‘We were afraid to claim abuse’

Border Mail

By NIGEL MCNAY May 30, 2014

RHONDA was 10 when she was sent to St John’s Orphanage in Thurgoona back in the late 1960s.

By the time she left “in the very early 1970s” she had suffered abuse that haunts her to this day.

“Yes, I was sexually abused and physically abused while I was in institutionalised care, which was purely at St John’s,” she said.

Rhonda did not want to go into the detail, saving it for her confidential testimony to the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.

St John’s might have called itself an orphanage, but few of the 2000-plus girls who passed through its doors from 1882 to 1978 had actually lost both parents.

Instead, many came from broken homes where one parent, usually the father, had deserted the family or died, leaving their partner unable to cope.

Those who lived at the Sisters of Mercy orphanage have told of a hard life in primitive, harsh conditions, where tough discipline was often handed out — for misdemeanours as minor as talking while walking to church.

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