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Brisbane based writer, poet and advocate, Gloria Lovely, was in an orphanage and foster care as a child.

Gloria Lovely was born in Brisbane on 22 October 1941. Her mother lived in Spring Hill, an inner northern suburb in Brisbane. When Gloria was eighteen months old, her mother’s husband left and the woman was destitute.

He left without a biscuit in the house…

Because her mother could no longer care for Gloria, she placed the toddler in St Vincent’s Orphanage in nearby Nudgee.

Gloria was in the orphanage until she was about nine years old. Then she was put into foster care.

When she later reviewed her ward of the Queensland state records, Gloria found they were incorrect, stating she was eleven years old when she went into foster care, but Gloria distinctly remembers she was nine years old. People would ask her age and she would say “nine” and her foster mother never corrected her. People also used to ask if Gloria was from England because she was well-spoken, polite, and had a very fair complexion.

Gloria stayed with the one foster family, the Taylors, who lived in the Brisbane suburb of Coorparoo, later moving to Greenslopes. She was, however, sent back to the orphanage for two months before being returned to the same foster family.

I didn’t want to. If I’d known I was going to go back, I might have said to the nuns, “I don’t want to go back there.”

Gloria is not sure why she was sent back to the orphanage at the age of twelve. She wonders if it was because she had finally told the foster mother—after a period of having physically lost her voice and although she lived in constant fear of both foster parents—”in her own way…and in a stuttery voice” about being sexually abused by the foster father.

I don’t remember him waking me up, but he had to wake me up. He used to make me kneel on the floor, I used to sleep on the verandah on the outside. He would sit on my bed. He would get my head, hold my head in his hands. And he would push it down onto his penis, up and down. I had no control. He would hold my head so tight; I couldn’t do anything – he had full control of my head. I would almost vomit a lot of the time. When he got real quick, I got to like that part – it would be the end of it.

The foster’s mother’s response to Gloria’s revelations was to “belt” and “flog” the child while accusing her of “making up dirty lies”.

As Gloria says, there was a culture at the time which required children to be silent, which makes it all the more remarkable that she spoke up in the first place. Given the reaction by the foster mother, it is not surprising that Gloria chose not to mention the sexual abuse again, not until many years later when she met other Care Leavers who had been similarly abused.

There were other, younger, foster children in the family—Gloria’s brother, another boy and girl—but as far as Gloria is aware, they were not being sexually abused although Gloria’s brother was maltreated in different ways.

On the surface, Gloria’s foster parents appeared to be good, religious people. Her foster father was a religious man and was active in the local church community.

However, the foster parents were abusing Gloria, sexually and physically.

Gloria recalled a school sports day when her “lower back was exposed…” and she was instructed by her foster mother to leave her cardigan on all day—despite the heat—so the welts on her back, caused by the foster mother’s floggings, could not be seen by the teachers.

Gloria went to three different Catholic schools while she was in foster care. She was then required by her foster parents to leave at the age of fourteen, at the end of primary school, and take up the paid work they had organized.

This was at the end of Grade 7. I could have had another year of school and finished Grade 8.

The night before her fifteenth birthday, Gloria was driven back to the orphanage by her foster father.

Over the next three years—until her mother collected the eighteen-year-old—Gloria worked hard in the nursery and in the kitchen.

When I was working in the orphanage, I worked in the nursery looking after children from little babies—nine months to three years old—to the bigger babies from three to five years old.

There were several girls in the nursery. We had different roles such as “Baby girl” whose job was minding the children when they were on the verandahs or in the yard playing. “Laundry girl” did the children’s clothes, washing, drying, folding, and putting away. “Pantry girl” looked after their food and set it on the tables.

We had our individual jobs week about.

After doing Babies for quite a while, I was promoted to Convent Kitchen, working in the nun’s kitchen. There were three of us girls and the nun who was in charge. Us girls cooked the veggies and meat at lunch time, porridge and toast at brekky, I forget what we had for tea. It was all cooked on a wood stove. The nun made the cakes and puddings.

My brother John and another John chopped the wood and cut and skinned veggies, and shelled peas, and stringed and cut beans.

The nuns may have been responsible for running the orphanage, but the children did the work. Gloria enjoyed the work, although she recalls “getting into trouble for taking too much skin off the potatoes or onions” when she was in foster care.

I was living with the Taylors, when I got in trouble for peeling too much skin off potatoes and onions, and I got flogged for scorching a white shirt, cause he wore them to work, at BCC, in the office.

Gloria married the first time because she thought she had to.

With the life that I had as a child… my first husband raped me because I wouldn’t give myself to him. Because he raped me, I married him, I thought I had to marry him because he raped me. It was on Nudgee Beach and he put a sheet down. There was blood all over the sheet. When he finished, I thought “no man will have me now… that’s how I was thinking at the time.

Gloria had four children with her first husband and two with her second. Without children, Gloria says, she would have had nothing.

I loved being a mother, my children were my sanctuary, my salvation. My everything. Without my children, I wouldn’t have survived. They were my strength.

Tragically, Gloria’s youngest son, Daniel (born November 1974), killed himself in February 2009.

I had another son, Brock (born April 1966) who died from an overdose of drugs a few days after he was released from prison in April 2020. Brock was Daniel’s older brother, from the same father.

Gloria wonders now about the impact on her children of her time in the orphanage and in foster care, about the impact of intergenerational trauma, particularly given that she has been diagnosed with Complex PTSD by a psychiatrist, and now seeks support from a psychologist.

Gloria became more outgoing and less withdrawn with the influence of her extrovert second husband who introduced her to acting via a workshop one weekend.

I love theatre, I love to act. Because I can be somebody else, I can be a whole other person, I feel the person that I’m acting.

Gloria began speaking out about her childhood experiences in 1994, strengthened and encouraged by meeting other survivors.

I went to the police after my story was published in the newspaper, in 1994 – I wanted [my foster father] to get in trouble… I was feeling happy with myself that I finally found the strength, but I was devastated when I found out he died [a year previously]. I felt so depleted, and so upset I didn’t do it years ago. I told the police that he will be burning in hell.

Gloria heard from the ex-wife of her foster brother (the son of her foster parents) that he became threatening, saying “…if anything happens and it gets out” she would suffer. Gloria is not sure how much the foster brother knew of the way Gloria was treated, but he was clearly afraid of information getting out.

I participated in the National Redress and participated in the National Inquiry. I couldn’t talk about it for years, but I found the strength to talk about it hearing other people talk about it. I have participated in advocacy, newspaper articles, books, inquiries. It’s happened to a lot of people. When you meet other people, you find the strength and courage, it gives me strength.

Gloria eventually received apologies from the Queensland Department of Child Safety (DOCS), the Sisters of Mercy who ran St Vincent’s Orphanage, and the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane.

I felt a lot better. I felt complete that it was done. I was given a set of rosary beads from the archbishop.

One of the books Gloria has contributed a story to is Lives of Uncommon Children: Reflections of Forgotten Australians, published by Micah Projects in Queensland.

Gloria’s reflection begins:

He was murdering me. He was murdering me every day. I didn’t want to wake up of a morning, because I knew what I might face. Another day of fear. Have to hurry, do the chores, then off to school – an escape. I’m free of fear there for a while, a positive advantage. School is the best time of day, learning to be smart and a little educated, making me feel good.

Two of Gloria’s poems are now being used in training to ensure contemporary child protection workers understand “the impact of being in care and suffering abuse.

What we have done [by speaking out] has meant change and I’m so happy to know that.

Today, Gloria is not afraid to speak out.

Today I will speak up, the opposite of what I was as a child. I’m not afraid to speak to people, and people receive it well… something about me changed. People like speaking to me, I speak common sense. I pass along information, share my knowledge. I have confidence, I speak clearly and well.

Gloria keeps in touch with some of her friends from the orphanage through Lotus Place, a support service for survivors of institutional abuse, and she likes to focus on making people smile. She talks to people from all walks of life, has little sayings and funny ways of putting things that brings a smile to people.

I love to make people laugh! I do a lot for people, AOM doing EOM – I’m an angel of mercy doing errands of mercy!

Despite all the trauma, betrayals, injustices, tragedies and sadness, Gloria says that she is a compassionate, humane, empathetic, and caring person.

The experiences that I had, I’m glad that I survived – all that has shown me that I’m strong. I’m a better person now, I used to be quiet and withdrawn. I’m glad that I am who I am.


(From Orphanage to Foster care)

A girl-child sleeps at night
A stranger, she is not, to fright
She wakes, suddenly
“Will he come tonight?”
This poor unfortunate, in such a plight.

To these unkind people she was sent,
No one knew, they were so bent.
Her body, he took, by force, times again
“My God, protect me”, once again.

“Our secret”, he says, “do not tell.”
His sick mind, he hid so well
And her (so cruel) she could not tell
That belt, the belting she could foretell.

She screams in her soul, no one can hear
She cannot cry out, she lives her fear.
Her body tells day by day

Her body tells day by day
People do not read that way
“The child is slow,
She was born that way.”

Over the days, months and years
She carried on, despite her fears.
She now has grown to womanhood.
And all she likes to give … is good.



I’ve come a long way, walked the Dark Road,
kept trekking on, found my way, with little light to
guide the way. I had to be strong, on I did roam,
but tarried on and reached my home.

My home being ‘Peace of Mind, Body and Soul’!

The opposite of Hell, Hades, Sheol, whatever the
like, I’ve reached the end of this perilous hike!
I was brave, strong of will, move on I did,
(too many times in the dark I hid).

‘ALLELULA!’ I say, I’ve landed my fight,
and ‘tis the end of my perilous flight.



Friends, I beckon you to come out of your darkness, your shell, your hell
No more are you there, to cower or cry

You are alive, anew with a free spirit – let it soar
Soar high above the depths of despair
Take hold, have faith in what you do and what you are
You are no longer that timid little child to be used and abused

You are strong now; you will speak up and out
You will be heard and justice ought prevail
Keep on being strong;
Keep growing Friends – to the beautiful people you are now
And keep on moving on


WHO IS ME? (2022)

It is not me when I show anger
It is me when I cry
It is me when I wear it, (emotion), carrying it
on my shoulders with the weight of many, many boulders

It is not me when I outwardly show emotion
that is ranting, raging,
like turbulent waters running,
raging wild, like me inwardly as a child

but as a child so quiet, so blank, but longing,
wishing for an escape from mind, the dark depths

Out of darkness, glory can come.

Gloria Lovely at Lotus Place, Queensland 2021

The first publication featuring Gloria Lovely’s story


“Commission of inquiry into abuse of children in Queensland institutions.” Find & Connect, 2014.

Community Affairs References Committee. Forgotten Australians: A report on Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children. Commonwealth of Australia, 2004.

Lotus Place.

Lovely, Gloria. “Gloria’s story.” Lives of Uncommon Children. Reflections of Forgotten Australians.

Lovely, Gloria. “Gloria’s story.” Inside. Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions. National Museum Australia, 2010.

National Redress Scheme.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“St Vincent’s Home for Children (1935-1971).” Find & Connect, 2021.

Poems copyright © Gloria Lovely.

Image supplied.