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Louise Mary's story

Louise couldn’t tell her father about being sexually abused because he ‘was such a big stern man’ she was afraid ‘he might kill us all’.

From the age of about four, Louise was sexually abused by uncles and stepbrothers in the family home. In the late 1960s, when she was seven, Louise’s father dropped her off at a home for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and in later life she wondered if this was a strategy to protect her from the situation at home. However, in the home she was sexually abused by the manager, Neville Parson, over about two years.

When, as an adult, Louise found her Queensland welfare file, references were made to her being ‘disobedient’ and ‘uncontrollable’. She doesn’t remember doing anything to warrant the descriptions and it ‘really hurt’ to see them. Reading the file made her aware that her mother, who had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals throughout Louise’s childhood, possibly had post-natal depression. As she learned too about the Aboriginal mission in which her father spent his childhood, she couldn’t imagine ‘what he went through’, and she ‘held no hatred’ towards him.

Parson’s sexual abuse of Louise took place in the storeroom after he’d told her he wanted to show her something.

‘[He would] take out his private part and be touching it himself and he would have his hand in my pants touching my private parts and putting his fingers inside me,’ Louise said.

She recalls the home as a cruel place where children were punished for the smallest of things. She couldn’t tell anyone about what Parson was doing because he was a respected Aboriginal elder. As an adult she still had no thoughts of reporting him to Queensland Police.

‘You know, the late 60s and 70s, you’d hear our people sitting around a table, cup of tea talking just bad about police, and being bashed by police in them days, so I knew that was a people I couldn’t trust. Well I thought that. My people were you know, dying in custody then and bashed in the watch houses so I learnt very young not to go to the police.’

From the age of about 11, Louise kept running away from the home, living on the streets with older girls.

‘I learnt stealing and conning people, ripping them off, taking their money. I just learned a lot of regretful stuff that still hurts me today because I know that’s not my spirit, that’s not me. But even in that, I knew I wouldn’t have been that person. Even in saying, you got to be taught. I knew, it’s really not me. It’s not who I wanted to become.’

When she was 14, Louise cut her wrists and was taken to an adult hospital. After passing out, she woke up in a padded cell and was terrified. She was eventually taken to a ward and in the weeks of her hospital stay that followed, she saw a man sitting by the bedside of his wife day after day. ‘Even though it was ugly for me, but it taught me a lot: compassion; the love that people have for another. Taught me a lot.’

Louise became pregnant while still in her teens but doesn’t think she was ready to be a mother. Various family members had stepped in to take care of her children at different times, but she believed she’d passed ‘generational trauma’ on to her children, who’d struggled in their own lives with substance abuse and unemployment.

She retained a spiritual faith that had been imbued in her at an early age, particularly from her mother’s side of the family.

‘I believe in God. I believe in a higher power than ourselves. I believe I’m here. He didn’t let me die. He said, “No, you got unfinished business here”. I believe in God, in Jesus Christ. Even when I was stealing: “Can’t cop out. There’s a better road ahead, Lou. This way”.’

‘The happy memories stay with you for life; so does the trauma, and it’s you coming to a place to balance, you know. You either sink or swim, like carry on or you die. You die. And I used to, I done a few suicide attempts as a teenager, cutting my arms, overdosing on people’s sleeping tablets, aunties’ Valium. I come through that somehow, yeah. You actually used to think you want to die. That’s the feeling: I want to die, just want to get out or get away. I don’t want to feel this anymore, but yeah.’

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