Warning: This post features explicit details of child sexual abuse, that could be triggering for some readers.
They had their teeth pulled out as punishment for “bad” behaviour.
They were raped and beaten by those trusted to take care of them.
They were drugged and handcuffed to the seats of trains as they moved between their residences.
But these aren’t the stories of the women of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries. Nor are they recounts of the lives of women living under the rule of some oppressive Middle Eastern dictator.
These are the stories of the 30,000 Australian children who attended the NSW government’s institutions for at-risk girls.
And, yesterday, the Royal Commission into child abuse began to hear these stories, listening to the evidence given by 16 former residents of the Parramatta Girls Training School in Sydney, and the Institution for Girls in Hay, in NSW’s south west. Those giving evidence attended the institutions between 1950 and their eventual closure in 1974.
The girls were sent to these government-run institutions by courts. Many were sexual assault victims, others had been deemed to be at risk of “moral danger” or “neglect” due to poverty, or anti-social behaviour.
But, instead of being given help, vocational training or counselling, the girls were horrifically abused.
Speaking at the commission yesterday, 72-year-old Fay Hillery recalled her time at Parramatta Girls Training School. She was sent to the school in 1958 at 16 years of age. Her mother had died when she was young, her father was no longer in the picture and a court had determined the care being provided by her grandparents to be neglectful.