In the early 1960s, when Marie was two, she and her siblings were removed from her parents’ care. ‘I always thought about my mum then, how she was feeling, ’cause she’s a Stolen Generation too.’
They were taken to a Churches of Christ Aboriginal mission in the Western Australian goldfields, crying all the way. ‘That’s the beginning of a lot of heartache, for myself and my brothers and sisters.’
The missionaries were very violent towards the children, and Marie was flogged badly. ‘There was a lot of abuse, physically, emotionally, verbal, really bad.’ She was also denied access to her Aboriginal culture and identity.
Marie and her sisters were sexually abused at the mission. ‘There was a lot of sexual abuse, with some of the older kids that were there.’ When Marie was five a boy called Wally, who was at least a few years older, began molesting her and ‘he would penetrate me with his fingers’.
These assaults first took place in the chook shed when Marie would go collecting eggs. ‘I always tried to struggle with him, it was always a struggle.’ Boys and girls were not supposed to mix together, and so Marie worried about what the missionaries would do if she told them about the abuse.
‘What would they think? Maybe they wouldn’t believe me, or maybe they’d think why are you hanging around with males when you’re not allowed to? But I never told anyone. My older sister knew at times, because she’d ask me. I’d say, I don’t like that boy, and she knew why.’
Marie stopped going down to the chook shed, but Wally continued to attack her whenever he got the chance, until she left the mission a couple of years later. One time her older brother intervened when he caught Wally touching Marie. He was flogged for this, but Wally did not get punished at all. This brother is now deceased, but was always proud that he had been able to protect his siblings from being abused. Marie could never tell him everything that happened to her, because he would have felt responsible.
After leaving the mission Marie returned to live with her family – ‘we didn’t even know our mum and dad’ – but was soon removed again because of her mother’s alcoholism. ‘It was very hard. We didn’t have that bond. We probably still wanted to be nurtured by our mum, but nothing was there. I mean, for our mum too.’ Her dad was harsh, and didn’t really seem to want her and her siblings around.
Next Marie was sent to a girls’ hostel, where she would get flogged with a belt by staff. ‘I think it was because of everything I went through, I was still wetting the bed at high school, going to high school. And I was always embarrassed about it, I’d get up and hide the sheets and that, thinking I’m going to get flogged.’
In her early teens Marie went back to her mother again. She and her younger sister were both sexually assaulted there by her half-brother. Not long after this she was raped by another male relative. She had her first baby at 14, still in the care of the state, and wonders if this man was the father.
She had to teach herself how to parent. ‘I haven’t been taught anything from my mum and dad, I’ve only learnt from being around other people how to actually be a mother, be a grandmother, be the person I am. I never learnt it from any elders.’
Throughout her life, men have taken advantage of her. She had several relationships with older men, looking for protection, but these turned violent. ‘I feel that the abuse and DV I suffered in my relationships was directly related to my childhood abuse, as I was not able to protect myself and was attracted to that type of older man.’
She left these relationships ‘but I take off myself, and I leave my children, and I always thinking why I left my children? I never want to do that’. Now she lives with a younger partner, and ‘this is the first time I have felt safe in relationship’.
Marie did not speak about the sexual abuse for many years, until she disclosed to a recent state redress scheme. She received a small payment from this scheme, and some further compensation as a victim of crime. Police made contact with her about possible options for reporting, but at the time she did not feel able to proceed. Now she thinks she might be ready to make a statement.
Since her parents passed away, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot about my life, and how things affected me’, including splintered family connections, alcoholism, depression, and suicide attempts.
Marie has had some counselling in the past, but it never really felt right. Now that she has started talking more about the abuse, she may try counselling again. ‘I’m scared of what it might do to me, how I’m going to react. I don’t know if it would be good for me, or worser.’
Currently Marie has grandkids in care, and worries about whether they are being looked after properly. ‘That’s why I thought I’d come along and do this for myself. So I can heal myself, so I can help my grandchildren.’