Linda is not sure exactly when she was removed from her family – or why – but she knows she was young, about seven or eight years old. It was the mid-1960s and welfare officers took her eldest brother first, then came back for her and put her into foster care. Despite the disruption, Linda said she liked her foster family.
As she got older she was allowed back on short visits to her Aboriginal family in rural Western Australia. One time, she and her brother went back to see their mum.
‘One day, her and my aunty and uncle went to do shopping and they left us at my aunty’s at the state houses ... Trouble started there with the family so my brother said, “Come on, let’s go”.
‘We run down to the police station and tell the policeman there. And he tell us, “Come in”. We went in, sat down on the lounge and him and his wife were at the table. Then he asked her to make us chocolate and then he came and sat in between me and my brother …
‘He cuddled me, he cuddled us like that. “Oh, don’t worry”, he said. “Your mother’ll be home soon” … And before we could even tell him about the trouble up the houses there, he touched me on the breast. Put his hand around and squeezed like that.’
She made a kind of signal to her brother, and they both ran and hid in the dark until they saw their mother come back from shopping.
Linda didn’t tell her mother what had happened. ‘I wouldn’t say anything because I been very scared. And he was a big bloke, he wasn’t a little bloke, you know.’
She thought her brother must have seen what happened, or known something was wrong. But when she asked him he said he knew nothing about it.
Nobody else noticed anything was wrong and the following day she went back to her foster home. Linda said the Aboriginal housekeeper there saw something was upsetting her and asked her about it, but she said nothing.
‘I was just frightened. And I was just like whatever they say to do, you do, because you didn’t want to get in trouble with the police. So you’d do what they say.’
Linda continued to live with her foster family, and later in a girls’ hostel where she made lots of friends.
After she left care, Linda worked and made the best out of life. She has children and grandchildren and sees a lot of her extended family.
‘I turned out all right I think, touch wood. I did really. I worked and that till I got sick.’
But now that her health is suffering, Linda has increasingly felt the need to talk about the abuse. Her disclosure to the Royal Commission was the first time Linda told anyone the details of what happened to her, despite previous attempts to talk about it.
‘I’ve tried. But no one wanted to listen. And it’s just been tormenting and tormenting me so I thought I’ve got to get it out.’
Now that Linda has managed to access some support services, she is keen to get help from a counsellor. But she said the feeling never goes away.
‘I thought it would’ve but I was only sitting at home and this thing, it kept coming back in my head and I was trying to think of the man, the policeman. I’m thinking, “No”. When you lay down and go to sleep and you dream and these things, you’re feeling hands on you, it’s scary. So I was thinking, “No, I’ve got to tell someone”.’