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Aboriginal Australian activist, Christina Riley (1955-2015), was in institutions and foster care as a child. Christina was born in a small country town near Tamworth, NSW. She was separated from her parents and three siblings and made a ward of the state at the age of three.

Christina experienced that separation, including from place, as traumatic. She was first placed in a children’s home which she experienced as large, silent, and overwhelming, particularly compared to the freedom of the bush.

Christina was in multiple institutions and in foster care. She was thirteen when confronted with a crisis about who she was.

At roll call, an officer presented my first name, then surname, then two other surnames from my past foster parents, and ending with ‘whichever one you are’. Well that moment was a very embarrassing and dramatic ten minutes of my life. I answered protesting she could use any name she bloody well liked, and walked off leaving everyone at assembly bewildered (Knight).

At the age of fifteen, Christina was incarcerated at the infamous Parramatta Girls Home.

In 2006, Christina was a co-founder, with Bonney Djuric, of Parragirls – a support group for former inmates of Parramatta Girls Home. Both women were held at Parramatta Girls home during the 1970s, and both had struggled as adults to understand what had happened. They started Parragirls as a support group for other women also struggling.

When Christina began writing her story, the writing became an important way for Christina to understand the emotional impact of the abuse she experienced in ‘care’, although the doing of it was challenging and took many years.

During the night I had a vision that I would start writing my story and that one day it would be a book, come morning I started to write. I didn’t know where to start, I felt I needed to name my story like a book that I had envision[ed]…I started writing with pen and paper, as we didn’t have a computer back then, and I don’t mind saying there was a lot of wasted paper. I’d start, then stop. I’d cry my eyes out then pull myself together. It was so sad, so lonely and so painful. I would only do 5-6 pages a day, because it was so challenging and exhausting to the point of nearly choking on my tears (The Life of Riley).

Christina Riley published The Life of Riley in 2014. She also has a poem in the book Recipes for Survival.


“Christina Green Life of Riley interview.” Vemo, posted by PFFP Memory Group, 2016.

Knight, Katherine. “Christina’s legacy reveals the ignorance of Alan Jones’ claim.” Western Sydney Frontier, 18 February 2016. 

“Parramatta Girls Training School (1946 – 1974).” Find & Connect, 2021.

The Life of Riley website. 

Image from here