Stacy grew up in regional Queensland, where her large family struggled. Her mother was unwell and her father was an alcoholic. Stacy and some of her siblings were taken into care and sent to a church-run children’s home. When she was 6 years old Stacy and her younger brother Michael were fostered by Bruce and Nola Tomkins.
Stacy was sexually abused by Bruce on multiple occasions. He made Stacy lie on the bed while he lay on top of her and rubbed his penis between her legs until he ejaculated.
Nola was often next to them during these acts. ‘I remember her lying there awake with her eyes wide open and she would be just staring at the ceiling’, Stacy told the Commissioner. ‘To this day I can’t understand how she could do that.’
Nola ‘used to dress me up in starched linen dresses and patent leather shoes and little pillbox hats and take me to church every Sunday.’
Bruce also abused Stacy’s younger brother, Michael. Stacy remembers Michael hiding under the sink to get away from him.
In the early 1960s, Nola took Stacy back to welfare officials in Brisbane and falsely accused her of stealing. Bruce returned Michael the next day, and said they could no longer care for the children.
Five years later, 12-year-old Stacy found herself back in an office in the church-run children’s home. A social worker, Mr Sebastian, told her the Tomkins had applied to foster her once more. Bruce and Nola walked into the room.
‘I began to scream and yelled, "I am not going. I am not going". I tried to run out of the room and the door was shut, so I grab hold of the door handle and I would not let it go. They were pulling my legs and I was parallel to the floor, but I would not let go. I was holding on for my life. I told everyone in the room I would kill myself if I had to go back to the Tomkins.’
Stacy told Mr Sebastian and her Child Welfare Officer what Bruce had done to her. She was not believed and was sent for psychiatric assessment, which she found traumatic.
Stacy was not sent to live with her abusers, but no action was taken against Bruce. Stacy has seen her official file from those days. Her allegations were recorded. She is astonished and furious at the failure of the Child Welfare Department to take her revelations seriously.
Despite her disclosures, Stacy was far from safe. A short time later Mr Sebastian began sexually abusing Stacy in his office with the door shut. He raped her three times when she was 14 years old. Sebastian told her no one would believe her if she told anyone about the attacks.
Stacy was sent to 17 different schools in 13 years. Despite the disruption she managed to do well at school and got a scholarship to university. She has had a career. She married and had children, but the marriage broke down. She has little contact with her siblings.
Stacy has suffered from low self-esteem and several mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder. She has trouble trusting people and forming friendships. She does not cope with authority and this has impacted on her career. She has had thoughts of taking her own life in the past.
Stacy credits her grandmother’s support for giving her the strength to get through her troubles. She believes all children in foster care should be allowed to keep up emotional ties with their biological family, however difficult that may be.
In recent years Stacy was contacted by a relative of Bruce Tomkins. She learnt that other children had been sent to the Tomkins to be fostered, even after Stacy had reported the abuse she had suffered in his home. One of these girls had been twice impregnated by Bruce. Five other girls in his care had complained of abuse.
Bruce Tomkins was never prosecuted, and has now died. Stacy believes he was protected by a paedophile ring involving Mr Sebastian at the children’s home and the Child Welfare officer she disclosed her abuse to.
Stacy has rarely spoken of her ordeal in 50 years, preferring to ‘keep a lid’ on her ‘Pandora’s box’. She has applied for and received payments through the Queensland Redress Scheme, but she is aware of other victims of abuse who have suffered more than her and who have been thoroughly re-traumatised by the redress process. Many received less help than she did.
Stacy has found it very upsetting to tell her story to the Royal Commission, but wants to speak out in support of those survivors.
‘It’s difficult for me to see people whose lives have been destroyed like that and just sit back and say, “I’m okay, Joe”. It’s important for me to say “Those people need extra support”.’