Parramatta Girls’ Home (Or: Eyes To The Floor)

[Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are respectfully advised that the following article contains images and names of people who may be deceased.]

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Image source: www.parragirls.org.au  

It looks like the Australia royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse is beginning to get the message on some things. This blog, and others, have called for enquiries into Girls’ Homes, as well as the five already announced into Boys’ Homes.

[Note: A person close to the author suffered in a Girls’ Home like these.]

Now, the commission has announced an enquiry into the Parramatta Girls’ Home, and its associated “annex”, The Hay Institution for Girls, both of which were operated by the New South Wales State government.

At the Hay Home, girls were required to bow their heads and look downwards at all times. Indeed, a play by Alana Valentine, based on the experiences of former inmates, is titled “Eyes to the Floor”.

The sensitivity of the commissioners will be tested at this hearing. Given that the protocol is that everyone must stand and bow their heads when the commissioners enter or leave the room, it would be an insult to make the Hay Home witnesses adhere to this protocol. It will be interesting to see if chief commissioner, Peter McClellan, relaxes this rule for the witnesses at the hearing.

There is another factor of which Mr. McClellan should take note. The Hay facility was entirely staffed by men, and rape was common. Telling the intimate details of their abuse to a man may not be a good thing for the women to endure. Would it not be better for Mr. McClellan to step aside and allow proceedings to be run by one of the two women commissioners? Have the women been asked if they are happy to be speaking to McClellan?

The obvious one of choice would be Commissioner Helen Milroy, who also has two other advantages than being a woman. About 10% of the girls were Indigenous – the Stolen Generation (see previous postings), as is Professor Milroy herself. Milroy is, further, a psychiatrist who has worked in the area of child mental health. Putting all of these factors together, it would be totally appropriate for the chief commissioner to stand aside, and hand over this hearing to Commissioner Milroy.

Another point is that Mr. McClellan, in his role as a NSW Appeal Court judge, is an employee of the NSW government, the very institution which ran these homes. Further, the present NSW government is of the same political party which ran those Homes at the time during which these events occurred. On the basis of not just justice being done but justice being seen to be done, would it not be appropriate for McClellan to excuse himself from these hearings and allow another commissioner to run the proceedings? Would this be no different from a Catholic Church official chairing a hearing into a Catholic-run orphanage? This issue is especially pertinent as the women have not yet received compensation from the NSW state government.

While there are many other Girls’ Homes that need attention – The Salvation Army Fullarton Girls’ Home, the Queensland Government Wilston Girls’ Home, Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls’ Home and Nazareth House come to mind readily (see previous postings) – this is a welcome start by the commission. Credit where credit is due.

The Parramatta Girls’ Home is of great historical significance, the buildings going back to1841, when it was built by convicts. It was variously used as the first Catholic Orphanage in Australia and as a convict women’s prison. From 1887 to 1974, it housed “delinquent” girls that really meant those who had run away from abusive family situations, convicted of minor offences such as shop-lifting, were “guilty” of being neglected, or of mixed race.

The abuses were typical of what the nation has come to expect of these Children’s Homes. What set Parramatta apart, was the frequency of riots over these abuses. A particularly bad riot in 1961 caused the New South Wales government to re-open a derelict prison at Hay, 500 miles away in the outback for the ring-leaders and others who were not sufficiently cowed by the Parramatta regime. Prior to this, girls 15 years and older could be sent to Long Bay prison on the basis that they had infringed the rule, ‘Conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline’.

It is estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 girls passed through these institutions over a period of 120 years. Up to 200 girls were there at any given time.

The Parramatta and Hay institutions were the focus of several feminist campaigns, beginning in 1946 after the 1945 riot. After 1946, girls under the age of 12 were no longer sent to Parramatta. In the 1960s, they the target of a 10 year campaign lead by feminist activist Bessie Guthrie.

Campaigns by the newly formed Women’s Liberation movement called for reforms in the 1970s. In July 1973, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s TV program “This Day Tonight” put to air a program exposing the brutality of Parramatta and the Hay Girls Institutions. This was later followed by protests, by activist women, outside the Girls Home in December. In April 1974, the Child Welfare Minister announced the closure of Parramatta.

In 2003 the Parramatta Girls re-united for the first time since leaving the institution. They have their own web-site at www.parragirls.org.au. In 2007, a memorial plaque was opened at the Hay facility, which reads, “May no girl walk this path again.”

In 2009, (then) NSW Premier, Nathan Rees, apologized at a ceremony at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens, but refused to consider compensation. Rees and Community Services Minister Linda Burney unveiled a memorial as a lasting tribute to the children who suffered in care in NSW.

After wreaths were laid to remember those who had taken their own lives, fathers who did not see their children after returning from war, and indigenous families who lost their offspring and culture, many victims called on the government to examine compensation options.

Rees was interrupted by protester, Wendy Just, wearing a T-shirt with “retribution now” written on it. The issue is still not resolved to the satisfaction of the “Parra girls”. Perhaps, the royal commission will finally do this.

Several books and plays have been written on these Girls’ Homes (see references below). Alana Valentine wrote a play, “Parramatta Girls” and then another play titled “Eyes to the Floor”, based on the Hay Home.

Sharyn Killens’ book, “The Inconvenient Child”, was co-written with a friend, Lindsay Lewis, on her time at both Parramatta and Hay. (While at various times, 9-15% of inmates were indigenous girls removed from their families under the “Stolen Generation” program, sometimes they got it wrong.) As Ms. Killens noted, “Most of us weren’t bad kids by today’s standards. We just didn’t fit in for whatever reason. For me it was because I was born to a white mother with porcelain skin and had an Afro-American father.”

“14 Years of Hell: An Anthology of the Hay Girls Institution 1961-1974” was compiled by Bonney Djuric, who founded “Parra Girls”. She also wrote a book, “Abandon all Hope” on the Parramatta facility. Djuric’s memories of the time are shadowed by anger and humiliation: “It was always driven home to us that our ‘female-ness’ was the source of our rottenness.”

Another book by a former “Parra Girl”, Ivy Getchell, titled “The Pea Picker’s Daughter” was published by Zeus Publications in 2009.

Lynette Aitken, an academic and former “Parra Girl” presented a paper to the TASA conference in 2006. (see reference below).

The most interesting development, which it is hoped that the royal commission hearings will help be realized, is a campaign for the Homes to be recognized as an international “Site of Conscience.” Aitken said that: “The model is you take historic sites, sites where trauma and human suffering have occurred, and use these past struggles to address pressing human rights issues today.”

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience was formed 10 years ago. “They wanted to use the history of their sites to help people learn from what happened there so they can shape what is happening in the world now,” the coalition’s director, Elizabeth Silkes, said from its headquarters in New York.

There are 17 accredited Sites of Conscience, including Terezin Memorial in the Czech Republic and Martin Luther King Jnr National Historic Site in the US. Ms Silkes said the coalition supported Parragirls’ bid to promote the Parramatta site’s history. Such a move has also been supported by Professor Kerry Carrington and Dr. Margaret Pereira of the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences at the University of New England.

They note that: “Parramatta Girls Home can be compared with the Magdalene Laundries at the Good Shepherd Convent in Ireland where many hundreds of young women were abused and forced to perform hard labour.”

The “read more here” and “see more here” sections below give more information of an historical nature. While it is normally the policy of this site not to give many details of abuses, for sensitivity reasons, in this case it has been made clear that the “Parra girls” want these details to come to public attention.

Consequently, readers are advised that the following accounts will be very distressing, and some may wish to stop reading the posting at this point.

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Accounts have been given by the Parra girls and the Hay girls of deprivation, of harsh discipline, of life behind walls, of keeping their eyes down, of beatings. They were subjected to a militaristic regime of state-sanctioned harsh discipline at Parramatta. It was a prison where young girls were stripped of their dignity and liberties and punished frequently with physical force and threatened with imprisonment in the even worse Hay Girls’ Institution.

Here are some of their stories:

According to Deborah Challinor (http://deborahchallinor.blogspot.com.au), “On arrival all girls were stripped and searched, and for a time intimately examined to assess whether they were sexually active – regardless of why they’d been admitted. How incredibly offensive, and irrelevant. They were issued with a number, a coverall as a uniform, and underpants but no bra – convict slops, basically.”

“There were no lockers for personal belongings, no locks on showers or toilets and, judging by photos, a continuation of the earlier orphanage’s barracks-style accommodation. Musters and body searches occurred daily, mail was censored, schooling absolutely minimal. Sexual, physical and psychological abuse were commonplace. Punishments were grueling, and anti-psychotic and sedative medications used to restrain some girls.”

In 1970, 15-year-old Bonney Djuric spent eight months locked inside the Parramatta Girls Home. Her ‘crime’? Poverty. She says that: “There were no doors on toilets and showers, so there was no privacy. If you were in a dormitory you didn’t have a cabinet next to your bed for your things; you had no personal things at all. You weren’t allowed to speak freely. You had no choice; everything was directed by those in charge. Anything about being an individual was completely obliterated in the institution.”

“Hay was intended to break a girl’s spirit and for most it did – leaving many with severe post traumatic stress disorder and other physical and mental health problems,” she has said.

In her submission to the 2004 Senate Enquiry into Children’s Homes (see previous postings), Maree Giles said she was “sentenced” to Parramatta as a runaway. “From that moment on, my life, my personality, my relationship with my mother, my self-esteem, my confidence, were destroyed. The shock of being sentenced like a common criminal ripped apart the very core of my being to shreds.”

“The physical and emotional impact of that moment is one I will never forget. I was in a state of shock and frightened beyond description. I wet myself and could not stop shaking and crying. I came from a middle-class background, I had at one point attended a private boarding school, St Catherine’s Girls’ School in Waverly, was well-educated, intelligent, decent, and not a ‘bad person’. I had always considered myself to be a Christian, and regularly attended church and Sunday school throughout my life.”

“I was subjected to a humiliating, distressing, and painful internal examination by a doctor, who used heavy stainless steel instruments. I had never been examined internally prior to this, and was absolutely destroyed. They tested me for venereal disease, which was a shattering experience, and pregnancy. Lucky for me I was not pregnant, because I now know that girls who were pregnant in institutions like Parramatta Girls’ Home, were coerced into relinquishing their baby for what was then a thriving adoption market.”

“When I had been examined by the doctor, I was then frog marched to the sewing room, where Matron proceeded to strip me further of my dignity and rights as a human being. She confiscated all my clothes, all my belongings, and then used a pair of large black shears to cut off my shoulder length hair. There was no care taken to style the hair, it was HACKED…. and gave me a short back and sides worthy of a male soldier.”

“I was issued with regulation clothing, a number (43), horrible long dresses made of rough material, clumpy shoes and disgusting bloomers and singlets. I was not given a bra. From that day on, when I had my period I had to ask for a pad every time I went to the toilet.  I was then taken to the shower block, situated down a set of steps in a dungeon-like room, with rows of shower cubicles. None of these had doors or screens or curtains.”

“I was then told to undress and stand under the shower. I was given a bar of soap to wash my hair and body, in full view of the other girls, and the staff. I was given about 30 seconds to wash myself. One of the staff members belted me with a length of hose across the thigh, for saying I hadn’t rinsed the soap from my hair properly, when told to get out from under the shower.”

“We were locked up at night in the dormitory, with no access to the toilets. We were not permitted to speak at any time, except allocated times during the day. We were not allowed to turn over in bed at night. If we were caught talking, we were punished severely. We had to conduct our chores in silence with our eyes down. If a girl was caught glancing at another girl, she was punished.”

“The toilets had no doors either, and I found this aspect of life at Parramatta most upsetting, particularly during menstruation. This might be difficult for men to comprehend, but a woman likes her privacy in the toilet, because she is built differently to a man. The food was absolutely revolting and we frequently found weevils.”

“An officer ordered me to scrub a large section of the brick wall surrounding the institution, as if to impress upon me the fact that I was a prisoner. I spent four hours scrubbing the wall, and when I had finished she told me to start it all over again. My arms ached, she made me reach as high as I could stretch, my back throbbed, my hands were raw, and I felt so small and worthless, tears poured down my cheeks all day.”

“One night, I was ordered from my bed, and made to scrub a small area of the Covered Way with a scrubbing brush. I was made to do this all night, in the same spot, looked over by an officer. I was terrified to complain or object, for fear of further punishment. By morning my knees were red raw and bleeding, as there was no cushion or cloth provided to protect my knees.  What did I do to deserve this punishment? I leaned my shoulder against the stone wall of the Chapel earlier that day, during a service, and an officer had noticed, and decided I was being disrespectful. I simply could not believe it.”

“Those in Dormitory Three, which was the dormitory for all the really ‘bad girls’, disappeared for weeks, sometimes months, at a time, and when they returned I was shocked to see they were bruised or covered in welts from being beaten. Others were sent to Hay for three or four months, and came back thin and pale, as though they’d been half-starved.”

“On another occasion, I was locked in one of the isolation cells for writing poetry….. The poetry was about life inside the institution, and how it made me feel. The officer who found it read it, and admitted it was an accurate description, then she tore it up in my face. When I was locked in the cell overnight, I was given a bucket and scrubbing brush, and made to scrub the walls and floors all night. When I stopped or slowed down, an officer standing outside turned off the lights. It was pitch black in that cell and I was terrified, so I started to scrub again, so she would turn on the light. There were rat droppings in the cell, and the mattress on the floor smelled of urine and vomit.”

“I always talk about Australia with pride, in spite of my experience, because I want people to know it is a beautiful country full of opportunity and friendly, open people, but there is a dark side to Australia, and there are many evil people living there.”

[Note: Maree Giles has written a book on Parramatta, in which she changes the name of the institution. It is available from the web-site of the publisher: www.virago.co.uk]

Sharyn Killens – At just sixteen, Sharyn Killens was sentenced to Parramatta Girls Home. She had committed NO crime. She was a runaway. She describes it as: “a cruel and sadistic place. They’ve still got the bars on the windows. I do remember a very cold winter’s night where it was pouring rain and all the officers were standing around in their long raincoats and their hats and their umbrellas drinking hot mugs of tea – and there’s a playground full of little girls scrubbing the concrete with a bucket of water and a toothbrush all night.”

“We’d go into what they called isolation cells and we’d sit in a cell for however long. It could be days, and our meals would be bread and water, and sometimes bread and milk. I was taken to Hay in the middle of the night on the train, drugged, delivered by an escort with handcuffs and gun. I will never get past Hay, not ever. I thought I was actually going to lose my mind in Hay.”

“I was taught to march just like a German soldier – knees up, arms swinging high. That’s how I walked. I stood six feet away from the next girl. I was not allowed to talk except for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon.”

“We did dreadful work: laying concrete pathways, we’d lay them, we’d set them – great pride in our work. And then a few days later we’d smash up those with a pick and start relaying them all over again. Every afternoon at four o’clock all of us girls, 6 to 10, 16-year-old girls, had to show our underpants to male and female officers every day of the week, every day of the month.”

[It should be noted that Hay is in the Australian outback, over 500 miles from Sydney, where the average summer temperature is over 40 degrees Celsius (105 Fahrenheit). Girls worked in the sun all day, with hard labour, and no hats. See photo below.]

Charmaine McMahon says it was: “Horrifying, terrible. It was a nightmare The people that ran the place were very cruel, mentally and physically, and nobody should have to put up with that, and I was only 15, so I was only — I was a young, innocent girl, mixed up, but not through my fault There were men running the place.”

There was: “No privacy. No doors on the toilets. When we had to go and the officer was there, we had to ask for the toilet paper, because she gave us the toilet paper — two sheets. Showering — no doors on the showers. We had to show our bodies before we went to the shower. Very humiliating. No dignity whatsoever.”

“Many times I was smacked across the face, pushed for giving dirty looks, which I did quite a lot. That was my way of rebelling, I guess. I was locked in what I call the dungeon, but I think it’s called the holding room — it was called the holding room, which stunk. I remember the smell. And we’d have to — if you wanted to go to the toilet, which I did, you’d have to do it in there, and I remember being in there for quite some time, and I was in there quite a lot.”

“I became friendly with a girl. Her name was Shirley Smith. And I’ve been trying to contact her through the daily paper for quite some months now and haven’t had any success. She was a soul mate. I didn’t sort of make — like, I was friends with everybody. I didn’t have a problem with the girls there, but she was the one that — yes, she was my soul mate. She helped me get through it.”

Marjorie Woodrow said that: “My nose was broken. They took me into the jail with a bleeding nose and I stayed there all night with it bleeding. No-one came to see if I was alright. I nearly bled to death.”

“No one who came in there went out unmolested,” she says.

Jane Francica said that: “I just had such anxiety, and, you know, it all came back to me It was just a frightening experience and I think I just might have just kept it in, you know, after all these years, but when I saw it … I remember one of the men just called me up to his office one day for something that I hadn’t done, and next minute he just punched me and nearly broke my tooth, and then they put me in — it was a room, it was called isolation, and they just gave me bread and water and they just threw a mattress in the middle in the night.”

She ran into the man who hit her in Parramatta, some years back.

“Yeah, I was shopping and I recognized him and I just said to him, ‘Do you remember me?’, and he just looked at me and he went as white as a sheet. I just felt like screaming at him, telling him how cruel and it didn’t give me a chance to explain or — because it’s affected me now, as I’ve got older, to express myself, you know. I think I’ve kept it inside me for so long, it’s sort of I feel good now because I can sort of get it out of my chest and I hope it helps a lot of the women out there.”

Marlene Riley, a State Ward, ran away from State children’s Homes on numerous occasions and was sent to Parramatta as punishment. There, the rebellious 14-year-old became one of the youngest ringleaders involved in the 1961 riots. Marlene climbed onto the roof with another girl (see photo below) and refused to come down after witnessing the superintendent viciously attack a pregnant girl.

Although the cause of the riot was buried in a bureaucratic whitewash Marlene still vividly remembers the reason: “The riot resulted from Superintendent Johnson making Barbara Price pregnant and trying to induce a miscarriage by bashing and kicking the girl in the stomach.”

Marlene’s clear and incisive analysis of the riot was an embarrassment to the NSW Child Welfare Department which simply adopted an expedient and cost-effective containment for those children involved in the rebellion, who were said to be difficult and uncooperative.

The concept of a mini Alcatraz for girls, based on the US experiment where a strict regime of isolation and institutionalized violence in a secluded maximum-security environment had been employed to punish, was considered the most appropriate model. The Institution for Girls at Hay was set up in the century-old Hay Jail and opened in July 1961. The purpose of the converted jail in the remote town of Hay was a well-kept secret.

Following the riots NSW, child welfare authorities were determined to suppress Marlene’s rebellious nature and deter others from following her lead. She became one of the first teenagers to be incarcerated inside the new Institution for Girls at Hay.

14-year-old Marlene was forcibly drugged with mind numbing Largactil (chemical name: Chlorpromazine – used to subdue schizophrenics at the time), commonly referred to as a “chemical straightjacket”, handcuffed and spirited away in the dead of night to the converted jail in the remote town of Hay.

“When they walked into the cell that night, it was out of the ordinary, so I knew something was up. They just said to me, ‘Marlene, we want you to take this medication. I said, ‘No.’ And I knew it was a psych drug and I wouldn’t take it, so they said, ‘we’re gonna have to – if you won’t take it willingly, we’re going to have to do it by force.’…” she reports.

Marlene remembers one particular night a sadistic senior officer tried to sexually assault her in the cell: “He opened up my cell door. Of course, you jump to attention straightaway, eyes down to the floor, facing the door, and he started talking to me. Hello, Marlene. I’m here to see you. You lay down on that mattress and get your pants off.”

“I looked up at him and looked him in the eye and said ‘No’ and he said; ‘You will. I’ve had all the other girls here and I’m going to have my way with you too.’ I screamed out; ‘He’s trying to rape me!’ and the other girls started screaming too. It was the longest 5 or 10 minutes in my life.”

Four weeks after the attempted rape, the girls were interviewed by Edward Moylen from the NSW Child Welfare Department in Sydney. Marlene Riley was accused of making the whole thing up but in the following days she recalls the officer involved left the institution and never came back.

Marlene was transferred from Hay back to Parramatta in June 1962 and an assessment for her release was considered: “She is by nature a rebellious girl and has found it difficult to maintain acceptable response. However she has tried hard and can be said to have satisfied minimum requirements. She has now been detained for almost twelve months on this committal and the superintendent considers she could be given further trial in the community. Her discharge has been recommended.” (Letter from Director to Under Secretary 27/8/1962).

Ministerial approval was given for Marlene’s discharge and she was released on September 5, 1962.

[The above is based on a report by Dr Robert N Moles].

Judy Divargue, who had returned from Denmark after 43 years to attend the 2007 reunion, said nobody there believed her stories about life in institutions until they began to filter through via news reports on the internet.

“It was like a concentration camp here and [at the home] in Hay,” she said. “I ended up here because I was scared of my father and I ran away from home when he beat me. Now people are realizing.”

Julie Todd and Norma Organ suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of authorities at Parramatta Girl’s Home in the early 1970s.

“I feel that the government treated us so cruelly,” Norma Organ says. “You either got flogged, abused or you were underprivileged. But for them to say sorry, it’s a big thing, because so many Parramatta girls and Hay girls died.”

Julie Todd, who was deemed “uncontrollable”, said she had been banned from seeing her parents. “I was bashed up and put down into a dungeon. Girls would come in pregnant and their babies were stolen. You couldn’t put a (compensation) price on it”. She said several of her friends were sexually abused by officers at Parramatta.

One of the most harrowing accounts is given by Wilma Robb, “One day in Hay”, in her unpublished memoirs. The material is copyright, and it has not been possible to contact Ms. Robb for permission to reprint it here. However, it can be viewed at http://www.forgottenaustralians.com/haygirls/hay.html.

There are two other accounts where the women do not wish to be identified.

The first reads: “I ran away from a violent home life, got sent to Parramatta Girls institution and stood up against the rapes, floggings and psychological abuse, I and others were receiving by our so called ‘carers’, committed for being Exposed to Moral Danger and Uncontrollable. That’s why I was sent to Hay. To take the heat off the Welfare to put it to us girls as the most incorrigible girls in the state.”

The second reads: “I was an inmate of Hay girls home 40 years ago and i still have nightmares about that hell hole. Scrubbing the mortar off bricks with my bare hands until they bled and nothing done to help me. Digging veggie gardens in 40 plus heat and not allowed to take a break. An exercise regime that would have floored Rocky. My crime was tattooing my self at Parramatta GTS. Big deal!”

“I never harmed other people or was a criminal, I just ran away from an abusive adopted father. How can staying 6′ away from everyone, eyes always to the ground, locked in a cell 14 hours a day or isolated with only bread and milk, make any child into a worthwhile adult. I have been fortunate that I have never been in trouble as an adult but that has not been because of any lessons I learnt as a juvenile, more a matter of luck. Most of my friends from back then are dead now, quite a few from suicide.”

Christina Green can’t really remember the trips she took from Sydney to the western Riverina town of Hay almost four decades ago. Her first, at the age of 15, was with an escort from Parramatta Girls Home. It was by train and at night. She suspects she was drugged at the time.

“I was really dopey on the train. I’d sleep most of the way. All I remember is eating sandwiches. We’d go to Junee, change trains at Narrandera, get picked up by a male officer, and it was in a station wagon with a cage across the back, like you’d have for greyhounds.”

Alone and handcuffed in the back of the station wagon, the young Christina was bound for the first of three stints at Hay Institute for Girls in the pastoral town on the Murrumbidgee River. Made a ward of the state at the age of three, she had spent years in and out of institutions and in the care of foster families.

At night the girls, most of whom had never committed any crime other than being neglected, had to lie in their cell beds on their right side so their faces could be seen through a peephole in the bolted iron doors.

“The officers would come and check us all the time, and if we rolled over they’d rattle the doors, come and drag us out of bed. We’d have to strip the bed and remake it and stand there until they came back.”

She recalls the girls making concrete paths and being forced to break them up and remake them “just for something to do” or painting and repainting walls. “Most girls became depressed, suicidal and addicted to drugs and alcohol later in life. Our health is a legacy of our childhood.”

It was her passion to have the stories told and see the sufferings recognized ”to help people heal, reconnect and express their feelings in art.” She says that: “We were never allowed to look up,” she said. “It was always eyes down.”

Hay’s existence was what Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) TV journalist, Sharon O’Neill, has described as a “state secret”, known to very few until 2004, when former inmate Christina Green returned to the site in the company of the ABC.

When she steps through the door of the former Hay Home now, Christina Green finds herself looking up. She’s making up for all the times she never could. Let’s hope Mr. McClellan does not make her look down again when the commissioners enter the hearing room, and tell her story to a man (assuming she is permitted to give her evidence to the commission.)

[Postscript: Several women’s organizations are expected to support the author’s call to have Commissioner Helen Milroy chair the hearings into the Parramatta and Hay Girls’ Homes, and dispense with the “heads down” protocol.]

Read more here:

See more here:

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Image: Rooftop riot 1961

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Image: Playwright Alana Valentine

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Image: Bonnie Djuric next to a painting by a former inmate at the old Home

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Image: The Hay Home memorial plaque: “Let no child walk this path again.”

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Image: Former Senator, and now Royal Commissioner, Andrew Murray at the Hay plaque ceremony

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Image: Girls about to enter their cells (Source: ABC)

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Image: Local newspaper report on the Hay Home

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Image: Girls working at Hay (in 40 degree-plus-Celsius heat)

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Image: Dormitory at Parramatta

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Image: Shower cubicles

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Image: Sharyn Killen’s story

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Image: Bonney Djuric, photo by Catherine McEhlone

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Image: Bonney’s book

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Image: Ivy Getchell’s book (Source: Zeus Publications)

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Image: Alana Valentine’s play

TOMORROW: The author’s rebuttal to Mr. McClellan’s reasons for non-permission to appear at the Salvation Army Boys’ Homes hearings

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

 

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14 Responses to Parramatta Girls’ Home (Or: Eyes To The Floor)

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  2. Sandra Richardson I was one of the Parramatta girls in 1960 and yes it was not a very nice place to be, i have shut it out for years but its still with me, there was Mr Mayhew, Mr Gilford, Mr Polly, the laundry lady was Mrs pound, Mrs Connor, Mrs Willis,the Matron was not Australian she lived in the blue mountians, all i done was run away from home, and Judge Mcreedy sent me their, i was devastated and in shock, as i come from middle class family in country town, I maintain that it change my life forever, and to the day i die i will never forget being ill treated threaten beaten until i wet myself and frighten. i maintian the Government should take some responablilly and also all the girls that went through that should be compensated, not that we can never forget what happen in that place,jail would have been better.Regards to all Parramatta Girls.

    • Pat says:

      I was there in 1969 and I remember those people. I was supposedly uncontrollable according to my parents and the welfare (as they were known back then) sent me there. I too have blocked a lot of it out but do remember some things. I worked in the sewing room because I was pregnant. I came home in late 1969 and a few years later moved interstate to live. A few years later I ran into a girl that was there at the same time, and 45 years later we are still friends.

  3. Julie Todd says:

    HI Jennifer your name seems familiar to me my name is Julie Todd and I was in there at the time you can email me if you like julietoddy@msn.com .

  4. Pingback: Parramatta and Hay Hearings (Or: Hold Your Head High) | lewisblayse.net

  5. June Pieschel says:

    Could you please help me to gain information on The School of Industry Shaw Street Petersham
    My beautiful mother is 100 years old on August 27th this year was placed in this School when she was 3.5 years old. I have searched many avenues to find records of 1917 to 1928 period and no one can help to find who placed her in this home and how this home was run.
    I believe my mother has a very painful past and has suffered within this school as she cannot remember anything, I think she has blanked it all out?
    I know this is a very long time ago but we have just had her ancestry family tree done and my mum has lived with me all my life and I will never put her in Aged Home care I am 68 years old and
    I would be so grateful if you could help in some way to find records of this school.
    My Mum’s name is Kathleen Emily Rita Wilson and her sister 6 years old Daphne Thelma Wilson was also placed in the home.
    Please contact me on 0427110013 June

  6. lewisblayse says:

    Dear Jennifer,
    I am so very sorry to hear of your experiences. It sounds like a horrendous place. You probably already know that the Royal Commission will be looking into this place in its ‘Case Study 7’. I hope you’ll make a contribution by telling your story if this is something you feel you can do. You can read about ‘Case Study 7’ here: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/public-hearings/case-study-7february-2014/
    I’m not sure if they will be able to help, but you might like to approach the organisation CLAN (http://www.clan.org.au/) to see if they may be able to help you connect with anyone who may have been in when you were there.
    Take a look through the links on this post as well. There may be something in them that might help point you towards people / organisations that may also be able to help you.
    All the best.
    Kind regards,
    Aletha

    • No I just found out this year living in Melbourne not herd much over time time but as I’m finding out more the more I’m rembering not good either just need to find someone to help me as I’m still so screwed up today trying to find my way still in 58 yrs old still cannot not sure have left message for not much reply thank you anyway

  7. I was in parramatta for 3yrs and done time in hay I has ruined mylife I still suffer today my name is Jennifer ahrens does anyone rember me at all I feel as if it’s a nightmare that never goes away I got out in 1973

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