Skye's story

Skye was removed from her mother when she was two years old, due to neglect and abuse, and made a state ward in Queensland. In the early 1980s, she was in placed foster care with Brent and Maureen Blythe. Both physically abused her, and Brent was particularly brutal when he was drunk. He threw chunks of wood from the fireplace at Skye’s ribs, and dragged her down the road by her hair.

Brent’s father, Ivan, sexually abused Skye ‘every time he babysat me. He would watch what I now know to be pornographic movies and then he would do to me what was happening on the screen. This abuse occurred on many, many occasions and included oral, anal and vaginal penetration’.

Ivan would also play ‘bath games’ with Skye, ‘saying Poppy and I have to go for a bath together, and touching me while he was bathing me’. Skye’s told her older sister, who also lived with them, what Ivan had been doing to her. Her sister then reported the abuse to Maureen. Instead of taking action against Ivan, Maureen belted Skye and locked her in a room without food for a week.

When Skye was eight, an attempt was made to reunite her with her birth mother, and Skye disclosed Ivan’s abuse to her. Her mother informed a welfare worker, who then called Maureen. After Maureen denied the allegations, Skye was sent back to live in the Blythe household, and Ivan continued to abuse her.

Eventually Skye was moved to a children’s home in regional Queensland when she was 10. She stayed in this home for a year or so, and enjoyed it as she did not experience any abuse there.

Skye moved to another foster placement, this time with the Derwents, when she was in her early teens. The couple had grown children of their own, including James, who was in his late 20s. James still lived at home, and ‘would come into my room at night, and I would wake to find him touching me inappropriately. I would tell him to go away but he often wouldn't listen to me. He tried to rape me on one occasion’.

This abuse happened regularly. Skye reported it to Mrs Derwent, but James ‘was a mummy’s boy. Mum didn’t believe it’. She also spoke to the local police and to her welfare officer, ‘and I even used to ring the crisis line and everything, looking for help’. The police investigated – ‘they took the statements, did the medicals’ – but nothing came of the matter. Skye believes this was because James was related to the officer in charge of this station.

Over the years Skye was placed in numerous other foster care situations, and experienced physical abuse in all of them. The Department of Community Services (DOCS), made further attempts to reunite Skye with her mother throughout her childhood. Skye was sexually abused by her stepfather during these times with her mother, and also by an uncle. She told her mother about her uncle's behaviour, and the matter was reported to police. As a result, he was charged and convicted for child sexual offences, and Skye thinks he may have been imprisoned.

Skye started making suicide attempts before she was a teenager, and often ran away. She spoke to the Royal Commission about the impact her unsettled childhood, and the abuse she experienced, has had on her wellbeing. She is unable to trust people and has had a couple of violent partners. She lives with bipolar disorder, for which now takes medication, and has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Some of Skye’s children have been placed into care, due to her mental health difficulties, but she has custody of her youngest daughter. Although she identifies as Aboriginal, she has no real connection to the Aboriginal community, and also does not have any other family relationships.

Skye applied for her care records, but did not have any support while she read these. Going through this information was very difficult emotionally, particularly learning the reasons that she had gone into care in the first place, so she had to do it very slowly. She is now investigating her legal options, and contemplating whether to report any of the offenders to police.

With plans to study, and a young daughter to care for, Skye doesn’t want her childhood experiences to drag her down. ‘I’ve learned to try and put it behind me, and go forward.’

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