Parramatta Girls Home Memorial
Parramatta Girls Home 1887 -1974
Kamballa & Taldree Children’s Shelter 1974 -1983
In this place we remember the children who were abused.
Dedicated on 6 April 2022 this memorial is a response by the NSW Government to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to recognize and pay tribute to people who were abused as children at Parramatta Girls’ Home.
Formed in a semicircular shape based on the Fibonacci spiral (golden spiral) the interior walls of this sandstone structure are incised with graffiti found throughout the institution. This graffiti together memories recalled by former occupants reveal a hidden history of this institution in acronyms ILWA (I Love Worship Always) or TID (Till I Die), of friendships and solidarity in difficult circumstances.
A figure of a girl stands at each end of the wall and at its centre, a plaque with the words Never Again. Set in a garden of native plants including golden wattle and red bottle brush, emblematic of Australians who spent time in institutional or out-of-home care as children known today as the Forgotten Australians, the memorial is located in front of what was once the main dormitory building of the Parramatta Girls Home.
The design concept evolved from consultation with former residents in collaboration with interpretive design specialists Trigger to create a protected reflection space of recognition, empowerment, and healing.
About the Royal Commission
On 12 November 2012, the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced that she would recommend to the Governor General that a royal commission be appointed to inquire into institutional responses to child abuse. The work of the Royal Commission fully commenced in late February 2013 with the final report to the Governor General on 15 December 2017.
Report of Case Study No.7 Child sexual abuse at the Parramatta Training School for Girls and the Institution for Girls Hay was issued in October 2014.
Many of the women who gave evidence described a harsh system of discipline and control at Parramatta Girls. Some of the rules included not speaking unless spoken to, not turning over in bed and only going to the toilet at certain times of day. Girls often faced severe punishments for disobedience. They might be deprived of food or told to scrub floors. But the worst punishment at Parramatta Girls was being sent to an isolation cell. Some witnesses revealed that they were physically and sexually abused while in isolation. They were sometimes later transferred to the Hay Institution.
In this system of discipline and control, there was no privacy for inmates. They were watched on the toilet and in the shower, and regularly had to undergo invasive medical examinations and embarrassing body checks. Some were drugged. Many faced psychological abuse as well, and witnesses claimed that officers called them nobodies, sluts and liars. Inmates resorted to sticking pins into their bodies to show they were tough, to offset the pain of the abuse or to kill themselves.
Numerous male staff, and occasionally other girls, were said to have physically and sexually abused the inmates at both institutions. Most of the alleged perpetrators were never reported or investigated. Others resigned or were dismissed after inquiries into their conduct. Historically, none of these men was ever charged with a criminal offence. In 2020 two former male staff from the Parramatta Girls Home were sentenced for a series of assaults that were initially brought to light at the royal commission into child sex abuse.