In the 1960s, 13-year-old Ruby was sent to a girls’ home in Sydney after the Children’s Court found her to be uncontrollable and exposed to moral danger.
Ruby told the Commissioner that during the two years or so that she was at the home, she was sexually abused by three male staff members. She said that Mr Smith regularly abused her in the showers and in a room called the ‘donkey room’. In that room, as punishment, she had to shovel coal into the stove which heated water for the home.
‘He had got me there and I would sing out, trying to run away from him, and the words that … he said, “You’re a good little girl, Ruby. You’re a good little girl. Keep your eyes closed, nobody will see us”.
'And he’d come down and say, "And nobody will believe you. Nobody will believe you because you’re the bad girl here”. And that confused me, it really did. One minute I’m a good girl; another minute I’m a bad girl … What am I? Cry, cry, cry for my mummy and my daddy … they never heard me.’
Another male attendant raped her. Afterwards, he took her upstairs to isolation for punishment. She stayed there bleeding, with just a mattress and a bucket. He told a female officer that she ‘has her period’.
‘She just looked at me and went and got me the pads, that was all. Washed me, all the blood, then gave me some bread and water for dinner, which was nice, anyway, something to eat.
'And then just being locked in that room for 24 hours, using the bucket as a toilet and watching, thinking, looking out the window. All I could see was the old avocado tree outside.’
Ruby told the Commissioner that ‘Mr Fingers’, the staff doctor, examined all the 250 to 300 girls at the home. He regularly examined their vaginas and she is positive that this was sexual abuse and not medically required.
Ruby has been very active in organising a reunion of girls who were at the home around the same time as her. She has been saddened by the fact that many have died and many, like her, are being treated for severe anxiety and depression arising from the trauma they suffered at the home. She is now planning to have a book written about her experiences.