Lucinda was made a ward of the Western Australian state in the late 1960s when she was three years old. She spent the rest of her childhood moving between family placements, state homes and a Catholic-run Aboriginal mission.
Everywhere she went she encountered the same atmosphere of alcohol-fuelled violence and sexual abuse. ‘The more they drank’, Lucinda said, ‘the more abuses’.
The first incident she can remember happened when she was about four. Lucinda’s mum was working for a white couple named Whitby. The Whitbys had two adult sons who used to bribe Lucinda and her sisters with lollies and money then pull down their pants and molest them.
The priests from the mission inflicted similar abuses. So did Lucinda’s cousins. The cousins got hold of Lucinda almost every weekend for years. They had plenty of opportunity: Lucinda’s siblings were too small to intervene and the other adults were off drinking.
Lucinda told the adults what was happening but nothing came of it except more drunken fights.
‘We used to tell Nan. We told Mum. Auntie Barb caught her son having sex with me at her house. It never went to court. It was never a court thing because they were two sisters. Every time they drank they’d bring it up. Argue, you know. Argue about it.’
Lucinda knew that nothing was going to change so, in her early 20s, she cut all ties with her family and moved interstate. There she stayed for 10 years until her mother’s poor health brought her back to Western Australia. Now she’s desperate to get out again, for her own sake and for her children.
Lucinda’s children and grandchildren have been her life. ‘I haven’t worked’, she said. ‘All I’ve been doing for the last 20, 30 years is looking after kids.’
The kids don’t know the details of Lucinda’s past and they’ve never met most of their extended family. Lucinda finds this sad but necessary. Things still haven’t changed in her old community. Her cousins are still around and so is the violence, the abuse and the alcohol.
Lucinda is thinking about reporting her cousins to police and applying for compensation. The money, she said, could help her move interstate again. As for the community, Lucinda believes that there’s one thing that could really help: ‘If they could just give the drink up, you know. Blow it up. Do something’.