- Evidence of abuse over 30 years
- Girls had done nothing more than be born into poverty
- Estimated 30,000 girls went through two institutions
- Girls were raped, drugged, beaten and their spirits broken
Girls who had done nothing except being born into poverty were sent to the institutions where they were raped in the dungeon, raped in isolation cells, drugged, beaten and their spirits broken.
Their attackers were not just those in charge such as the only two officials still alive — John Frank Valentine, Noel Greenaway and a woman who has not been named — but the other girls.“Had no pride, no self-respect. They took everything from me.”
An estimated 30,000 girls went through the two institutions between 1950 and 1974 when they were finally closed. Hay was a former colonial jail and Parramatta went on to become a female jail.
Counsel assisting the commission, Caroline Spruce, said the government no longer had any records of either institution.
“They controlled everything from the amount of toilet paper we got to whether we got sanitary napkins when we had our periods. We had to show them our bleeding,” the commission has been told Ms Kitchener will say.
“Had no pride, no self-respect. They took everything from me.”
A lonely struggle
The story details her abandonment by her mother at an orphanage at the tender age of five.
It includes a period when the young Sharyn Killens is incarcerated in the Institution for Girls at Hay.
By the age of 24 Sharyn had become an exotic dancer in Kings Cross but soon left her troubled past behind her and embarked on a search for her father.
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The inmates have asked for the now-closed Parramatta Institution to become a historic building. At Hay, which is now a museum, in 2007 a group of inmates put up a memorial that says: “Let no child walk this path again.”
Counsel for the State of NSW, Jacqueline Gleeson SC, said the accounts of the girls would be treated with dignity and respect.
Community Services minister Prue Goward is among those in the packed public gallery.
Ms Goward left the commission at morning break visibly upset after hearing the harrowing testimony of the first witness, Fay Hillary.
“I can’t speak,” Ms Goward said outside the commission.
Most of the girls sent to Parramatta Girls School were sent there by courts who ruled they were in “moral danger” or neglected. Many were victims of rape or other sexual abuse - but the offenders were never even charged, the commission was told.
In Parramatta Girls School, Robin Kitson said she had all her teeth removed at the age of 16 or 17 “because they said I was a bad girl.”
Ms Kitson, 66, was sent there for six to 9 months where she was inmate number 181, and had to wear the secondhand bras and knickers which had been worn by the previous inmate number 181.
In an emotional testimony, she said that eventually she reported to a welfare officer that she had been raped at the institution.
“Before she left the home, she reported it to the governor,” Ms Kitson 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 commission is expected to sit in Sydney until the end of this week hearing this inquiry.