Sherry's story

Sherry was young when she and her siblings were taken from their family and placed in a home for ‘half-caste’ Aboriginal children in Darwin in the 1960s.

From the age of about four until she left the home at 15, she was emotionally and physically abused, including being hit on the tongue with a stick. The children were often told they would never amount to anything.

Sherry was also sexually abused at the home. She finds it very difficult to talk about the details of the abuse, due to the shame she associates with it. However she did disclose that her house mother regularly made her give her massages, particularly to her legs and feet, which Sherry considered grooming behaviour. She also talked of sexual abuse incidents in the shower but did not want to give any details.

If she was frightened Sherry would sometimes wet herself and then her house parents would make her stand with her wet underwear on her head, naked from the waist down in front of others, which she found humiliating. If she wet the bed she would be sent to a male house parent who would remove her underwear and cane her naked bottom.

Sherry said her education suffered from being in the home, and because of the way she was treated she had problems trusting people. She still experiences panic attacks sometimes, but she no longer uses alcohol to cope.

She hasn’t sought compensation for what happened to her, and she doesn’t have any help from counsellors or doctors, so she was happy to get some advice on how to change that. But she does get a lot of support and pleasure from her children and many grandchildren. She told the Commissioner that her main wish was to stop what happened to her from happening to others.

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