Another Chapter in my life was when I was sent here to The Glebe shelter, I was 13 years old a confused teenager. It was where girls were placed who were waiting for the hearing from The Metropolitan Children’s Court deemed to be sent to an institution. At this point in time I was being sent to Ormond Girls Institution because there was nowhere else they could place me for a girl of my age. I would again be placed here a little less than two years later before I was sent to The Parramatta Girls Training school when I was 15 years old. It was a frightening experience being held here, the building stood like an old haunted inner City government building built of sandstone and brick but looking old and run down, and it was old cold and dark inside. Cold cement floors throughout the complex with a couple of isolation cells for those who caused a disruption among the inmates.
The Female offices were as cold hard and cruel as the building itself with their hard faces and demanding instructions of perfection in attitude and conduct and work detail. The place was depressing with its solid iron doors and heavy iron padlocks, with the huge bunch of keys which hung down from the waist belt of each female officer there on duty on any given day. The stay was usually six to eight weeks before transfer being arranged with vehicle, driver and a female escort worker.
Work detail was harsh, kneeling on rubber knee pads with a tin bucket of cold water and scrubbing the cement floor. And if one didn’t do the job properly then the girl would be instructed on doing it over and over again till the officer was satisfied. There was code of silence no talking laughing or whispering, so if one was caught out then they usually had to scrub again till the office felt the girl had learnt her lesson. Other duties included laundry, kitchen, mending, and roster system was made out each week and sometimes daily due to girls being transferred and new arrivals.
Discipline was harsh but punishment was even tougher. It was a lonely place to be, even though there were other girls, the code of silence forced upon the girls created depression. Girls were always with their own thoughts of family and loved ones, and why they were placed here in the first place and living with a sense of fear of not knowing what was ahead of them. I was one of those girls living with fear of not knowing what was ahead of me; suicide was always on my mind. I didn’t want to live at all; life was too hard to many rules as well as too many memories. The only thing that gave some relief from wishing I was dead was when a new girl was admitted and if I knew her from another institution. This was so uplifting as if I was reborn into life for the very first time, it was strange but it was real. That’s how depressing this place The Glebe Shelter was, there was hardly any sunlight at all and only one small section in the court yard outside were all you could see was the cold sandstone walls standing tall, and only seeing a small spot of the sky above, and inside nothing but the solid doors with heavy padlocks and cold cement floors.
In 2003 I attended a Parramatta Girls Reunion at the Parramatta Girls Site, Fleet Street Parramatta this came about after an ex parragirl of Aboriginal decent placed a small article in the Korrie Mail asking for “anyone from the PGTS” please reply, for Parramatta Girls Training School. A quick response was made and a small group of Indigenous woman who were ex parragirls joined together and what’d to have a reunion.
With the help of another non indigenous woman named Jan Mcquire the doors were opened for the first ever Parramatta Girls Reunion, which was an incredible experience one I never believed would have ever happen, thanks to Jan, and that group of indigenous woman.
Later that year a group of Aboriginal woman, one being my older sister and myself, all who had been in Parramatta at different periods came together and attended a wonderful retreat out at Picton New South Wales. The funding for this reunion was made possible by the “Bring Them home report” The Department of Health and Ageing, NSW Department of Community Services and the funding was also auspice by the Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation for the reunion and publishing of “Letting the Truth out” a publication of poems and short stories including a poem of mine, this being all part of our healing. We also took part in group discussions and outings on one of these outings we attended the glebe shelter with the bus parking right outside the door. We all lined up very tensed from memories of long ago as teenager’s as we walked along the corridors my friend Kerry and I spotted a pile of books they grabbed our attention. We grabbed a couple out of interest as the book was called “For Their Own Good” the cover cream in color and a picture of The Children Court covered three quarters of the book cover.
As we boarded the bus many of the women were in tears as the memories flooded back from their youth, the return trip was the quietest the woman had been all day, some of them crying quietly into their tissues. Some just staring into space looking grim, and then there was a few reading this book “For Their Own Good” well as the pages turned comments of disbelief were flying about from one woman to the next of what the writer had to say. The book was written as a historical account of the Children’s Court and about the Children who came before the courts. It was about us as children we were classed as delinquent, uncontrollable, beggars, and loiteries, thieves, liars, and that everything decision made through the children’s courts was for their own good.
Well I tell you from the decisions they made for me my sister or my two brothers they were not made for our own good at all, that statement was not true for many of the woman that attended that outing, and I could say for a majority of other Forgotten Australians or Stolen Generation man or woman, and those words ate away at me for many years, I don’t believe we were all the same we all had our own stories and that what’s angers me to be put in one basket, labeled and belittled.
Metropolitan Girls' Shelter
By 01/01/1925 to c. 31/12/1978
Juvenile Justice Centre
Administrative history note:
The Metropolitan Girls’ Shelter was run as a shelter for girls awaiting hearings at the Metropolitan Children’s Court. It was also known as Glebe Girls Shelter and Metropolitan Girls’ Remand Centre.
The shelter was erected in Avon Street, Glebe in 1925. It was on land attached to the Bidura Depot. It provided temporary shelter for 27 girls sometimes for up to a month. Activities for the girls while at Metropolitan Girls’ Shelter included sewing, reading, domestic work and on occasion an education officer was appointed. In 1977 the existing Bidura and Metropolitan Girls' Shelter site was redeveloped.