Lucy Elizabeth's story

‘I was put on a boat and sent out here. I was told I was coming on a holiday.’

Lucy grew up over the years of World War II in a Catholic orphanage in the UK. In the early 1950s she and a younger brother became child migrants, and were sent to live in a children’s home run by the Church of England in Perth. Lucy was 13 years old.

The children were placed into a series of large houses on the property. Lucy did not see much of her brother. ‘You weren’t allowed to have any contact with the boys. None at all.’ They were in a strange country and were now being brought up in a strange faith. ‘So you lost your country, your family and your religion.’

The male supervisor of the house Lucy lived in was a paedophile. ‘There was abuse. All sorts. Every sort of abuse you could think of.’ It was physical, sexual, ‘and mental. You were “orphanage trash”’.

Lucy believes the children’s home housed many abusers. ‘There was one guy been in jail for paedophilia and they re-employed him when he came out.’ She is not sure if her brother was assaulted, but she suspects he was.

Lucy and others tried to get help from other workers. She told two female employees what was being done to her. ‘They called me a liar. And reckoned I was making it up. And so were all the other girls.’

From the time she arrived in Australia, Lucy received no education. She was given chores to do at the children’s home, and eventually she was sent away to work as a farmhand. She was never paid any wages.

Her first placement was at a farm owned by Mr Kinross, 500 kilometres from Perth. ‘And he continued the abuse.’

Lucy was moved around every six months to work at different properties. At her next placement her employer was also an abusive man. But at the one after that she was looked after by a woman, who was very kind to her. Lucy enjoys the memories of her time there.

It was a six month reprieve. At her next placement Lucy was brutally raped by another worker and fell pregnant. ‘Next minute someone from the child welfare came up, took me into an office, said “Sign this” and apparently I was married to some guy …

‘You try and search marriages you can’t find anything.’

Lucy lived on the farm and had a number of children with her forced husband. He was violent towards her and eventually deserted Lucy and the children. The kids were adopted out or found foster homes.

Now an adult, Lucy began working on farms all over the state. She met another man and married again, this time by choice. They had several children. They have since split but remain on good terms and Lucy is in touch with her children.

Many times Lucy has told her story to various panels and inquiries. She has engaged with Redress WA and received a cash payment as compensation. She has tried a little counselling, but services are thin on the ground near Lucy’s rural home.

Lucy regrets her lost childhood and missing education. She is also frustrated that she grew up with no family role models around her. ‘I fed my kids ice cream for breakfast because that’s what they wanted. You had no idea what a mother was supposed to do.’

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