Rosemaree was born the eldest of a large Aboriginal family in rural South Australia. Her father was absent and her mother had multiple partners, some of whom abused the children. ‘I should never have been in her care, full stop. Because she’d have different partners and some of her partners did things to me.’
In the mid-1970s, Rosemaree and three of her siblings were removed from their mother and placed in a children’s home run by the Church of England. Not long after she arrived there, the groundskeeper began sexually abusing her.
‘He started just touching and fondling, then he went downstairs to my vagina and rubbing my chest area as well. He made me suck him off. This would happen at least once a week.
'I was around eight years old … I can remember him stinking of aftershave.’
The groundskeeper, who ‘would’ve been about 18 to 20’, would threaten to hurt Rosemaree’s younger sisters if she told anyone about what was happening. The abuse continued for approximately eight months until one of the nuns caught the groundskeeper molesting other children and dismissed him.
‘It was actually Sister Joan that told him to take his walking orders, 'cause she caught him with two little boys.’ The nuns never reported the groundskeeper to the police. ‘They should’ve done but didn’t.’
Two years later, Rosemaree was moved to a different children’s home, this time run by the Salvation Army. A staff member there, whom the children called ‘Mr Mouldy’ because of his bad skin, started sexually abusing Rosemaree.
‘He actually penetrated me at least twice a week. This hurt and I would bleed each time. He would bite my chest and say, “You have pretty little lumps”. I would bleed even though I didn’t have my periods, as he hurt me each time.’
Rosemaree never told anyone at the home about Mouldy’s abuse because ‘He said no one would believe me, and I was what my mother was – a cheap slut’. Rosemaree believes Mouldy was related to the Salvation Army captain who ran the home, which also made disclosure difficult. ‘I reckon that mongrel was her brother because he was always calling her “Sis”.’
Rosemaree does not recall what Mouldy’s role at the home, but remembers he wore a uniform and would have been aged somewhere between 18 and 30. The abuse continued for approximately six months. She believes he abused many children, both girls and boys, in the home.
‘People like that should be drawn and quartered.’
Eventually Rosemaree and her siblings were removed from the home by their grandfather. ‘I was 12 or 13. My grandfather came and got me. He took all of us … all four of us.’
Since her time in institutions, Rosemaree has married twice and had several children. ‘Although the first one was a failure … the second one, he passed away … He was my strength.’
After the death of her second husband, Rosemaree suffered a breakdown. Her children were removed from her care and she no longer has any contact with them. She is currently being supported by an Aboriginal service provider for both counselling and social work services. ‘If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.’
Rosemaree’s memories of abuse are triggered by the smell of certain tobacco brands and aftershave, as well as the sight of men in blue overalls, as that was what the groundskeeper wore. ‘It goes on and on and on. And you cannot stop it. It’s just like a recording on a continual loop … It’s the only way to describe it.’
As a result of the abuse she is deeply mistrustful of men. ‘I won’t let males in the house unless I see identification. I won’t use the taxi drivers now without some proof of ID 'cause I’m wary of new people.’
Rosemaree has never reported the abuse to the police or sought compensation, but with the support of her social worker has been in contact with a law firm to assist with a compensation claim. ‘I give back as good as I get.’
‘I wanna see justice for others in my joint.’