In the early 1990s when she was three years old, Renee was made a ward of the state. Her mentally ill mother could not care for her children, and her father had been in and out of custody for several years. The Department of Community Services placed Renee with her grandmother for three years.
Renee was then moved to her Aunt Greta’s home in a town of New South Wales. She hated living with Greta: Greta was mean and abused both drugs and alcohol regularly. Renee was physically abused several times a week, and recalls being choked and stomped on multiple times.
On one occasion, Greta held Renee down and inserted a broomstick into her backside. Afterwards, she was sexually abused on a regular basis.
Renee was scared of Greta and had no one else to talk to. She remembers her case worker visiting the house numerous times, but she knew that if she disclosed, Greta would beat her.
That summer, after school had broken up, Renee and her siblings went on a holiday to visit her extended family in Tasmania. She remembers her caseworker escorting her to the house of her uncle who then raped and digitally penetrated her several times. Her uncle was cruel and often called her many names. Renee hated the fact her uncle was always around her.
‘He wouldn’t let anyone else take me to the toilet … He’d scare me by picking my clothes up and sniffing them. He called me a dirty little slut.’
Renee felt scared and confused, and couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. It was too much for her. She started biting people if they got too close to her, and she was constantly fighting with her younger siblings. This, she believes, was her way of crying out for help.
After several weeks, Renee and her siblings were taken back to Greta’s home. She hoped that Greta had changed her tune, but the abuse only intensified, and she was sexually abused every day. Renee cried out each time it happened, but nothing was done. She believes her siblings were also abused, but she never saw it happen.
Renee couldn’t concentrate in school. She was acting out, and was confused and angry all the time. She bit other students and sometimes hit her teachers. She recalls being taken to the hospital for a series of health checks, but no one made the link between her behaviour and the sexual abuse.
In the mid-1990s, when she was nine, her father was released from prison and rented a property close to Greta’s house. Renee visited him every day but couldn’t tell him what was wrong. She remembers a neighbour coming to Greta and telling her that she needed to stop abusing the children. That’s when the abuse got worse.
‘She actually got a strange man into the house to abuse me just so she wouldn’t be blamed. After that she gave me to my dad and ran off.’
Renee stayed with her father for a couple of years until his alcoholism became too severe. She then lived with her grandmother until her late teens - this was a really good place to be.
Throughout her teens and adulthood, Renee blocked out the abuse by Greta and her uncle. She experimented with drugs and alcohol, but quickly gave these up because she didn’t want to rely on substances like some other members of her family. She never told anyone about the abuse because, for a long time, she did not believed that it had affected her.
However, all that changed in the late 2000s after Renee gave birth to her children. She started having flashbacks and nightmares, and found it difficult to finish courses and settle into a stable career. She was diagnosed with depression, and has taken prescription medication for a number of years. She experiences panic attacks, and currently receives the disability support pension.
Some years before talking to the Royal Commission, Renee disclosed her abuse to a local Aboriginal Centre before then telling her counsellor and her family. Renee is now estranged from all but two of her family members because of her disclosure, which upsets her. She believes her family don’t want to acknowledge that the abuse happened.
Renee has since reported her uncle to the police and given a statement, and has been trying to access her complete welfare records for several months. Renee would like to build a criminal case against Greta and intends to report her to the police also.
‘I don’t want her touching anyone ever again.’