‘I hated bath time.’
Nathalie was made a ward of the state when she was seven years old. Her mother had been admitted to a psychiatric ward and her father was in jail. In the mid-1960s, Nathalie was separated from her siblings and placed in a children’s home in a town in New South Wales. She was never visited by her parents.
Nathalie described conditions in the home as awful. She was forced to bathe in filthy water and workers often hit girls for little reason.
Within several weeks of arriving, Nathalie met another resident, Suzie who was 17 years old. Suzie was violent towards other girls, pulling their hair and slapping them across the face if they misbehaved.
When Nathalie was nine, Suzie started accompanying her to the bathroom at night, and under the pretence of helping her wash, sexually abused her. Nathalie felt it was wrong but didn’t know what to say or do.
The abuse stopped when a few years later Nathalie was placed with a foster family, the Johnsons, in a different town.
Nathalie didn’t like the Johnsons because they were cruel, and she was sexually abused by Mr Johnson several times while she was with them. She wanted to speak out about it but was afraid of being sent back to the home.
For three years, Nathalie was moved between foster homes. She never felt cared for in any of them and as time progressed she retreated into herself and stopped going to school. In her early teens she became pregnant and was devastated when her child was taken from her and put into care.
In the early 1970s, Nathalie spent several months with her birth mother and stepfather, but soon ran away because her stepfather was violent. She became homeless and spent several years living on the streets.
As a way of trying to mask her pain, Nathalie tried drugs and alcohol and became very sick from using heroin.
Throughout her teens and adulthood, Nathalie has struggled with alcohol and drug use. She has developed many health issues and these combined with the incomplete schooling she received have affected her ability to work.
Nathalie married and has several children, but finds it difficult to connect to them.
‘It’s hard because I should be enjoying my life … But I am not. I couldn’t even help my own children or grandchildren.’
In the mid-1990s Nathalie first disclosed details of the abuse when she told her closest friend, Jamie. She came to the Royal Commission because she wanted to share her story and be heard. She hoped no other child suffered in the way that she did.