Another nightmare story from an Australian institution, but, perhaps, the worst part of this story is how the government was complicit in the abuse and how they continued the abuse right up to this year.
I've identified 12 ways that government officials from police to welfare officers to senior lawyers, have added to the suffering of those who had already suffered unimaginable physical, emotional and psychological pain.
A girl who was physically and sexually abused from the age of five until 15 by her foster parents at a home for Indigenous children was also lied to and convinced to be so terrified of her biological parents she would not speak to them, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard.
Kathleen Biles and two of her siblings were made wards of the state and sent to live at the Bethcar Children’s Home in Brewarrina in remote northern NSW more than 30 years ago.
The state-funded home was run by Burt and Edith Gordon and their son-in-law Colin Gibson from 1969 to 1989.
The royal commission is examining how complaints of abuse at the home were handled, with an emphasis on the “protracted” litigation procedure when civil proceedings were brought by fifteen former residents of Bethcar against the State.
Biles told the public hearing in Sydney on Wednesday that she had learned from her department of child services (Docs) file that her mother had tried to get the children back, but her father thought they were better cared for at Bethcar, and that he “trusted” the foster parents, Burt and Edith Gordon.
Gibson was jailed in 2007 on two separate sentences of 12 years and 18 years for offences against a number of girls.
Biles told the commission her first memory of abuse was at the age of five when she went to the Gordons’ to complain of a headache.
“Before Edith could say anything, Burt held up the blanket he was under and said words to the effect ‘come under the blanket with daddy. Daddy will make it better’,” said Biles.
Burt Gordon then sexually assaulted her. Edith Gordon seemed “completely indifferent”, said Biles. When she started crying, Edith Gordon said “what’s wrong with you you naughty little girl” and Burt Gordon invited her under the blanket again.
Edith Gordon told her to go to Burt Gordon but she said no, so the woman physically beat her.
“Later I learned from experience that Edith would respond like this every time we told her that we had been abused,” said Biles.
The children were also told that their parents did not want them. Burt Gordon would tell the children their parents were evil and alcoholic, and threatened to send the children back to them if they misbehaved, said Biles.
“I was terrified of my biological parents because of what he said,” she told the hearing.
When her parents came to see her at school one day and called out to her, she was too scared to go to them.
Biles detailed numerous horrific instances of the decade-long abuse which she said made her feel “violated” and like “nowhere was safe, even if other people were there”.
No case was taken against Burt Gordon, who was old and unwell at the time of the investigation. He has since died.
The royal commission is hearing from a number of witnesses, including six former residents of Bethcar.
Another five-year-old girl was raped and then flogged when she was late for dinner after she was placed in Bethcar at the age of two or three. The abuse began soon after. The girl, given the pseudonym AIQ for legal reasons, told no one until she was in her late 30s.
Children who went to police and NSW welfare officers with allegations of abuse were returned to the home where they were beaten, the commission heard.
One of the victims, Jodie Moore, was close to tears as she gave evidence Burt Gordon and Gibson abused and raped her weekly when she was aged between six and 16.
She said she wet her bed the entire time she was at Bethcar because she was in such fear of Gibson coming into her room at night.
Edith flew into a rage. She got up off the lounge and began beating me wherever she could hit me.
Alleged child abuse victim Kathleen Biles
"I also remember when I was eight years old deliberately breaking my arm so I could get a break from the sexual abuse," she said.
She said she repeatedly reported the abuse to Mrs Gordon, welfare authorities and the police, and ran away from the home.
Ms Moore also gave evidence that two welfare officers from the Department of Community Services [DoCS] took her and some other children from Bethcar to the police station, where they gave statements about the abuse.
It would appear that the police did little or nothing about the complaints - the first government abuse.
"Afterwards, [the welfare officer] took us back to Bethcar," she said. The second government abuse.
"Burt and Edie flogged us with pepper tree branches."
But she and another witness, Kathleen Biles, told the commission they learned not to speak of the abuse after repeated beatings, often by Mrs Gordon.
|Royal Commission sitting|
Government fights compensation to victims
The NSW senior lawyer overseeing part of a six-year-long sexual abuse compensation case that cost $2 million in legal fees has conceded the Crown should have gone to mediation years ago.
The third government abuse.
Senior crown solicitor Helen Allison made the concession on her second day of evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The commission is investigating the handling of a 2008 civil compensation claim by 15 former residents of the Bethcar Aboriginal Children's home in Brewarrina in north-west New South Wales, which was finally settled this year.
In 2011, Ms Allison had backed Evangelos Manollaras, the junior Crown solicitor handling the case, who argued the case should be defended and the NSW Government should not admit liability. The fourth government abuse.
Ms Allison told the commission today she got it wrong.
"Certainly in hindsight we should have gone to mediation," she said.
The inquiry has heard the Crown Solicitor's Office would not even admit liability over girls who had been assaulted by Bethcar worker Colin Gibson, who was convicted and jailed for the crimes.
The other sexual predator, Burt Gordon, died before the police could get him to court, but investigating police did not doubt the truth of the evidence against him.
|Burt Gordon - child sex abuser now deceased|
Ms Allison has now agreed that there was a serious liability issue for the NSW Government over Bethcar survivors as the Department of Community Services had failed to act on reports about problems in the home from the early 1980s. The fifth government abuse.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, David Lloyd, said an email from her junior colleague showed barristers had indicated in 2010 that the only way to win was by using the time bar defence against old complaints. The sixth government abuse.
"It was generally felt by counsel that the best bet for the defendant was to knock off as many plaintiffs as possible on the limitation question," Mr Lloyd said.
Mr Lloyd said the Crown Solicitors Office continued to resist mediation even when another email that year showed their barrister had advised that an inexpensive settlement was an option. The seventh government abuse.
"All the plaintiffs have done is indicate they want an acknowledgement and a modest amount of money," Mr Manollaras wrote at the time.
The claim over horrendous long-term abuse in Bethcar went to mediation in late 2013 and was settled this year with the payment of damages and an apology.
The Government ended up spending more than $2 million on legal costs.
I wonder if the settlements amounted to $2 million? And why is she still Senior Crown Solicitor?
Surveillance of victims recommended
Ms Allison was unable to explain why surveillance of the victims was recommended in 2010 by Mr Manollaras.
Mr Manollaras suggested $20,000 or $30,000 be spent on surveillance, even though the claim was only for psychiatric injury.
Ms Allison said she was unable to explain the purpose of such surveillance. While it is not clear whether or not the surveillance actually occurred, this is still the eighth government abuse.
"Surveillance, I think, is not often recommended," she said.
Ms Allison did not concede that the Crown Solicitors Office's conduct of the whole case was a breach of the state's model litigant policy.
The policy says state lawyers must do more than acting ethically and within the law.
However she made a number of concessions that several steps taken by the office were a breach of the policy. The ninth government abuse.
Ms Allison said she would not handle any similar case the same way.
"I have been in the witness box defending the action of the state in this as a lawyer but I do understand that what happened at Bethcar was horrible," she said.
"Ms Loughman [solicitor representing former residents of Bethcar] and I put in a great deal of effort at the mediation into trying to handle that as sensitively as possible to give some sort of closure to those complainants."
The NSW Department of Family and Community secretary, Michael Coutts-Trotter, said the Crown did fail in its responsibility as a "model litigant". The tenth government abuse.
He re-iterated the apology given in the civil litigation, and extended it to all victims at Bethcar.
"I acknowledge that the terrible sexual and physical abuse inflicted upon children and young people by those entrusted to care for them, has had devastating and lifelong impacts on many individuals," he said.
The apology did not come until this year, 6 years after the litigation began. The eleventh government abuse. This is a major 'fail' for the NSW government, and yet there does not appear to be any repercussions for those involved. The twelfth government abuse.