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Morag's story

Morag was left in care by her father when she was very young. Her mother had died in the early 1940s and her father placed four-year-old Morag and her sisters in a children’s home in Queensland run by the Salvation Army.

Morag said she didn’t know her mother was dead and she felt abandoned there. The girls were made to do hard physical chores and were punished for things like wetting the bed.

‘Other times I was locked inside a pitch dark cupboard for minor tiffs with other girls. Even today I can’t stay in a dark room on my own’, she told the Commissioner.

When she was 13 she was placed with the Miller family as a domestic worker. The Millers were very nice and had a big house and garden and Morag was happy there for the first year. However, in her second year there she was assaulted by a 19-year-old friend of the family.

‘I was getting the washing in and they were down at his place with the two littlies because they had a swimming pool … I brought it in and he was standing there and I said “What do you want?” ‘Cause I’d met him before. He looked at me and grabbed me. He ripped my clothes and he threw me down. I didn’t even know what rape was then. I never seen a man, or even a boy. I didn’t know …

‘He said to me “You tell anyone and you’re gone. I’ll come back and I’ll get you”. So I grabbed the blanket off the bed and I hid in the bush till they come home.’

Morag was left bruised and bleeding and when she came home Mrs Miller asked what had happened.

‘I told her and she said “You get in the shower and scrub yourself”. Not knowing, I did. I think I must have been knocked out or something because I woke up in hospital. I was in there for a week.’

She was returned to the family and Mrs Miller told her to keep quiet about it, but Morag didn’t want to stay there in case she saw her attacker again, so she asked to be sent back to the home.

‘Having no one to talk to, I did tell my sister. I remember us having a good cry. After 57 years or so, it still hurts.’

She was then sent to a girls’ home run by Catholic nuns. The dorms were mixed-age, with no night time supervisions, and she was regularly sexually abused by older girls using wooden objects and their fists.

‘Those girls, they were terrible … they got into bed with me and did terrible things.’

Morag said the girls would shove things in her mouth to stop her calling for help. She told her friend, who said it had happened to her, too. She then told one of the nuns, who told her not to worry. As far as she knows nothing else was done about the abuse, and shortly after she was sent off to work as a domestic servant with another family on a distant farm.

Morag got on well with the family, and was even able to tell the mother her story, but once she turned 18 they couldn’t afford to keep her so she had to fend for herself in the city. Fortunately she met up with a kind woman who helped her find a waitressing job and a flat and was a great support in those early years. It also meant Morag was able to help one of her sisters, who was then pregnant and unmarried.

Morag married and had children but her husband was violent. When their relationship broke down she took solace in her children and worked extremely hard to keep them out of care.

‘I had to, I wasn’t going to let them go. No way … I wouldn’t let anyone touch them.’

She still has a very close relationship with her children, although one of them sadly passed away as an adult. She also met her current husband and they have been together now for more than 30 years.

Morag has not told many people about the abuse she suffered, and she missed out on the Forde Inquiry as she didn’t know about it. But her sister encouraged her to seek redress from the Salvation Army and the Church, and she received small amounts of compensation from each of them.

She said a lot of people still don’t understand what it’s like to have such a childhood.

‘I think people have got to know, haven’t they, what happened to us kids. A lot of people don’t know. They think you were in an orphanage, oh well. They don’t understand what happened.’

As for the ongoing impacts, she has had troubling thoughts over the years and considered suicide a couple of times. But she remained strong for her children, and now gets a lot of strength and support from her husband and the good friends around her. She still sees her sisters regularly.

‘I think I’m coping well. You’ve got to. I’m getting on.’

 

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