Lucinda was two years old when she and her older sister were made wards of the state in Victoria in the late 1970s. They were sent to a government-run children’s home, where her sister recalls that they were both emotionally, physically and sexually abused.
When Lucinda was five, she and her sister were sent to a group home where the two teenage daughters of the house parents would make the girls undress and touch each other. Although the house father would stand in the doorway and watch this happen, when they complained to him, he denied seeing anything.
After about three years, the girls were placed into foster care with Mr and Mrs Williams. At this foster home they suffered both physical and sexual abuse. Mr Williams would get into bed with the two girls and stay there for most of the night. He also took them up to his bedroom when his wife was out, and sexually abused them there.
There was a big oval next to the house and Mr Williams would make them run around it one hundred times, because he said Lucinda’s sister was fat and needed to lose weight. ‘He used to lock us in the bedroom and he’d take the door handles off so we couldn’t get out and we’d be there all day … no food, no water. If we needed to go to the toilet, we had to find something in the bedroom to go to the toilet.’ He would let them out in the evening, give them each a sandwich, and send them back to bed. He would also punish them by making them stand on one leg, for hours.
‘I think my sister had run away three times before we finally got taken off them and he was trying to get me to stay with them, and it was only because somebody from the next home … had sat down and said to me, you know, “If you don’t want to see him again, tell me now, and all contact stops as of today and you’ll never see him again”. So that’s when I said … “Nuh, I don’t want to see him”, because up until then, I was still going back for weekend visits, and thought I had to.’
Lucinda lays a lot of blame on the girls’ caseworker. ‘She was the one that came in and checked on how we were going … If we had any problems, it was her we were to tell and it didn’t matter what we said to her, she just … didn’t listen, or if she did, just didn’t care or … do anything about it.’
‘The amount of stories that we told [the caseworker] about … what was going on, and not one thing was done.’ Lucinda said to her counsellor one day, ‘It probably sounds horrible, but if I could get her in a room and set her on fire, I probably would have back then. She was a monster … As a child, you look at adults for comfort, security, to be saved and you’re told, this is the person you go to when that’s not happening and she will make it happen. So you go to that person, and nothing changes. So who are you meant to trust after that’?
Lucinda told the Commissioner that it was as if the caseworker ‘was there for the carers, not the kids. And you need someone that’s going to go “Bugger the carers. I don’t care how good or bad you are, we’re here for the kids”’.
Lucinda is in the process of suing the Victorian government, ‘for not protecting [us] when they were meant to’. There is a lot that Lucinda does not remember, and although she has over 1000 pages of her old records, she has not read them. She will go through them with her counsellor, bit by bit, when he feels it is safe for her to do so.
Lucinda and her sister were returned to their mother’s care when Lucinda was about 10. They were both physically and sexually abused by their stepfather. Her sister went to live with their grandmother after about a year, but Lucinda remained there until she was 17. ‘Once she’d gone, I felt like I had no voice. No one to turn to. So, too scared to do anything or say anything … I just stayed there.’
When Lucinda told a school friend about the abuse, the friend reported it to the school principal. The police were called, but Lucinda’s mother coerced her into saying that she was lying and the police did nothing. The sexual abuse stopped, but the stepfather continued to be physically abusive towards her.
‘If a child comes up and says, “This is what’s going on”, they need to investigate it … and find out exactly what’s going on. They can’t just walk in and go, “Oh well, she’s told us she’s lying. Let’s go”, because it doesn’t take much to intimidate a 10-year-old.’
Lucinda came to the Royal Commission because ‘If I can stop one person going through what I did, then it makes it all worthwhile … It’s pure hell. I don’t sleep at night. And when I do, it’s just nightmares. Can’t go out during the day. Can’t stay at home by myself … It’s not fun. No one wants to live like that, and I’m forever looking over my shoulder to make sure that I’m safe.’
Lucinda told the Commissioner, ‘I just think it’s about time that someone stood up and noticed that there was a problem and went “Let’s fix it” … Without you guys, you’re going to have a whole other generation that’s gonna be the same … I wish there was someone around like you guys when I was a kid’.