‘People say, “Oh, that never happened, that never happened”. And it did happen and you would say, “It did happen, it did happen”, and they didn’t want to believe you, because no one wants to believe these things, you know what I mean? It was a strange home … it really was. It was not the same for everybody in it.’
As a baby in the 1940s, Lil was one of many children procured by successful New South Wales businessman, Mr Simpson, who wanted a select group of boys and girls raised under ‘strict conditions to create a superior human being’.
Those chosen generally had mothers from rural areas and fathers who were either farmers or ex-servicemen.
When the children reached school age they were separated and sent to other campuses and Lil went from one to another, enrolling in seven different schools along the way. The children were discouraged from forming emotional bonds of any kind and any worker who showed warmth or kindness towards them was quickly dismissed.
While Lil was in the homes, she was subjected to multiple bowel enemas administered by Mr Simpson as ‘treatments’. Lil recalled being given one after she’d fallen over and bumped her head.
‘There was like a makeshift shower, a recess thing’, Lil said. ‘And it was always at that end, and he would sit on a chair, he would have his trousers down, and he put you across his knees and … then you would have to sit there right near him on a pot to go to the toilet.’
Lil didn’t tell anybody about the enemas. ‘I blocked it out for a long time. I used to have a nightmare, that I never understood what the nightmare was. Never could work it out, but it was a nightmare.’
At one stage Lil’s grandmother had applied to adopt and take her out of the home, but in a letter Lil later saw, was told it would cost ‘4,000 something pounds’ to do so.
‘You could buy a couple of houses for the price of what they wanted. That was their way of stopping you from going. Nobody was going to be able to pay that kind of money.’
As an adult Lil had kept in contact with some ex-residents of the home, and many spoke favourably about their experiences as children. However, one day a woman who’d been in the home spoke up about the abuse she’d experienced, and this was the catalyst for Lil to recall her own experiences. Simpson still had a loyal following, and both the woman who’d spoken up and Lil who supported her, were ostracised from the group.
In later years it transpired one of the workers at the home – not Mr Simpson – had been convicted of child sexual assault, and criminal proceedings had been taken against several others.
As an adult Lil married but ‘it didn’t last a long time’. She ‘didn’t want any children’, because she feared being like her own mother who she’d met at 19 and was ‘very self-centred’.
Despite being cut off from some ex-residents, Lil still felt closely connected to others.
‘You know, look, for all the bad, there was some good stuff come out of it. And the good stuff that’s come out of it is some of us regard each other as family … we’ve started this thing, every five years we have a get together and we do something special for it, you know what I mean?’
And some ex-residents had written letters to thank Lil for speaking up. ‘I still believe it was the right thing and I would do it again no matter what, knowing that I would still do it again because it was the right thing. People have a right to be able to say the truth just because it doesn’t suit others to hear it, you know. The letters we got from one, saying “Thank you” you know, “Now we know we weren’t on our own”. The letters we got like that were fantastic.’