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Marge's story

Marge was 17 years old in the early 1960s when she ran away from her ‘rotten’ home and her father who ‘was a molester’.

She and a friend travelled to northern New South Wales but were picked up by police and returned to Sydney. Marge hadn’t realised the girl she was with had previously been in trouble with police, and when they went to court, the magistrate said, ‘I can’t lock one up and not the other’, and gave them both custodial sentences to be served in a girls’ home in western Sydney.

In the four months Marge was in the home she was beaten, spent time in solitary confinement and was sexually assaulted by another girl.

‘I got locked up twice in solitary confinement, and then lesbians having a go at you’, she said.

The girl who assaulted Marge did so first in the communal shower block.

‘Because there was no privacy. It was just like stalls where the animals go to; it was open. And then trying to feel me up, and then let me know she wanted me to be her girlfriend, and I thought, “Oh, God”. You go from one extreme to the other.

‘And then there was a group of us who weren’t allowed privileges and she was sitting there – can I say it? – fingering anyway, them other girls, and then she come over to me and I just froze. I thought, “Well”, and she put her hand down my pants and I was, to me it makes you think, “Everyone’s sick. Is that all everyone thinks about?”’

When she left the girls’ home, Marge wanted to get a job and move out of the family home. Within a short period of time she met Dave, ‘the best thing that ever happened to me’.

They married and Marge reported later being extremely vigilant and protective generally in life and particularly around her children. ‘I don’t trust anyone’, she said.

‘I worry because sometimes I think, “Am I screwed up in the head?”. And I hope I haven’t passed that on to them, you know, by being so not trusting.’

When they were older Marge told her children about the sexual abuse by her father and in the home.

‘They said to me when they grew up and they had kids of their own, they said, “We thought you were a mean old bitch Mum”, but they said, “Now we’ve got kids of our own we understand”.’

In the six months before coming to the Royal Commission, Marge had started seeing a counsellor. She thought it was helpful, but wasn’t sure. She’d taken some written information about the girls’ home to the counsellor, ‘but she said she never got time to read it’.

‘Sometimes I think I’m going nuts. I have tried to commit suicide a couple of times. Once before I met Dave and then after, when the girls were little.’

Recently Marge told Dave she wouldn’t mind going back to have a look at the girls’ home. ‘He said, “Why?” I said, “I don’t know”.’

Looking back, she regretted not telling the police that her father was sexually abusing her.

‘[I was] a dumb 17, a very stupid girl. But what I should have done was went to the police from the word go, but I was you know about my father, just so worried that I’d, you know, I don’t know, everything, and I wasn’t game to say anything to Mum. I don’t know whether she knew or what …

‘Isn’t it terrible, you go to funerals and even people you don’t know, you cry, but I was glad the day that he got buried. That’s dreadful isn’t it?’

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