Bringing them Home - Carol story

Carol

Carol's grandmother was removed to Beagle Bay at the age of 10. She and her husband had 10 children. When her husband was transferred to the Derby leprosarium, all ten children were placed in the Beagle Bay dormitories. Carol's mother was 8 years old when she was removed. Carol was born in Broome in the mid-1950s. When she was three, her mother died leaving four children. Although her grandmother was still alive, Carol and her siblings were removed to the Beagle Bay dormitories. Carol spent the next 14 years there.

Five generations of my family have been affected by removal of children. Four generations of my family have been removed from their mothers and institutionalised. Three generations of my family have been put into Beagle Bay Mission dormitories. Four generations of my family went without parently love, without mother or father. I myself found it very hard to show any love to my children because I wasn't given that, so was my mother and grandmother.

When I think back on my childhood days - sad, lonely and unloved childhood days - we should have been treated better than we were by the Church. We were mistreated badly. I was abused by the missionaries from all angles - sexual, physical and mental. I am a strong person in myself. I had to be strong, I had no-one to turn to, no-one to guide me through life.

6.30am every morning, straight from bed, we had to kneel and say our morning prayers. 7am we had to go to church for mass. If we didn't we would be punished, like going without a piece of bread for breakfast or get the strap or whipped on our palms. 7.30am we had to thank God before and after our breakfast. 8.30am before and after class we said our prayers. 10am we had to say another prayer before we had our cups of milk and morning tea break. 11am we had catechism taught to us which was part of praying and learning the history of our church. 12pm again we said our prayers before and after our lunch. 1pm we said another prayer before and after class. 5pm we prayed again before and after our supper. 6pm most times we had to go to church for Benediction or rosary. 7pm we would kneel and say the last prayer of the day, which was our night prayers.

We were locked up every night. Also during the day on weekends and public holidays. That was only when we didn't go out on picnics.

7am breakfast - very light which was only sago with milk or most times porridge. 10am morning tea time: one cup of Carnation milk. 12am lunch, very light sometimes one piece of bread covered with lard along with a small piece of boiled meat. We loved it all the same.

5pm supper, very light which was 'bubble-bubbles' which was only flour, sugar and water, and if we were lucky we would have a piece of fruit.

We had nothing else to eat, only if we stole vegetables from the garden. We had two big vegetable gardens. Every vegetable was grown there yet we were never given any. We never had vegetables. Things that we never saw on our meal table yet were sold elsewhere from Beagle Bay Mission. When it was my turn to work in the convent kitchen I saw that all the vegetables that our people grew were on their meal tables.

Everyone would think we were doing the laundries for a big hospital, how many times and how we washed the missionaries' laundry. Every Sunday evening we had to soak the missionaries' laundry. Every Monday morning we washed clothes by hands or scrubbing board. We then had to rinse and put it into the big boilers. Then rinsed, then starched, then rinsed, then squeezed and hung out to dry. We had to iron all the clothes, plus mending and darning.

We made our own clothes for the girls and the boys that were in the dormitory. We never was given footwear, only when and if we were making our first communion, confirmation or crowning of Our Lady. It felt real good to wear shoes and nice dresses for only an hour or so.

We were treated like animals when it came to lollies. We had to dive in the dirt when lollies were thrown to us. The lollies went straight into our mouths from the dirt. We had to, if it was birthday or feast day of the missionaries, wish them a happy day, take our lollies and run, knowing what could happen. We had to sometimes kiss the missionaries on the lips, or touch their penises. I remember clearly on one occasion, I was told to put my hands down his pants to get my lolly.

The nuns taught us that our private parts were forbidden to touch. If we were caught washing our private parts, we would get into trouble from the nuns. I grew up knowing that our private parts were evil, yet missionaries could touch us when they felt like it. That is why when I grew up that I automatically thought when a man wanted sex that I had to give it to him, because that's what, y'know. Sometimes I had sex not for pleasure, but just to please the man.

Even at the dormitory, when we used to complain to the nuns about what the brothers and the priests had done to us, we were told to shut our mouths. That's why they used to always tell me I'm a troublemaker. Those same priests, they're still alive, they're still working down south. Even the nuns are still here in Broome; there's a couple of them still there.

It never happened to me, but I remember the priest ... used to just walk into the dormitory and pick any girl out of the crowd, 'You, come with me', and take them. And I noticed, when those girls used to come back they were very upset. I can't say what really happened there, but 'til this very day, those people don't go to church.

The thing that hurt me the most while growing up is that we were pulled away from our sisters and brothers. My sister's a year younger than I, yet I could not hold her, cry with her, play with her, sleep with her, comfort her when someone hit her, and eat with her. We weren't allowed to be close to our sisters or brothers. The missionaries pulled and kept us apart. I was taken out of school when I was only 15 years of age by the nuns and placed with the working girls. I had no further education. To leave the mission I had to have two people to sort of say they'd look after me. [Carol lived with an aunt and worked as a domestic for a family in Broome.] I remember being reminded many times about being sent back to Beagle Bay if I did not do my work properly or not listening to the them. I did not want to go back there, so I had no choice but to listen. This is one of many times I felt trapped. I was treated like a slave, always being ordered to do this or do that, serving visitors and being polite to them.

[At 19, Carol gave birth to a son.] I had no-one to guide me through life, no-one to tell me how to be a good mother. A year later I fell pregnant with my second child. My son was only a year old and I kept being reminded by the Welfare and by my so-called family that they'd take my babies away from me. So instead of giving them the pleasure of taking my baby, I gave her up. I was still working for the M family and I was encouraged by a few people. My daughter was removed from my arms by policy of Welfare 5 days after she was born. I never saw my daughter for 20 years, until 2 years ago. He [Carol's employer] more or less encouraged me to put my baby up for adoption. Two months after that, he got me in bed. We had a relationship for so long - 4 or 5 years. And then I had a daughter to him. And this is what my trouble is now. I found my daughter, the one I gave up for adoption; but the last one, Tina, she's about 18 now, Mr M never gave me one cent for my daughter for the last 16 years. About a year ago he started helping me out, but then his wife found out, so now he won't help me. So my daughter now has to live in the same town as Mr M, knowing her father's in the same town, yet we could go without food. I reckon he should recognise her, stand up to his responsibilities.

[Carol has tried to document her stay at Beagle Bay but has been told there is no record she was ever there.] I haven't got anything to say I've been to Beagle Bay. It's only memories and people that I was there with. I don't exist in this world. I haven't got anything, nothing to say who I am.

Confidential evidence 504, Western Australia. Carol's story appears on page 402 of Bringing them home.

Last updated 2 December 2001.