Recitations of sorry are no help to this survivor
19th August 2012
20th August 2012
Fifteen-year-old Jason spent his days at Osler House at Wolston Park lying on a mattress, suffering from a muscle wasting disease which had left him little movement and unable to talk.
“One day, a nurse went past and Jason wanted to go to the toilet,” Sue Treweek, who would spend eight years in the same ward after being placed there as a 15-year-old in 1980, said.
“I was only about eight feet away from him and he brushed the nurse’s pants with his hand and the nurse has turned around with his steel capped boots and kicked Jason’s teeth out of his head, literally. He smashed this little boy’s teeth. They didn’t get a doctor to him for a few days and the next thing I remember is these people in suits and his mother, they all came and they took him out of there. But they would have told him that a patient beat him, they wouldn’t have said a nurse beat him.”
Jason’s story is just one which has continued to haunt Ms Treweek.
She said she is one of the “lucky ones”, that she has had people in power listen to her own story and was able to testify in the 2004 Senate Inquiry into “Forgotten Australians”. As she told of her experiences at Wolston Park, two senators had to be helped from the room.
“Witnessing, seeing and experiencing things like that,” she said, pausing, “I’d like to see a separate inquiry. And some real help.”
A ward of the state, Ms Treweek, then 12, was sent by a nun at Nudgee Orphanage to Lowson House in 1979, a mental health facility within the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for rocking herself to sleep.
A psychiatric assessment found she did not suffer from a mental illness, but when no institution would take her, Ms Treweek was eventually transferred to Osler House, a long term maximum security ward of Wolston Park Hospital, in 1980.
“They called me a Catch-22 because I was bound by two systems, by the child welfare system and the health department.
Constantly raped and sexually assaulted, beaten and witness to atrocities against children and the disabled, Ms Treweek said she spent much of her eight years inside, lying on the floor of her concrete room, too drugged to move. After a rape resulted in her falling pregnant, Ms Treweek gave birth inside Wolston Park; her child was immediately taken from her and adopted out.
But there were more punishments in store.
“I think the most damaging thing was the isolation cells. Spending day after day in there not knowing when you would be getting out. If we behaved ourselves, we got a bucket, but otherwise...you would try and hold on or go to the toilet in the corner of the room.
“They would control whether it was day or night for you, you wouldn’t have a clue what day it was.
“From the beatings and being forced to lie on the concrete all the time and because of the submissive holds, I have no discs between three of my vertebrae’s. Soon I won’t be able to walk, and they won’t even give me a wheel chair.”
Ms Treweek said that in 1988 she was assessed again and after medical staff had concluded that due to the length of time she had spent institutionalised and the amount of electric shock treatment she had received, she would never be fit to be released.
A former Vietnam veteran and nurse inside Osler House, who Ms Treweek described as “brutal, but still fair” learnt of her fate and released her.
“Harvey, his name was Harvey. And he just let me go.”
After living in the bush and learning skills by mimicking people she saw at a nearby shopping centre, Ms Treweek was eventually helped by the “right people” who helped teach her life skills.
She had four daughters, reconnected with her son four years ago and started a successful cleaning business, which she still runs, with the help of her children.
But the nightmare of Wolston is never far away.
“As bad as Basil Stafford and Karalla House were (two state institutions which were the focus of previous abuse inquiries) and they were very bad, at least you had your peers, you had people your own age,” Ms Treweek said.
“In Goodna, you were in with adults, who were there at the Queen’s pleasure, not to be released because of their crimes against humanity and against children, yet they were putting children in there with those people.
“No one ever argues with me and says ‘No Sue, we didn’t do that, or it wasn’t that bad’, they say ‘Oh yes, that was terrible, so sorry’. But ‘so sorry’ doesn’t cut it when I can’t live. Half the time I can’t leave my house because I feel like I don’t belong in society, I have never been able to sleep in a bedroom, I can’t stand people standing over me, I have had real trouble’s connecting with people and forming relationships, I have a spine that is about to clap out on me because of what they did, and they just say ‘sorry’.
“It’s not enough.”