Tegan Jane's story

Tegan was around five years old when her mother died violently in the early 1990s. After this she was looked after by various relatives in far north Queensland, and took on a lot of responsibility for her younger siblings.

At some stage she was put in the care of the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (‘the department’), though she remained placed with family. She was with an aunty for a while but was removed due to her aunty’s drug misuse issues. While living with cousins she was subjected to physical abuse and neglect.

Around the time Tegan started high school she was placed with her uncle, who also cared for other children. All of them would sleep in the bed with him, and he began groping and molesting her.

Her uncle was physically violent too. ‘We used to have to hide into the cupboard when he was drunk ... so he wouldn’t hit us.’

Because she was very good at sports, the department would supply her with sports shoes. She would have to hide these from her uncle in case he thought she was trying to be better than the other kids, but ‘I was just doing what I liked’. It was noted on her welfare file that she had received an offer of a scholarship due to her athletic talent, but she was not advised of this at the time and never received any financial assistance.

Tegan reported the sexual abuse by her uncle to her child safety officer. Her welfare records note that she was removed immediately as a result, however she remembers ‘it took ages for them to remove me ... I had to go back ‘cause they didn’t know where they was going to put me’.

The disclosure made her an outcast to her family, who did not believe the allegations, and her relationship with her relatives remains fractured. ‘I don’t think they still believe me to this day.’

It does not appear the department reported her uncle to police, and she did not do this herself as she was worried that it would cause her younger siblings trouble with the family too. Her uncle was never charged, and is now deceased. ‘That’s his punishment I guess.' She was not offered any support or counselling at this time.

Tegan did not attend school much after the sexual abuse. She ran away from all of her subsequent foster placements, became homeless, and lived in the streets. In her mid-teens she fell pregnant, while still a state ward.

When her child was born she took off from the hospital with him, fearing he would be removed, ''cause I didn’t want my child to be in child safety, the way I lived like that’.

Depressed and confused, she found it hard to relate to the baby as her own, rather than the younger siblings she had acted as a mother to. ‘Because I was a mother before my time, it’s hard for me to raise my own kids like that, ‘cause it’s a different love ... When I first had my child I didn’t believe – I had really bad depression – I didn’t believe that he was my boy.’

She finds it hard to trust anyone, and has experienced suicidal thoughts. ‘I tried to go do counselling but it was on the phone and it was hard, ‘cause I didn’t have that much money to ring up.’

Since first contacting the Royal Commission, Tegan has connected with a free legal advice service, which assisted her with obtaining her welfare file. It was hard for her to read this as any details of her father – whom she has no information about – were redacted. She is also being assisted to find out more about her mother’s death.

Both the trauma of losing her mother and that of the sexual abuse have left Tegan with significant gaps in her memory, and it’s hard to reconcile what was recorded with what she remembers.

‘All the stuff that’s in the file – it feels like it’s just a big lie. Because all that trauma that has happened to me it’s like it’s just got a blank spot, it’s a big blank spot in my mind ... I just can remember bits and pieces, like pieces that I want to remember.’

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