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Terri-Anne's story

Terri-Anne was close to her father, but after he left when she was four years old, she was ‘passed around to people’ to be minded while her mother worked.

When Terri-Anne was about 10, the father of one of her friends sexually abused her. ‘I don’t know how long it went on, quite a few times. And I never told my mother because I was scared that no one would believe me or I’d get into trouble.’

Childhood was erratic and at various times Terri-Anne lived with her grandparents and others in inner Sydney.

At 15 she was deemed ‘exposed to moral danger’ and made a ward of the state. Through the mid-1960s Terri-Anne had three placements in a girls’ home in outer Sydney, and during the first of these, she was sexually abused by another girl. The girl slept in the bed next to Terri-Anne’s.

‘I don’t even know why it happened, being truthful. I could never ever fathom it out. It wasn’t like she disliked me or anything, it just happened one night and, yeah, I never reported her. I would have been beaten up by everyone in there if I did.’

An unspoken rule was that ‘you didn't dob people in’, and Terri-Anne still lived by ‘that code’.

While she was in the home, Terri-Anne was put in isolation, ‘beaten in the head’ and ‘bashed’ by staff, including the superintendent.

Her final placement finished three months later than it was meant to. She’d already turned 18 and shouldn’t have remained in what was a girls’ only home, but staff refused to hear her protests and kept her there.

At one point in the mid-60s, when Terri-Anne was 17 and living in the city, she was raped at gunpoint and taken to hospital afterwards with significant injuries. A medical report she later accessed stated that she had ‘very low morals’ and had had ‘a septic abortion’.

‘Now this ate away and ate away,’ Terri-Anne said. ‘Till finally I got it together and went through my ward files, because I’d really had to prove this point.’

At the time the medical report was written she’d been out of the girls’ home only a short time and ‘why would I be going to have an abortion?’ She showed details of the timeline to a lawyer who acknowledged that she ‘was telling the truth’ and that the medical records were wrong.

Terri-Anne told the Commissioner that she ‘can’t even have a medical examination now’ because of the invasive procedures she’d had each time she’d been in the home.

She described issues with trust and feelings of anxiety. She’d been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder but didn’t like taking medication because of its side effects.

‘My life’s a bit everywhere. So I get a bit off track here and there because I don’t, you know, I’ve sort of, I feel let down. I call myself abandoned and I have a friend that’s the same.’

She still kept in contact with some who’d been in the girls’ home, women she said who ‘were bred to survive’.

Terri-Anne had some male friends but hadn’t been in a relationship for several decades.

‘I mean, it is very lonely, the only thing I can say out of it is that no one’s abusing me and I’m scared I’m going to go out with someone and the same thing – I trusted before …

‘But it’s so sad, I think, in the other way that I get tired of being alone. Just, I would like to have someone to go out with and do things, but you just can’t trust them because there’s still creeps out there.’

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