Shauna was made a ward of the state of Victoria in the late 1960s. She has little recollection of the babies’ home and children’s orphanage she first lived in, but at five she was moved to a government-run children’s home. She remained in state care until she was 16 years old.
In one of the cottages Shauna was living in at the age of about eight, she was woken each night by houseparent Mark Roe who’d take her to the bathroom, remove her pants and smack her bare buttocks. He always did this, Shauna said, in front of a mirror.
‘He did it every night you know. Every night I was there. I got fed up with it. It gets to the point you don’t want to sleep, you know? What’s the point if you’re going to cop that shit, sorry, that stuff every night. And of course the shower stuff where he wouldn’t even let me wash myself, that happened straightaway, as soon as I was put in there. He was just a creep.’
The general attitude of staff towards children was that ‘they didn’t care’, Shauna said, and there was no one she could talk to about what Roe was doing.
‘I wasn’t the only kid going through this sort of stuff so you know, you had to protect yourself. So basically you’d only tell each other – you know each kid would talk together, but you can’t tell the staff or you’d just cop worse stuff.’
Children were often told that if they made complaints about the way they were treated they’d be sent to ‘kids’ jail’ – nearby juvenile justice centres.
‘The girls were always threatened with being raped by a broom handle so you would try your hardest to behave yourself. You’d try not to hit back at the staff when they hit you because that would definitely give them a reason to put you in there.’
When she was 14, Shauna was subjected to an internal examination and then ‘put on contraception’. This occurred just before her transfer to a group home and she believes it was because ‘they knew something was going to happen’. Boys in the home would pull her top down and try to touch her, something she said staff witnessed and made no effort to stop.
At 16, Shauna was asked to leave the home, and without any kind of support she had great difficulty fending for herself.
‘It took years when I got dumped out of the home to actually try to even find a space in this world to belong and you know fit in.’
She became pregnant while still in her teens, and a child she had later was removed from her care after ‘false allegations’ were made.
Shauna’s experience with workers in the welfare and child protection system had always been negative.
‘They make my skin crawl’, she said. ‘I tell them I don’t like them, I don’t trust them, that their department doesn’t work, but they don’t like being told anything. The way I see it anyway, welfare care no matter what generation it is, it doesn’t work. It’s not going to work.
‘If you’re going to have welfare carers look after other people’s kids, then you know what would be good – except that we’re not at that technology stage – I reckon we should have robots that don’t have any anatomy, that don’t have anatomy to hurt people, but they’re only programmed to care and look after kids, not hurt them in any way.
‘Put it this way, you can still be with real parents, like human parents, but if you’re not loved or cared for, you’re still going to end up robotic yourself when you grow up. Me personally, I’m a little bit robotic; I find it hard to cuddle … Might as well have robotic parents, that’s the way I see it and at least they don’t have the anatomy or the behavioural issues that they have to emotionally hurt somebody, you know what I mean? You could program them to be a good parent.’
A few months before her private session, Shauna reported Roe to Victoria Police. They’d interviewed him and while he admitted that he remembered Shauna, he denied that he’d ever abused her. Police were continuing to enquire into the matter.
While she’d never previously sought compensation, Shauna had recently made an appointment to speak with a lawyer about avenues for pursuing this.
‘The way I see it, like our innocence back then as a child, it was never valued. Just nothing was good back then. They gave me an education which I’m thankful for ‘cause that’s all that I’m thankful for. I mean I would rather have been living with a poor family that actually gave a shit about me and still be loved and belonged somewhere …
‘There are kids out there who are not me and who actually do have caring and loving parents and I don’t want to see them put through what I was put through, and that’s why I say it doesn’t work. But unfortunately my life was that. I can’t change that, and I do want to hold them accountable for that.’