When she was five, Rose was ‘kidnapped’ by her grandparents and taken interstate. Her last name was changed and for several years she ‘shuffled from one boarding house to another’.
From the age of about 11 she was sexually abused by an uncle who had access to her while her grandparents weren’t around. She became ‘a brat’, she said, and soon afterwards her grandmother returned her to her parents.
Often running away, Rose was in her mid-teens when she was picked up by NSW Police in the early 1970s and brought before a magistrate. She was pregnant when she was given a custodial sentence to be served in a girls’ home in western Sydney.
At the time, she’d ‘had no idea what sex was’, and hadn’t considered she might be pregnant until her boyfriend’s mother suggested it as a possibility.
Once in the girls’ home, Rose was given physical chores as punishment, including being made to scrub the ground with a toothbrush. On several occasions while doing this, one of the male officers kicked her and put his foot between her legs ‘pushing her along’.
Rose had been warned by other girls ‘not to go near’ manager Kevin Bingham. Nevertheless, Rose thought he seemed ‘nice’ and ‘polite’ and one day spoke to him in his office about a health problem she had. During the course of the conversation he reached across and touched her breasts and then put his hand on her thigh.
After Rose pulled away from him, Bingham again put his hand between her legs.
‘When he did it the second time he made sure he got digital penetration, like my knickers and everything went in and that’s when I jumped up and said, “I’m out of here”, and he tried: “Get back there. Sit here”. I didn't obey. I’m not that kind of girl. I just went.’
A few days later, Rose told a visiting welfare worker what Bingham had done. The worker said she’d follow it up, but didn’t ever do so. Rose came to know of other girls’ experiences with Bingham; several recounted being raped by him, often when they were in solitary confinement in ‘the dungeon’.
A short time later, Rose feigned labour so she’d be taken to hospital. She’d already signed consent papers to have her baby adopted out, but found out a signature could only be obtained after the baby’s birth. She threatened to report what the staff had been doing, and after she had the baby absconded from the hospital, taking her daughter interstate.
In subsequent years, Rose experienced physical and mental health issues. She’d used illicit substances but had ‘been clean now for over 10 years’.
‘I went to drugs to forget’, she said. ‘Forget everything in my life because I had no answers in my life.’
Since the early 2000s, Rose had received good support from a psychologist, but had recently met the limit of permitted subsidised visits. She’d also been seeing the same doctor since then and credited him with helping her manage her substance dependence.
‘I think he’s the best drug doctor in Australia’, she said. ‘Very, very good. He’s brought me from being a heroin addict to where I am now, and he treats me for everything, every part of my body, and he’s the best doctor I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t be here without him because I tried to commit suicide on a number of occasions. And I’ve become stronger so I don’t do those things now. But when I have these memories of course I feel a little bit that way, but now the government’s taken away my funding I now don’t have a psychologist to go to … and I can’t afford $200 every time I see him, so I’m a bit upset with the government.’
In recent years Rose had reconciled with her mother, who blamed herself for Rose’s admission to the home.
‘I said, “It’s not your fault, Mum. It’s not my fault, it’s not your fault”, because I said, “I didn’t know I was being a brat, and I was being a brat”.’
Rose started to speak about her experiences after seeing a television program in which she recognised a woman who’d been in the girls’ home at the same time as she had.
She’d never sought compensation, but was in the process of speaking to NSW Police about Bingham.
‘I’m not seeking compensation; I’m seeking justice okay? I’m seeking an answer to what happened to me, that’s all I’m seeking. I’m seeking a person that did it to me and other people because he’s got away with it and he shouldn’t have.’
Rose had also reconnected with her father in the last years of his life. Before he died he told her she needed to ‘fight on’ and this had made her ‘a stronger person’. The continuing presence of her children and grandchildren also sustained her.
‘When I had that daughter, that was what made me live, okay? Those children are the only reason I’m still on this earth because every time I think about them is why I stay on earth. Now they’ve grown up I want to stay to see my grandkids.’