Lynette Sarah's story

‘The hurt never ever leaves you. It affects your life every day. Even to this day … it’s like a ball. It just rolls. It affects your families. Everything.’

Lynette was made a ward of the state in the early 1950s when she was just one year old. She was placed with a foster family in Brisbane. Her younger sister, born soon after Lynette was fostered, was also placed with the family.

‘I’m still speaking for her because she carried that to the grave. And it’s not fair.’

The foster mother inflicted brutal and harsh treatment on all the foster children, a total of five, but both the girls received significantly worse treatment. This included food rationing, physical abuse and tormenting psychological behaviours that undermined the girls’ trust and self-esteem.

‘She couldn’t have children of her own ... but we never got any treatment unless the government paid for it.’

On a family visit to a regional town, Lynette was sexually abused by a family friend. He threatened to kill her if she told anybody. She was only four years old at the time and tried to keep her silence but soon told her foster parents. She received a beating and ‘was called a liar, and all the rest of it’.

After this event, the foster father began to sexually abuse both girls. Every night he would come into their bedroom and move between their beds. Lynette would cry out to try and wake their foster mother so the abuse would stop but, despite their bedrooms sharing a common wall, the foster mother never came into the room.

‘How a woman can stand by and allow a husband to do that every night … I’m 66 years old but I can still see him walking into the room and I can still tell you what he had on. She was such a cruel, cruel woman … How do you turn a blind eye to that?’

Lynette’s life has been challenging. The continual abuse she received from her earliest years has affected all aspects of her life. She has had a number of marriages but each included extensive domestic violence. Lynette feels the lack of love in her childhood home set her on a trajectory of bad relationships.

‘[Foster care} skipped the ability for me to love or be loved. I just wander all the time looking for it … [My sister] was a wanderer [too] because we didn’t know how to love and it just keeps going. It keeps going.’

Lynette’s sister died some years ago and just before she did, told one of her foster brothers about Lynette’s and her own abuse. The knowledge of the foster father’s abuse broke the family apart. Lynette has no further contact with her foster siblings, her biological mother, or any of her children.

‘As I explained to them, I was just a little girl … I’ve had no say.’

Whenever the welfare officer visited, Lynette’s foster mother would threaten the girls so they wouldn’t be able to speak up about their experiences.

‘You see a perfect world when it’s organised for you, don’t you … She [foster mother] used to set us up there at the table and the bikkies and the cake would be out but we weren’t allowed to touch them. They were for [the welfare officer] … The trouble is, [our foster mother] always knew when they were coming.

‘As far as I’m concerned the State Children’s Department should be held accountable for this … I’ve got nobody now, nobody … No apologies in the world can take away the pain.’

Lynette will pursue compensation from the Queensland Government.

She believes her resilience has come from a desire for a better life.

‘You have to survive … Got to keep going. There’s got to be someone out there that loves me for what I am.’

Lynette is a member of a support group for people who grew up in out-of-home care and she has gained strength from the group. She has also increased in confidence through the process of coming to speak to the Royal Commission.

‘I just want it all to stop … Let our stories be told and let us be heard … We have to be listened to.’

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