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Melaina's story

Melaina’s family never stayed in one place for very long. Her father was violent so her mother kept him away from the children.

In the mid-1960s Melaina and her siblings were made wards of the state as it was difficult for her mother to support them as a single parent. They were moved to different placements for several years and were estranged from their mother.

When Melaina was six years old the children were living at their grandmother’s home in Western Australia. There were several other relatives staying there too, including some aunts and uncles, and her family was a ‘wild bunch’.

Melaina’s uncle, Steven, was 14. He was very loving and supportive, and she felt comfortable around him.

On one occasion, Steven picked Melaina up after school because she was unwell. He then took her to a caravan park and raped her. She recalls feeling confused, but didn’t tell anyone. ‘He was there for me.’

Shortly after this assault Melaina and her siblings were sent to an Aboriginal mission in a neighbouring town. They were ‘in and out’ of the mission and their grandmother’s home for several years.

The Protestant mission was fine at first. However, when Melaina was in her early teens a new worker was employed there. One afternoon this ‘old and creepy’ man raped Melaina under the church. After the rape she went out of her way to avoid him and fought him off when he went after her siblings. She believes this man sexually abused several children at the mission, and was still working there after she left.

Melaina is unsure whether she reported her attacker to the person in charge of the mission but knows police were never notified. She and her siblings were taken out of the mission several months after this man raped her and sent back to her grandmother’s house.

One Christmas Day Melaina was with her family celebrating. Her aunts and uncles were drunk and the children were quite loud. Steven, now in his 20s, was also there and very intoxicated.

She followed him to a park to make sure he was okay. He ended up raping her again and she struggled to ‘kick him off’.

Melaina told her grandmother about this attack but was not believed, so did not disclose to anyone else.

When Melaina was 18 she moved out of her grandmother’s house. She has since been estranged from most of her family members and has strained relationships with the few she has kept in contact with.

Throughout her teens and adulthood, Melaina struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. Relationships have always been tricky and have never ended well, and she has been single for several years. She has had several mental breakdowns, and lives with post-traumatic stress disorder and frequent flashbacks. For the past two decades she has been on antidepressants.

Melaina has now been sober for several years, and has reconnected with her mother. She is glad that her children have got to know their grandmother and is happy that her mother is ‘a completely different person’. She told the Commissioner that her children have been a great source of strength.

‘My children pulled me out, they kept me going. I have a lot to be thankful for.’

It wasn’t until recently that Melaina sought support. She told her counsellor what about the abuse and was then encouraged to seek compensation from WA Redress. During this process she spoke only of her mission experiences. She received $28,000, which she gave to her children, and a written apology from the state.

Melaina would like to see safer homes and institutions for children. She suggested all workers needed to be ‘double, triple checked’, there needed to be better services available for children to disclose, and greater attention should to be paid to the body language of children so behavioral changes caused by abuse would be noticed.

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