‘In the beginning when all this happened they were hitting me arm, broken and everything else. The police knew, the welfare knew, the school knew, the hospital knew, the doctor knew. Nobody did a thing.’
As a child Miriam had her arm broken four times by her mother, but nothing was done to stop her being abused at home. By 16 she’d had enough and left to go and live in Kings Cross. There she found a job and a place to stay but one day she was stopped on the street by police and asked for identification.
‘Stupid me, had none. And I gave them my name, another stupid thing I done. Next thing I knew I was in the back of a pig wagon getting thrown in jail in a cell, and I ended up with a murderer and a rapist, a child molester, all in one cell. And then got dragged off to court and I had no legal aid whatsoever present - lawyer, nothing - and then I was classed as being uncontrollable, made a state ward on the spot and then thrown in the bull wagon again and then carted off to [a] girls’ home. And then when we got to [the home] they tipped a bucket of kerosene over us and started scrubbing away with a wooden brush.’
During her 12 months in the home, Miriam was forced to have ‘many unnecessary internal examinations by the doctor there’ and ‘subjected to inappropriate touching of my breasts and buttocks by the male staff at the home’.
When a male staff member touched her, Miriam ‘kicked him in the shins’, but then ‘copped it for three days’ - made to scrub the outdoor walkway with a toothbrush. ‘They used to get back at you one way or another.’
One day during a visit, Miriam’s father asked where all her bruises had come from. She knew not to say anything because ‘when visitors went home you copped it’. But after she glanced at a staff member, her father said, ‘Right’, and returned soon after with a lawyer, demanding Miriam’s release.
Once home, Miriam disclosed the sexual abuse to her father who asked why she hadn’t told him earlier. She told him she ‘wasn’t game’.
Not long after her release, Miriam went to the police and reported what had happened in the girls’ home. She was interviewed by a detective who told her ‘not to make up stories’. Nothing eventuated from her report.
When Miriam gave birth to her first child she and Gordon, the child’s father, made plans to marry. However, without their knowledge or consent, Miriam’s mother took the child ‘and placed him up for adoption’.
Several more children were taken from Miriam, even though ‘there were no signs that the children were being neglected or not fed’.
For years Miriam and Gordon travelled to Sydney from their regional town every fortnight, picking up the children from various locations so they could spend the day together. Only two of the children were eventually returned to them.
‘There was generational damage done by the institution and by the institutional response to the situation of my birth family and then to my family’, Miriam said.
She described numerous physical health issues that she now has ‘as a result of my stay in [the] home’. And while she had never applied for compensation from the state government, she thought doing so might help to pay for her health care needs. She prefers to be alone and ‘in my own little world’, but occasionally receives support from an Aboriginal services organisation.
In 2008, Miriam attended the ceremony of apology to the Stolen Generations, but she didn’t think much of it.
‘I only went up there to see parliament house, ‘cause I’ve never been in parliament house, right. And I thought to myself, well, this is a chance to see parliament house. That’s what I went up there to see and I was told they had marble on the floor and a marble staircase. That’s all I went to see, was that. And go up there and have their fancy coffee in their fancy cup. That’s all I went up there for, was the trip. Other than that I just went, yeah, yeah, right, whatever, you know, because he’s standing up there and he’s saying he’s sorry and whatever it was, and I’m thinking to myself, well, if you’re sorry you’d be trying to fix the situation. You can’t get up there and say sorry without knowing exactly what happened.’
As far as the home goes, Miriam said she’d like to see ‘them burn the bloody thing to pieces’.
‘I wouldn’t mind seeing a plaque dedicated to the girls but I would like to see it done in the proper manner. Put somewhere where it can be not blocked ... It’s just something to acknowledge that the girls that was in [the home] did leave and you know, are still around. I know it wouldn’t be much but it’d be nice.’