Poppy's story

After her parents both died, Poppy was sent with her sister to live under a foster care arrangement with Patricia Carson, a woman who’d previously known her parents. The girls were both made wards of the Western Australian state but in the years they were with Mrs Carson, no government workers came to visit them or check on their welfare.

In addition to Poppy and her sister, ‘six or seven’ boys and several girls lived with Mrs Carson who also had children of her own. In the 1960s, Poppy was 10 years old when she was sexually abused by Jason, one of her foster brothers who was about 14 years old. In the garage adjoining the house, Jason made Poppy lie on a woodworking bench and he inserted a metal file into her vagina. The assault was witnessed by a boy from a neighbouring house as well as Poppy’s sister.

Poppy didn’t tell Mrs Carson, a ‘very cruel’ woman, about the assault because she didn’t think she’d be believed. Nor did she have any teachers or other adult figures she could tell.

‘I went to 10 different primary schools’, Poppy said. ‘My foster mother made friends, good friends, and she’d move again, move again, make good friends, move again. She was very, very cruel … She blamed me for everything even though it wasn’t my fault.’

As well as assaulting Poppy, Jason would also watch her while she was taking a shower or getting dressed and undressed.

When Poppy told her sister that she intended speaking with the Royal Commission, her sister asked why she’d want to ‘open a can of worms’. This upset Poppy, who still held hopes that Jason would be charged by police.

In the 2010s, she’d spoken informally with a police officer about the assault. He’d found and questioned Jason who denied any knowledge of it. The police officer recounted to Poppy that the look on Jason’s face indicated that he’d ‘been caught out’. No further action was taken and Poppy had never made a formal statement to WA Police.

Poppy told the Commissioner that she’d had longstanding mental health issues throughout her life and had been to ‘detox and rehab due to alcohol’. She continued to have recurrent flashbacks that she was being watched and she always slept with the light on. She’d ‘attempted suicide probably three times’, and had been in numerous unsuccessful relationships and marriages.

Her two sons gave her great joy, she said, and she was now in a healthy relationship with John, her partner of four years.

Before meeting John, she’d said to her son, ‘I just wish I could meet a gentleman like you and [your brother] …

‘He said, “We’re like this because you brought us up with morals and compassion and honesty”. I said, “Yeah.” I’ve got a lot of faith in God. I mean I don’t preach on the corner but I’ve always had my faith in God.’

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