Why did this woman suffer so as a little girl? Because her father was a self-centered jerk who abandoned his family. Her mother was penalized for not being able to provide for 9 children on her own with no financial assistance. No indication here that the mother was abusive or intentionally neglectful in any way. Just poor. Didn't matter, as the state took the children away, and proceeded to inflict upon them a horrible, dehumanized existence.
This is why we need to provide adequate support for poor but basically loving families. The alternative--taking the children away--is often MUCH worse.
Australia's neglected children
By CAROL NADER - The Age
Even now, Hazel Conolly can't sleep in the dark. Each night, she carries two lamps into her bedroom and falls asleep while they light up the room. She can't bear the darkness - it reminds her of another time.
She is 78 years old now, but every memory remains clear. She speaks, the words flowing without any prompting, desperate to tell her story.
''We were neglected children, and that's why we became wards of the state,'' she says.
Her father regularly walked out on the family and came back and walked out again. Her mother struggled to take care of nine children - four boys and five girls - by herself. There wasn't enough food, clothes, or blankets. So welfare took the children away.
Ms Conolly and some of her siblings ended up in Melbourne's Royal Park institution, separated by their age group and a fence. ''I was on one side of the fence, and they were on the other. And each day the nurse would come and drag me away from them,'' she says. ''I couldn't understand why I wasn't allowed with them.''
She was beaten, emotionally abused, humiliated. They told her she was naughty, that she was smelly, that she couldn't talk to the other girls.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has today apologised to about 500,000 people who, like Ms Conolly, suffered trauma and abuse in institutions mainly between the 1930s and the 1960s.
The Federal Government paid for 200 of them to make the journey from all around Australia to Canberra for the apology that they have long waited for. She is among them.
In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is planning to apologise for his nation's role in sending thousands of its children to former colonies in the 20th Century.
Ms Conolly is a member of the Care Leavers Of Australia Network, which for years has been campaigning for an apology. She hopes it will help her to heal, to get over the shame and the humiliation. She is just relieved that, finally, it is out in the open. She wants everyone to know how the children of her generation were scarred by their time in institutions.
She wants everyone to know what they did. ''They cut our hair off, all our lovely curls ... and long hair was gone, cut up to our ears,'' she says.
Every child was given a number - hers was 56. It was on her locker and all her clothes. She became the number. She remembers the humiliation of wetting her bed every night. She had no choice - the toilets were locked.
''Every morning, when they looked at your bed and you had wet your bed, you had to go to the nurses' bay and it would be palms up or palms down, both hands, and you were hit with a ruler or a strap,'' she says.
''I had a terrible life. They told me I was smelly and naughty, they'd make me sit in the corner away from the other girls. Very lonely I was.''
And then there was the complete darkness, no hint of light at all, as she lay in her bed every night. ''We'd cry and cry for our mother,'' she says. ''There were no kisses or cuddles. They were just so cruel.''
Ms Conolly's brother, Jimmy Lapworth, 81, will also travel from Queensland to Canberra for the apology. The two have not seen each other in a year and it will be very special for them to share the day together.
''We were only little children and our life was broken because all our sisters were taken away from us, and we were taken away from our mother,'' he says. ''They should pay compensation because of all those years we lost.''