She was abused, then locked out of sight until the bruises went away.

30,000 children were possible victims.

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 inquiry is continuing…

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.


On arrival, Hillery said that her hair was “hacked off”. She then recounted being taken by a Superintendent to an isolation cell known as “the dungeon” where she was raped anally, orally and vaginally.

A fellow inmate, known only as OA, spoke of how the same Superintendent groomed her for sex, and that she suffered a miscarriage as a result.

OA has made several suicide attempts since being released from state care.

The girls were sent to the facilities under court orders.

Diane Chard, who spent time at both Parramatta and Hay described travelling between the two facilities. Chard was drugged with Largactil, an anti-psychotic, and then handcuffed to her train seat as she made the journey from Sydney to country NSW.

Sixty-six-year-old Robin Kitson recalled her six- to nine-month stay at the Parramatta facility. She said that an official had removed all of her teeth because (she was told) she was “a bad girl”.

However, the most shocking part of Kitson’s testimony came when she described how the officials at the institution dealt with her after she reported being raped at the institution to the resident welfare officer.

She said:

I was called up by Mr (Percival) Mayhew (then deputy superintendent) and another officer what my problem was.

I said, “nothing”.

That’s when Mr Mayhew smashed my face with a bunch of keys and locked me in isolation for 21 days. They made me stay until the bruises went away.

What they did to us was absolutely disgusting, it was shocking.

The enquiry into the institutions at Parramatta and Hay will continue until the end of this week.

We’ll update this post as more details come to light.

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