The Forgotten Generation are the child victims of the aftermath of the Second World War. Some parents, like mine, had difficulty raising their children due to their own Post Traumatic Stress, Disorder (PTSD), which resulted in us being institutionalised. I always think it takes three generations to get through a world crisis like this. Both my parents were ex-service people. My mother was at RAN in the Second World War, and my father was a Kokoda Trail veteran, who obviously came back with PTSD which wasn’t treated or diagnosed. My father was an alcoholic and a wife-beater. When I was born, my mother had pneumonia on delivery and fractured ribs, and she was unable to care for me or my siblings. We were sent to the Dalmar Institution from 28th of January 1956 till 28th of January 1961. This was extremely traumatic for me and my three siblings. Three of us had been sexually abused at the home, but we didn’t speak to each other about the abuse, and we certainly didn’t speak to our mother, and we remained silent until recently. My brother now has difficulty looking at his grandson and granddaughter. It’s a fear that he has because they’re the same age that he was when he was being abused. When my other brother died alone, his body not found for two weeks, I thought this silence has got to stop and I must speak out.
Sleeping in the dorm was very unnerving, if you wet your bed, you got dragged out of the bed, you got placed under a cold shower. One of the sisters would drag me outside and sit me on a stone-cold tomb. It was cold, it was miserable and scary. There was this tram in the ground of the home. I never could work out how I managed to be alone in this tram. A man who had Navy tattoos on his forearm, would lock me in there and sexually abuse me. He did this on many occasions. Also, I remember being strapped down in what I thought was a dental chair, with a bloke with a white coat on, who used to force me to have oral sex. One day, I bit him and he was really pissed off, so he pushed out my front tooth so that there was a gap, and told me, “Now you won’t bite me anymore.” Another incident that was common was the fitting of shoes. I grew up praying that my feet would not grow, and this originated from Sister Kerr, and she would digitally penetrate me and told me that’s how you got fitted for shoes.
I’ve been married to a wonderful man for the last 44 years, who was not aware of any of the traumas that I experienced, until recently. After giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, he is acutely aware. He loves me with all his heart. He is a kind, gentle, loving father and partner. One of my greatest blessings was meeting my husband and marrying him.’
-MARGARET GRAHAM, ALICE SPRINGS NT, 2019
The freedom of Margaret’s hair in the images is in sharp contrast to her experience of being dragged by her hair by her abusers who also told her not to look at them. This has made her terrified of her hair being touched or looking at and recognising people’s faces. Margaret was told that there were no photographs of herself as a child on file, but she remembers being photographed for publicity images.