Sandras story one of pain, despair and hope
19th August 2012
20th August 2012
At 15 years old, Sandra Robinson had escaped from every institution and home the state government had placed her.
She was rewarded with a place inside Ward Eight of Wolston Park Hospital, which in 1967 was where Queensland placed adults judged to be criminally insane.
Falsely accused of swallowing a needle, Ms Robinson was transferred to Wolston Park after spending weeks in solitary confinement at another institution.
During the 12 months she spent there before escaping, Ms Robinson said she experienced and was witnessed to unspeakable horror.
Routinely sexually assaulted, drugged until she couldn’t move and left at the mercy of the criminally insane inmates, Ms Robinson said she escaped at her earliest opportunity.
“They kept you drugged so you couldn’t run,” she said, adding that one day, the anti-psychotic medication stores ran low, giving her an opportunity to flee.
But the geographic isolation of Wolston Park at the time, meant she was soon caught.
The staff punished her by locking her in a room and allowing any male staff member who showed interest, time alone with the teenager. Staff led her to believe that she would be killed if she tried to escape again and her death would be made to look like suicide.
“I had to clean my own blood of the walls, I was beaten that bad by one guy. And... he...made me do things and he beat me and then he went to get a bucket and cloth and said ‘clean the blood up, you dirty bitch’,” Ms Robinson said.
“I was just a kid.”
While the State Government issued an apology to Queensland children who had been placed in adult mental health facilities for any “maltreatment or neglect” they experienced or witnessed, Ms Robinson said Wolston Park remained swept under the rug and ignored.
“No one acknowledges it,” Ms Robinson said.
“They apologised to us, they don’t say it never happened, but they don’t admit what they did.
“We were never allowed to testify in the Forde Inquiry (about Wolston Park). Because we were in some of the homes before Goodna (Wolston Park) we did speak (at the Forde Inquiry) but when it came to Goodna, we couldn’t talk about it, we weren’t allowed to, it wasn’t ‘the terms of reference’.
“And now they just tell us to go to court and I say ‘why?’ Do you need us to prove that we were there? I have files. Do you need us to prove that we were wards of the state, under aged? I have files. Do you need proof that we were on drugs? I have files. They do know that the duty of care that should have been shown by the health department and the children’s department wasn’t there, but they don’t seem to want it to come out that this was going on, that we were being drugged and they were experimenting on us.
“You were drugged up so bad half your life is gone, because you can’t remember it.
“I can remember sitting in the corner, dirtying myself because I couldn’t move, I was that drugged.
“I have cigarette burns on my arms, scars on my face from beatings, from nurses burning me with cigarettes.
After successfully running away, Ms Robinson met another homeless girl who helped her change her looks and identity and the pair stayed on the run, Ms Robinson convinced that if she were caught, she would be killed.
She is now fighting for acknowledgement and compensation for herself and other survivors.
“If I had only gone through the homes, I think I would have been fine,” she said.
“I would have had a few mental scars, but that place...that place really wrecked everybody.
“And there is not a high survival rate. In the last few years, I know of two or three who have died, because they can’t handle it anymore.”