‘I’m not sitting here and whining. I am a victim, and this victim’s going to speak. And I’m honoured to speak.’
Mina was taken from her mother and put into a children’s home in Sydney in the mid-1980s. She was nine years old.
‘It was the saddest day of my life. I never even got a chance to say goodbye. The saddest thing is I blamed my mum and it’s not her fault. My mum was brought up exactly the same, Stolen Generation, so badly abused in the 60s. I’ve read my mum’s files. I thought I had a shitty life. Nothing prepared me for what my mum went through.’
Until the age of 15, Mina was in and out of children’s homes, foster care and juvenile detention. In almost all of them, she suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
Mina remembered being wrongfully accused of stealing money and bashed by staff, of getting her period and having her nose rubbed in bloodied sheets. She remembered being sexually abused by older boys in the homes, and by youth workers and case officers everywhere she went in the system. She remembered becoming pregnant and having a miscarriage as a result of abuse when she was still in her teens.
Even when she was living at home Mina was badly mistreated by her mother and sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriends.
‘I love my mum to this day, no matter what. My mum is my mum. But I don’t know how a mother could sit there in front of DOCS and say, “My child’s an effing little bitch. I’d prefer to play with a doll than have her”. That’s written in her DOCS files.’
After one very bad instance of physical abuse at home, Mina went to live with a foster mother, a woman who truly wanted to look after her. ‘But it was really, really hard to trust someone. I did not know who to turn to,’ Mina said.
‘I stuffed up my whole life. I ran away. God knows where my life would be if I’d stayed.’ In the late 1980s, after again being put into care, Mina experienced ongoing sexual abuse by her foster father.
'That man, oh my God, he’s evil. That’s my worst nightmare of my childhood. I was left behind when my foster brothers went to football. At least four hours of sexual abuse every Saturday.’ Mina had to suffer this for a year.
‘I remember the bloodstains on my undies. I remember handing them to my foster mother and she threw them in the bin. I remember her spotting semen and she still did nothing but threw them in the bin. She never believed me that her husband touched me. How the hell does a 10-year-old, 11-year-old bleed?’
Eventually Mina escaped from the foster home. ‘I remember it was probably about 10 o’clock at night. I had run away because of what happened.’
‘I still had my bloody clothes on and I remember pulling over a taxi driver in the street, and he stopped and I still remember telling him, just take me to my mum.’
Mina reported the abuse to DOCS and was immediately removed from the foster home.
She discovered there were already multiple complaints about the man, yet he was still allowed to continue as a carer.
Until she finally got out of the system a couple of years later, Mina endured more sexual abuse from welfare workers, the very men who were supposed to be helping her.
‘It’s just traumatised my whole life, it’s led to me to drugs, it’s led me to lose my kids. I have no family. And I blame myself, that I didn’t provide adequate care for my kids.’ Mina believes her children hate her.
She’s tried several times to have counselling but found it didn’t help. ‘I self-medicate with cannabis to get over my depression but it doesn’t work. It makes me more stupid. It makes me think so much.’
The last time Mina spoke to her mother was just before Christmas 2015, when she was told that she was a child born of incest, that her real father was her mother’s brother. ‘I grabbed a pair of scissors, I grabbed a razor blade, I walked out my door, I sat in my car and just sliced myself. It was written all over my chest, “inbred, inbred, inbred”. And then I wrote “slut”.’
Somehow, Mina managed to survive. ‘God won’t take me for some reason’, she said. She is now getting professional help with her claim for compensation and hoped the Royal Commission would be able to help track down her abusers. ‘I would go to court and I would face it and I would be proud, because justice needs to be served.’
She believes there should be much harsher sentences for sex offenders, and that children in care should be separated for their own safety. ‘Girls should be with girls and boys should be with boys. And with case workers, a girl should be working with a girl and a boy should be working with a boy.’
Her greatest concern is that nothing’s changed. ‘The abuse in childhood institutions is still happening to this day. My children were taken, and it’s happened to my children.
How long’s it going to take to change the justice system? It’s a simple thing. Treat the children the way you want to be treated. Our life doesn’t continue without our children.’