Lillian was sexually abused and raped by her father from a very young age. He would also allow his friends to gang rape her. When she was six years old, in the 1960s, police removed Lillian and her siblings from their father’s care and she became a ward of the state of Queensland.
She was fostered through kinship care and placed with her grandmother.
‘They took [me] off our parents for a very good reason and I’m grateful to them for that. However, the choice of giving [me] to our … paternal grandmother was a very bad one. How anyone can believe that taking a child from [an] abusive … father and giving [her] to the person who made him what he was … just boggles the mind.’
Lillian’s grandmother believed that Lillian and her sisters had ‘bad blood’ and were ‘a disgrace’ to the family.
‘And that we were a burden on her … she said we had to pay our way, especially us girls … so she used to prostitute my sister and I in hotel rooms, and there was a men’s club in the city, she used to take us in there … we had to pay our way when I was six till when I was eight.’
Lillian said her grandmother was also involved in the ritual torture and murder of children. In collusion with two prominent men in town, she would obtain unwanted children for these ceremonies. When Lillian was eight, she became traumatised during one of the rituals.
‘I was holding this little girl’s ankles … and she just looked at me pleading for help and I couldn’t help, I was only eight. I couldn’t even help myself. So, I went to my teacher the next day because something had to be done.
‘I told my teacher … because I trusted my teacher and she was so horrified, she couldn’t believe what I was telling her, and she told my grandmother …
‘My grandmother called me into the kitchen and she was really calm … and said “If you ever tell anyone again you will be the next on the block” … I never told anyone again.’
Because of Lillian’s care status, a caseworker would periodically turn up to check on her and her siblings. While she was terrified to speak with him at all, and certainly not about her abuse, she found comfort in his presence.
‘If it hadn’t been for the fact that the caseworker was checking on us … I would have been dead.’
Lillian remained in her grandmother’s care until she was a teenager, when she was sent to look after a relative’s children. The relative raped her and, when her grandmother found out, Lillian was forced to marry him. The relationship continued to be physically and sexually violent.
She remained with her husband for a number of years, but grew suspicious that he was molesting one of their children. When she confronted him about it, he beat her brutally.
‘I rang local police and asked if I could change the locks while he was at work. And the police officer, and I’m so grateful to him, said “Why?” and I explained to him what had happened … he said, “Get out now. Take the children and what you’ll need. Get out of that house. I don’t want you to stop for anything. Grab what you’re going to need, just get out now. And here’s the number to call when you’re somewhere safe”. That man saved my life. I’ll always be incredibly grateful to him.’
Lillian escaped with her children and this was a turning point in her life.
‘You have so little self-esteem and so little sense of what’s normal and what’s right and wrong. It wasn’t until I actually left … that I started to realise that all those things I’d been taught were so wrong.’
She has always chosen careers that have kept her out of the public eye and away from lots of people.
‘I realise now that that’s a choice I made because it kept me private and safe. But I’ve noticed that I’ve never reached my full potential because I’ve always been scared to step out … You live in fear. You live in fear your whole life. I still live in fear.’
Lillian has never used drugs or alcohol to cope with her anxieties, but she has used food and became a hoarder to keep people at a distance.
‘The self-medication I used was food, over-eating and comfort food and collecting lots and lots of pretty things … self-nurturing because you never had anything.’
She believes the Royal Commission is significant.
‘This is such an important process because it gives people a voice and, for so long, any time we’ve tried to talk about it we were told we were lying and that it wasn’t true, even within our families we’ve been called liars and nobody wants to know.’
Lillian believes that one of the most significant elements of any care situation for children is a regular caseworker. ‘It is very important that they have someone come and actually check on the children, regular visits.’
Lillian looks back in awe at her eight-year-old self, the little girl who had the courage to speak up.
‘It made me realise just how tough that little kid was … for her to stand up at eight years old and tell someone about it, you know, that was really, really powerful and really strong, and I’m really proud of her.’