Normie's story

Family life in the Riverina region of New South Wales came to an abrupt end for Normie when he was very little. His mum died in a car accident when he was only two or three. He never knew his father. His siblings told him later that before his mother died she told hospital staff that her family would come and get her kids. But by the time her family arrived the children had already been taken into state care.

Normie and his younger brother were placed in the same orphanage, which had two separate sections.

‘They had the white babies on this side and the Aboriginal babies on the other side.’

When Tina and John Jessop turned up to choose two foster babies ‘they were told to pick one boy from this side’. They chose Normie’s fair-skinned, blue-eyed brother, who was in the white section. ‘And then they got told that he had an older brother.’

The Jessops starting looking for this older brother among the white babies but were told that he was on the Aboriginal babies’ side. ‘And that’s when they took both of us.’

‘Back then they used to get a fair bit of money for Aboriginal children to look after. And I think that was the motive to keep us.’

Normie very quietly told the Commissioner about Tina Jessop, his foster mother. ‘She abused me at a very young age. She made me do things to her. She’d tell me, “When we have a shower, we have a shower together”. She punched me, she told me to touch her in certain places. If I didn’t do it, I got a good walloping for it … it happened nearly every day.’

When Normie didn’t wash his hands the right way, she pushed his head under the water, nearly drowning him.

Tina Jessop had adopted other children but was only violent and abusive to Normie. Interestingly, Normie was only ever fostered, not adopted. Jessop would send the other kids to a nearby park so that she was alone in the house with him. He’s not sure if her husband knew - he recalls her sexually abusing him only when John was away at work.

Normie regularly showed up at primary school with bruises. Sometimes he just hung around outside. The deputy principal once asked why he wasn’t going in. Normie told him he was being belted. The deputy said there was nothing he could do for him.

When welfare staff visited the Jessops every couple of months Normie told them about Tina. They laughed. ‘You shouldn’t lie’, they said. It earned him more floggings.

Jessop demanded more sexual favours from him as he got older. Finally Normie couldn’t take it anymore and began running away. The police always brought him back. One particular time stands out for Normie.

‘The policeman brought me back … they gave the policeman a belt. He hit me with that and then they dragged me inside.’ Once the policeman left, the Jessops tied Normie to the bed and undressed him. ‘Then she came in with the jug cord and beat me with that until I couldn’t … couldn’t scream.’

When he was 13 Normie grew desperate. ‘I figured out if I done something wrong, like break into a house and make sure I got caught, it would stop.’

He carried out his plan, got caught, and was sentenced to detention in a boys’ home in Sydney where he was sexually abused again.

The other boys told him that someone would come around at night and get him. Normie thought they were trying to scare him. But that night a man did show up. Normie refused to let the man touch him. ‘He slapped me across the face.’ The next day the man called out three names, including Normie’s. ‘He had this big paddle, a wooden thing.’ He made the first two boys pull down their pants. He then hit them five times.

When it was Normie’s turn he was hit 20 times ‘because I wouldn’t let him do what he asked … It happened again. And again. I couldn’t take the pain no more so I let him do what he wanted’.

The man took him into another room, fondled him and then raped him. Normie was abused by him the entire time he was there. He never knew the man’s name.

Other institutions followed. Normie was then told he was going back to the Jessops. On the second day Tina attacked him again and tried to take his clothes off. This time Normie managed to get away. He told a social worker the whole story and showed them the scratches on his back. He was not sent back.

Normie, who’s now in his 50s, eventually reported Tina Jessop’s abuse to the police but nothing came of it. He never reported the sexual abuse in the detention centre.

Normie drank heavily when he first came out of care and has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. He moved from place to place for a while, looking for work. He was married for a long time but finds relationships difficult to sustain. However he does have two children he’s very close to. He’s now stopped drinking.

Normie said the Royal Commission events have been overwhelming him and have brought up memories. ‘And the worst part of that was sitting there with my own daughter and telling her what happened to me.’

His recommendation to the Commission is simple – make sure welfare staff listen to children who talk about being abused.

‘When I was in the home, no one would listen to you. And it would only take one person to say something to, before something can happen. I’m just very disappointed … I got shut down.’

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