Calling for justice

NOT FORGOTTEN: Rhonda Trivett holding letters from the Government which never heal the scars she carries from being a minor in Wolston Park Hospital. Photo: Rose Hamilton-Barr
NOT FORGOTTEN: Rhonda Trivett holding letters from the Government which never heal the scars she carries from being a minor in Wolston Park Hospital. Photo: Rose Hamilton-Barr Rose Hamilton-Barr

IF RHONDA Trivett had a dollar for every time she was told to "get on with her life", she would be rich.

But her true wealth comes from being a survivor.

Born in the 1960s, Ms Trivett was dyslexic - undiagnosed at the time, and was removed from her mother as punishment for running away from school.

In 1974, as a young teenager, the South Burnett woman was placed in Wolston Park Hospital.

Ms Trivett said she suffered rape, torture and bashings for eight years.

And she is not alone.

Between the 1950s and 1960s, children as young as 11, but mostly aged from 13, were mixed in with adults at Osler House at Wolston Park.

Osler House was a ward for people the courts judged as criminally insane.

Now, as adults, a small group who were admitted into Queensland adult psychiatric asylums while they were children have called for a separate inquiry into the abuse, torture and neglect they suffered inside the institutional walls.

Australian National University visiting academic Dr Adele Chynoweth confirmed the teenage residents at Wolston Park were denied an education and were drugged, subjected to shock treatment and sexually abused.

"The whole truth about 20th century child welfare policy has been swept under the carpet," she said. Dr Chynoweth said she became interested in the victims because they had been excluded from testifying at the Ford Inquiry in 1999.

They were rejected as the inquiry related only to children kept in church and state children's homes.

"The government hasn't been held accountable," Dr Chynoweth said.

"So far there has been no compensation for the victims of Wolston Park."

Ms Trivett's body still bears the scars and her mind is traumatised.

The 52-year-old said she was tired of being labelled.

"The problem now is society doesn't know how to help us," she said.

"The system has failed in the past."

Ms Trivett said people should be aware of what happened then.

Dr Chynoweth agreed and said victims were prevented from mounting their own legal case because time creates a barrier to litigation.

Dr Chynoweth urged Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to revisit and address past abuse as well as present-day problems.

In June, Health Minister Lawrence Springborg and Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie announced a Commission of Inquiry into child protection in Queensland.

But a spokesman from the office of the Health Minister said children who may have formally been placed in adult mental health facilities would be "outside the scope of the new inquiry".

"At this stage the Queensland Government is unable to pay compensation to alleged former victims of institutional abuse without a court order," he said.

The spokesman said independent legal advice should be sought before deciding to proceed through conventional legal processes.

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