A FORMER inmate at one of the country's most notorious juvenile centres has broken her silence on the physical and sexual abuse she witnessed as a ward of the state half a century on.
The retired Wagga nurse spent six months at Parramatta Girls Institution for running away from home at the age of 14 in the late 1960s.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is now calling on fellow Riverina victims to report any incidents, amid NSW Police this week appealing for witnesses to abuse linked to the school and its former officials.
It follows the 2014 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which heard from 16 women who were subjected to sexual and physical abuse at the home.
The home, which officially closed in 1974, is currently at the centre of a multi-million dollar settlement to compensate abused inmates, who also claim to have been used for “slave labour”.
When the woman was transferred to the home in darkness as a confused teen, she was stripped of all her belongings – the gold bracelet she once wore around her wrist everyday was cut off, her hair was chopped short and she was issued with a uniform that she would later wash religiously when laundry duties included hand washing, drying and pressing for days on end.
The woman was physically abused and threatened. “Nearly every day, every night (bashings occurred),” she said. “There were some who were sexually assaulted.
“You knew something was wrong when a girl went to bed with you at night and in the morning, they were gone.”
The woman was dragged by her hair multiple times to isolation, where she would stay for days with nothing but a sole mattress on a concrete floor in complete darkness.
The girls wouldn’t see each other for days on end and were only identifiable by a number.
“If you heard one of the girls getting bashed, if you dared say anything to anyone or ask where that person was, you’d be locked in isolation,” she said.
“You could hear (them) being thrown down the stairs and screaming.
“We all had to pretend we were asleep … because we would have got pulled out next.
“They used to try and grab you and you had to be careful when you were getting changed and unchanged because they had the power to walk through, even if you were in the shower block.”
There was no doctor or nurse at the school and girls on their period were only handed a new pad if they showed the old used one.
“If you dared say you had a toothache, they’d pull it out with pliers,” she said.
“If you needed glasses, too bad, because you were a ward of the state.”
The girls were made to undertake manual labour from Monday to Friday.
They were to strip and make their beds with no creases and hospital corners each week, while everything was to be dust-free.
“If he found anything like that, he’d just come straight up to your face, pull it off and nearly knock you to the floor,” the woman said. “If he found any dust, he’d lock us in until we did it.”
The 59-year-old mother of two has now lodged a formal complaint with NSW Police and is urging other Riverina victims to do the same.
It will assist with current inquiries into the school and its officials, including Frank Valentine, now 75, who was alleged to have physically or sexually abused girls as the school’s former relieving deputy superintendent.
The woman remembers Mr Valentine as one of the scarier officials. “He was a skinny man with a beard and he did not hesitate to clip you over the ear holes or make threats to you,” she said.
A 2004 Senate Inquiry included statements by twenty former residents of the Parramatta Girls Home about their experiences there, while Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised to the ‘Forgotten Australians’ in 2009.
If you want to share a similar experience, contact the reporter on 6938 3346 or email@example.com
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