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Transcript of Glenda’s video:

Good morning, my name is Glenda. Welcome to ”Call Me by My Name,” the story that’s been forty-seven years in the making. My reason for the title will become clearer to you as we move along.

I am neither an academic nor a scholar, therefore, the information I will share with you throughout the next few minutes will be coming from my heart, not my head.

I believe it is not possible to create change unless we are all well informed of why it needs to happen. It is also difficult to break down barriers or remove stigmas if the reasons for doing so are not clear. I realize this may not be an easy task but as my listeners, for today you’ll have the opportunity to do just that.

My story begins in Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.

Born in the Summer of 1955, I was the second of my parents’ three children. Shortly after my birth, I was separated from my mother as she had tuberculosis.

After much deliberation between doctors and nurses, my maternal grandparents took me into their home. Sadly, I would not be returned to live with my mother until I was six months old.

I was to learn very early in my childhood that my mother didn’t feel the same closeness towards me as she did for my siblings. This I believe, was to become the catalyst for my misbehaviors during my teenage years.

Throughout my childhood, I was treated differently to my brother and sister and this made me feel unwanted, alone, and alienated.

My home life was chaotic and my family unit…dysfunctional. There was very little support during the ’60s and ’70s for families and there was also very little in the way of effective mental health services which would have benefited my family immensely.

By the age of fourteen, I had begun to run away from home. Each time I ran away I was returned. But I could not stay. I felt anxious, restless, and confused.

My welfare officer decided it was time for me to be placed in state care. I would spend two weeks on remand in Minda Remand Centre.

Under the child welfare model of the ’60s and ’70s children were subjected to severe sanctions for non-criminal behaviors. After a couple of weeks on remand, I was scheduled to face the Children’s Court. Charging children was common practice back then. No treatment was available and nor was there any understanding.

Imagine if you can… how it would feel to arrive at a Children’s Court not realizing that you are the one about to be charged.

I was charged with being uncontrollable, being exposed to moral danger, and having no visible means of support. Let me remind you, I was facing these charges alone in the Children’s Court.

Slide 2

Without much further ado I was committed to Sydney’s Parramatta Girls Training School. My first committal was for six months; the second was longer.

The only thing going with me on my journey was my paperwork. Included in this paperwork was my already well-established psychiatric record. I was in a daze… I did not know what was going to happen to me. I had heard stories about this institution, none of which were complimentary.

The “girl” of dull normal intelligence as I was referred to in my ward file would soon be known as Number 4. In time, I would be promoted to Number 100.

Slide 3

As I took in my environment, I realized that this place was far more like a prison than a children’s training school.

I was taken through the front office and placed in a holding cell. I felt alone and afraid but there was nothing I could do. Eventually, I was taken to the shower block where straight away I noticed there were no doors on the showers. I was told to take off my clothes and was searched for contraband… then I was told to shower. Following my shower, I was inspected again. This was to happen every day after showers until I was released.

Slide 4

Next, I was taken to retrieve my clothes, everything was labelled with the number 4. My underwear, my dress, even my socks were numbered. My final stop…the dormitory! There were bars on the windows…no pretty curtains of course.

I would fold my clothes at the end of my bed every night with the numbers facing upwards, if I failed to do this, I would lose marks and heaven forbid if I lost too many marks…..I would be punished.

Slide 5

I would scrub clean and be a good girl. I would follow all rules, attend all musters and march to and from the dining room. I would speak only when I was spoken to.

The isolation cell, the dungeon, and the loft above the laundry were all awaiting me but I was unaware.

I think it may be worth mentioning here that as a child the natural human process of interaction was foreign to me. I hadn’t been taught that people get back what they give out – you smile, I smile back; I say angry things and you say angry things. I have now learnt that people spend most of their time reacting, but my interpretation of this process was somewhat distorted. No one in my world interacted in that way. They simply gave orders without smiling and I learnt to obey and do the same.

Slide 6

I can still recall my first interaction with the Acting Superintendent; he decided to let me know who was in charge by dragging me up the covered way by the hair and throwing me across the holding room floor. It was these forms of ill-treatment I’m sure that led to me self-harming on more than one occasion.

Ironically, the institution’s answer to curing my self-harming problem was to place me in the isolation cell. I recall walking behind the officer and being led to a cold dark cell. Imagine my surprise when I was given a steel bucket and informed that this would be my toilet for the next forty-eight hours. There was something resembling a mattress on the floor and an old grey blanket. I felt afraid and numb not knowing who might come into the cell while I was sleeping.

Slide 7

In time, the laundry became my place of work. I used the large industrial press; it was my job to make sure everything was pressed and folded to perfection.

Above the laundry was an old loft …this area was used for punishment reasons. These reasons could be as minor as tucking your socks under your shoes.

The routine of punishment was as follows: We would rise at 5 am before anyone else had risen. Scrub on the old rafters of the loft removing the pigeon mess…might I add the only light was that which shone through the cracks in the wooden walls. Then as night fell…down to the muster ground we’d trot, buckets in hand to continue scrubbing until it was time to shower and go to bed, as we were not to have any contact with the other residents.

Needless to say, if you are in need of any assistance in the kitchen or with scrubbing floors, I’m sorry I won’t be available as I have really had my fill…. If, however there is some sort of entertainment, be it dancing, singing or just a fun get-together be sure to let me know. I’ll be there with bells on.

At the age of eighteen, I was released from the institution and was returned home but was desperate to get out. Feeling restless and always unsure I travelled throughout Australia.

Being deprived of an education meant my scope of employment was very limited. I could not hold down a job for very long as I became restless and bored. I did however manage to find employment in such areas as retail, in laundries, factories, grape picking.

I’ve been a housemaid, a cleaner, sewn bra straps. I even worked at the local sausage factory twisting sausages for a while. That was a job to die for. You name it, I’ve done it.

Slide 8

I’d now like to take you to my turning point! It’s the year of the millennium…..A great time for change. On the 2nd January 2000, I left country Victoria with some friends and travelled here to South Australia. I lived in Port Noarlunga for a while then moved to Seaford where I have spent the last twenty years.

Determined to have some type of tertiary education I enrolled at Noarlunga TAFE. After completing a Certificate IV in Women’s Education, I then studied three years of a Bachelor of Justice and Society at Flinders University. For the last six years, I have volunteered at the local school breakfast club and church café which I find very rewarding.

It has been said that having a clear sense of what you believe in and what your guiding principles are gives you autonomy over your life. My guiding principle, or overall future goal, is to continue striving to be the best me I can possibly be. To move forward and use what I have learnt from my early childhood experiences in a way that promotes my own personal growth.

I realize I cannot stop the aging process which means I may in time be returned to state care. If I am, then it will be my last chance to be treated with the respect and dignity I now know I deserve and so I ask you… please…. call me by my name.