41 years for that?" It would have to be the biggest, emptiest box ever.'

Seeking redress has also left some doubts. 'When I was offered $7,000, the lawyer said, "Why don't you just accept it?" And I replied, "It would cost more than that to feed my dogs for a year".

'And he said, "But if you take that to court, they're going to say that you were a promiscuous five-year-old". And I said, "If you believe that a five-year-old could be promiscuous, then you're the one that should be on trial".'

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