When her mother died in Sydney in the early 1950s, Maudie was two years old. Her older sister was sent to live with an aunt and uncle, and she stayed with her father. But when he quickly remarried, Maudie’s home became a frightening place.
‘This woman became very abusive, cruel to me, and I was treated very harshly’, Maudie said.
After enduring several years of physical and emotional abuse from her stepmother, Maudie was removed by the court and went to live with her sister. Their aunt and uncle were foster carers and members of the Salvation Army.
Both Maudie and her sister were sexually abused by their uncle. ‘[He] was the one that was making us get undressed and run around the house naked when we got home from school and get his slippers and things like that, but we weren’t allowed to have any clothes on. And at night, he’d come in every night.’
The man would hit the girls, too, with his hand or a belt, to make sure they ‘behaved’ the next day.
Maudie didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because she and her sister had no one to tell. Welfare officers didn’t come to the house to check on them, and their father never visited. Even if she had told someone, Maudie said, she probably wouldn’t have been believed.
The girls finally escaped the abuse a couple of years later when they were placed in a Salvation Army home in western New South Wales. Maudie doesn’t know why they moved, but thinks their grandmother suspected the uncle and helped get them away from him.
Maudie and her sister were in the home for about five years. They were fed and clothed, went to school and had ‘nice Christmases’. But for two girls who were still very young, she also remembered that there was no love and no caring.
Again, they didn’t see their father for years. ‘His wife didn’t want anything to do with us’, Maudie told the Commissioner. ‘I can’t tell you what I say about my father because it’s very rude.’
And there was still no one looking out for the girls when they left the home and went to live with another aunt and uncle. The man emotionally abused Maudie and sexually abused her sister, who became pregnant. In her mid-teens, Maudie ran away for good.
‘I didn’t want anything to do with any of them. I hated them all and I didn’t want them, so I didn’t go back.’
Soon after, Maudie met her future husband and was taken in by his parents. ‘I’ve been happy ever since’, she said.
But she’s always had to live with the memories of her childhood.
‘My early life was absolute crap. I never felt like I was loved, I never felt like I had a family. Never felt like there was anyone that cared about me. I’d cry at night, “Please God, bring my mum back to me”.’
In the early years of her marriage, Maudie also had intimacy issues caused by the abuse, but she and her husband worked together to overcome them. ‘He didn’t love me just for sex, he loved me.’ And today they have a large family, including great-grandchildren.
She’s never sought compensation or reported the abuse to the police or Salvation Army. ‘Years ago you just took what you got in life and went on with it. Sometimes you have to go through awfulness to appreciate good. That’s what I do, I think.’
Maudie came to the Royal Commission to put that awfulness behind her once and for all. ‘I’m hoping now that I’ve said this to you guys that that’s the end of it. I never want to think about it again. I’m so sick of crying over it. I just don’t want to cry anymore.’
But Maudie knew she wasn’t only speaking for herself and her sister. ‘It’s really why we come out and say it. It’s not to change our past, but to protect our future.’