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Australian writer, homemaker, and domestic violence survivor, Sonia St Claire (b. 1950), was in orphanages and foster care as a child. 

Sonia St Claire and her twin sister, Sandra, were born to a mother whose primary interest was men. She decided to give them up to the authorities in New South Wales when they were three months old.  

The girls lived for two years in the St Vincent De Paul-run St Anthony’s Home located in Croydon, an inner suburb of Sydney.  In 1952 they were relocated to St Joseph’s Home for Children. This home was also in Croydon but run by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. 

At the age of six, the girls were moved again. This time they were placed at the Mater Dei Orphanage at Narellan, 60 km south-west of Sydney. Their mother had moved to Liverpool and the new orphanage was closer. 

This orphanage was huge compared to the one we just left. Mater Dei was run by the Good Samaritan Sisters… The dormitories we slept in were huge and there were many single beds… There would have been at least twenty beds in the room I was in, ten on each side (St Claire 16). 

Sonia and Sandra were not at Mater Dei long. They were moved to St Martha’s Industrial Home at the age of seven. This home was in Leichhardt which, like Croydon, is an inner-city suburb of Sydney. St Martha’s was run by the Sisters of Saint Joseph who treated the girls harshly and cruelly. 

We were called useless and stupid; insufferable; liars, evil, devil, good for nothing, not worth having, not worth knowing…until we began to believe it all. We were reduced to a slave-like docility (St Claire 40). 

Sonia and Sandra’s final placement was at St Anne’s Orphanage in Liverpool, 27 km south-west of Sydney. They attended St Mary’s High School which was across the road from the orphanage. At school they were bullied because they were ‘orphans’. 

During holidays, Sonia and Sandra either stayed in the various homes or went into foster care. Sexual abuse in foster care was rampant. 

Sonia and Sandra went to live with their mother when they were fourteen. This transition marked the end of their formal education. Sonia worked in a series of low-paid jobs until she was told to leave her mother’s home. She then moved in with her first violent partner. 

As soon as I opened the door I was hit in the face. I didn’t see it coming. It was silent and swift, but brutal as always. I almost fell backwards out the door. Then, he dragged me in the door by my hair and punched me violently in the stomach. He then dragged me around the lounge by my hair as he pushed me into the cabinet causing my head to bleed. I was crying and extremely distressed, and yet, I still didn’t know what to do to save myself (St Claire 109). 

On her own again, Sonia struggled. She needed to work to care for her daughter, Amy, and after she was hospitalised found it difficult to keep a job. Sonia ended up putting Amy into a children’s home too. 

I had never wanted her to end up in a home like I had been, even for a little while. Because of my circumstances, though, history was repeating itself (St Claire 126).

Sonia married Jack in 1982, who began perpetrating violence early in their marriage.  

Five weeks after our wedding Jack… came straight over to my chair, struck me across the head and pushed my chair backwards till it hit the floor with me still in it. Then he tried pushing the cigarette into my face. I was screaming and trying to prevent myself from being burned (St Claire 137).

Sonia divorced Jack and moved to the Gold Coast with two small children in tow. Her daughter Amy had already left home. 

When Sonia was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1994 she changed to a vegan diet which radically improved her health. This was the inspiration for her first book, Freedom from Rheumatoid Arthritis, published in 2005. 

A devotee of the self-help genre, in 2012 Sonia attended a convention in Sydney that featured American motivational speaker and writer, Louise Hay (1926-2017). After the convention, Sonia went home and wrote her second book. The Girl in the Locker (2014) chronicles how Sonia overcame multiple adversities to create a life for herself which is free of abuse. 

I am happy to have the ability to be able to put pen to paper and fingers to the keyboard, to be a voice for millions around the world who are still too traumatised to speak for themselves. It is my pleasure, my honour, to do this on behalf of those people (St Claire 286). 

Sonia describes how she struggled to write about traumatic events in her life. However, the experience has also been a healing one for Sonia, who hopes that her book may help others as well.  

It was extremely difficult when it came to writing about the sexual abuse. However, the most difficult part was writing about the death of my twin sister. That broke my heart all over again, as we were together since utero. A part of me died that very day…

I have found peace and healing through forgiveness, love and gratitude. If my book can help one person, then it was worth going down a dark memory lane (Hunter).

Sonia now lives in Queensland where she surrounds herself with positive and supportive people. She is a qualified clinical hypnotherapist, nutritional counsellor, iridologist, and Reiki Master. 


Hunter, Brooke. Interview with Sonia St Claire. 

“Mater Dei Orphanage (1910 – 1957).” Find & Connect, 2021. 

St Claire, Sonia. The Girl in the Locker. Sydney: New Holland, 2014. 

“St Anthony’s Home Croydon (1925 – 1980).” Find & Connect, 2021. 

“St Joseph’s Home for Children, Croydon (1925 – 1981).” Find & Connect, 2021. 

“St Martha’s Industrial Home (1888 – 1969).” Find & Connect, 2021. 

Image available here.