‘I’m the eldest of three children. The reason I was running away is I was being beaten and the people, the government didn’t believe me and [they] left my sister there. ‘Cause I kept running away. She ran away with me but we got beaten when we got back and she never ran away again, but I kept running away.
‘The only reason they put me in care is they deemed me a chronic absconder from home and that I was a risk because I was absconding. I was at risk in the home. I was running from the risk, but they deemed me manipulative and out of control and that his military-style corporal punishment was required to control me. What I was trying to do was get someone to listen to us and get us out of there, and no one did.’
As a young child Lil was ‘beaten and neglected’ in a family home where ‘there was only violence as a boundary’. The violence was primarily meted out by her stepfather, Clem, and her mother did nothing to intervene or protect the children.
After running away many times, Lil was eventually placed in a detention centre in Victoria in the early 1980s when she was 11 years old.
‘When I read my file I was stunned at how it just blamed me, totally blamed me and that poor Clem, you know - he’s looking after some other man’s kids and just trying to be a father figure and pillar of the community, when he was a monster.’
Lil described being treated badly by staff and berated for taking up a space when her ‘home life wasn’t that bad’. She was labelled ‘manipulative’ and when two other residents sexually abused her, she didn’t feel able to tell anyone.
‘There was two boys in there and they were treated like gods. Like their home lives, I didn’t know what their home lives had been but it was insinuated that their home lives or their lives had been really bad and these boys were treated with a lot of affection and they were just treated really well, and I felt very rejected in [that] placement like I did at home.
‘It was them and us, and both of those boys sexually assaulted me in there and I didn’t believe I could tell anyone because they were the golden boys, and because they’d already deemed me as manipulative I don’t believe they would have believed me. They would have thought I was just trying to get the boys in trouble.’
After staying in the centre nearly a year, Lil was placed with a foster family. During the time she was with them she befriended a girl whose house she would sometimes go to. There Lil was sexually abused by the friend’s father. She was about 13 or 14 at the time and didn’t disclose the abuse to anyone. However, the man later approached her foster family and told them something about what had happened, and from that conversation Lil was blamed by the foster parents for the abuse. ‘The foster father said, “We’re not going to be a party to this incestral behaviour and we don’t want anything to do with you”.’
After leaving care and throughout her adult years Lil had experienced difficulties with trust and intimacy in relationships, as well as feelings of dissociation and fatigue and social isolation. She felt pressured to pretend things were fine when they weren’t, something that was ‘exhausting’.
‘I’ve done a lot of therapy. I wouldn’t be seeing you today if I hadn’t. I’d be dead. I actually did try to kill myself when I was 18. I tried to overdose because I was staying with a family that I was very close to and for whatever reason their son didn’t want to share his mother anymore and I had to go and live somewhere else.
‘It just reinforced the abandonment and everything that I’d suffered in my life so I took a heap of pills, I rode my bike to my biological mother’s place and I said, “Now you’ve ruined my life, now you can watch me die”. Do you know, she didn’t ring an ambulance, she didn’t ring nothing, because it wasn’t about her, like everything always was about her.’
At one stage Lil reported her stepfather’s abuse to police but the matter didn’t progress and as Clem was now dead, she felt frustrated that there was nothing more that could be done.
Spending time with her daughter and granddaughter gave Lil joy, but there were times when she isolated herself because she couldn’t ‘face it’.
‘I don’t want that legacy but it’s knowing what to do about it. What I’ve worked out is making sure I have supports in place and that I do things that are helpful for me and that I stay away from things that aren’t.’
In speaking to the Royal Commission, Lil wanted to do so on behalf of her sister, Jan, who’d remained in their violent family home.
‘I asked my sister last night if there was one thing that she would like me to tell you’, Lil said. ‘She wanted me to say that because the intervention wasn’t there she has to live with a mental illness for the rest of her life.
‘Today was about, for me, it was about speaking to people from a government body because the government was the one that ignored me.’