Judy Stubbs grew up in the Cootamundra Girls' Home where, life many of the
'stolen' generation, she was kept from her family and suffered abuse. TONY
STEPHENS talks to the woman whose case will be the first to come before the
Victims Compensation Tribunal.
FOR many years, Judy Darcy knew nothing of her Aboriginal blood. She had been
taken from her people before her second birthday and told to avoid black folk.
When her grandfather travelled from Warren, the family's country, to see her
in Cootamundra, he spotted Judy and her sister, Lorraine, in a school
playground. He called their names from beyond the schoolyard fence. The young
girls did not recognise the old man and ran from him. Thomas Wright walked away
in despair. He never saw his granddaughters again.
Judy Darcy, now Judy Stubbs, knows her background today. She is about to
bring the first case by a member of the "stolen generations" before the Victims
Compensation Tribunal. And she was happy that her Aboriginal people marched in
Sydney on Australia Day, the 60th anniversary of the Aboriginal Day of Mourning
that led to the Aboriginal 10-point plan and manifesto for civil rights.
Stubbs told the national inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal children
from their families that she had been sexually abused repeatedly by a female
employee at the Cootamundra Girls Home. Her case to the tribunal includes a
claim that she was also sexually abused by another employee. Stubbs said she
experienced recurrent nightmares, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, extreme
depression and low energy and appetite.
Dr Geoffrey Leong, a psychiatrist, will give evidence that Stubbs suffers
from post-traumatic stress disorder, with accompanying depression.
Melissa Abrahams, a solicitor for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said
almost every child sent to the Cootamundra Girls Home was abused in some way.
"That's why they end up on the streets, trying to repress the memory."
Abrahams has interviewed nearly 70 stolen children and said that Stubbs was
the worst case of repressed memory she had encountered.
Judy Stubbs was born in Warren, western NSW, in 1941, the youngest of eight
children. Her mother, Dolly, died with cancer and her father, Richard, with
tuberculosis before she was two years old.
Relatives wanted to look after the children but the six girls were taken to
Cootamundra, where, Stubbs said, she was allowed to mix with only one, Lorraine.
The two boys went to the Kinchela home at Kempsey.
The children lost touch with one another. Alcoholism subsequently killed Les
and Richard. Three of the females have died.
"Merle died of a broken heart," said Stubbs. "She had wanted to get the
family back together but couldn't. I haven't been able to go to the other
funerals. I'd lost them once before and now I was losing them again."
Stubbs wants to apologise to other old girls of Cootamundra who might be
distressed by her story.
Bringing Them Home, the report of the stolen children inquiry, includes
evidence from Stubbs that she was sexually assaulted by a female member of staff
who claimed she had been with Dolly Darcy when she died and that Mrs Darcy had
said how much she loved Judy.
"She [the female employee] had a large bag of puffed wheat near the bed,
because she knew how much I loved it," Stubbs said in evidence. "All this time
she was inserting this cane into my vagina. I guess I was about 9 or 10. I know
she did this to me many times over the years until she left the home when I was
Stubbs said the girls were isolated from the outside world and knew nothing
about sex. "One night I hid under the bed . . . she pulled me out and flogged me
with the strap. She is my biggest memory of that home."
Stubbs said this week: "The girls made a pact never to cry in front of her.
We never did, until we got out."
Another memory was of being locked in the morgue - the girls' home had been a
hospital and the old morgue was still called the morgue. The girl was eight or
nine and the morgue was very dark. "I screamed all night but no-one came to get
me," she told Sir Ronald Wilson, who conducted the inquiry.
The examples of Stubbs's repressed memory emerged after a reunion in 1994 for
Cootamundra girls and Kinchela boys. Doubts remain about the value of memory
recovered through hypnosis or psychiatric therapy but Stubbs said she recalled
the sexual abuse without any counselling and Abrahams supported Stubbs's
Stubbs said she now believed the second employee abused her in the morgue and
behind a cow shed, threatening to report her as a naughty girl if she
The home operated from 1912 to 1969 as the central institution in NSW for
housing Aboriginal girls placed under state control.
Some old girls remember it as their only home. However, many never found out
who or where their families were and blame the home for most of their subsequent
Judy Darcy's time at Cootamundra included working on a sheep property from
the time she was 12, cooking for the boss, cleaning his house and his boots,
minding his children and cooking for 15 shearers. She also completed a
stenographer's course and secured a job in Sydney after leaving the home when
she was 18.
"I worked there for about three years until someone said, `I didn't know they
employed Abos here'. I walked out and became one of those drunken Aborigines on
She was "on the drink" for about five years and had three daughters and a son
by four different men, until meeting and marrying Neville Stubbs.
"My husband pulled me out of all that," she said. "He saved my life." The
Stubbs have a daughter but their marriage has been troubled. She blames much of
the difficulty on her memories of Cootamundra.
"Lots of us girls from Cootamundra married white men and now the families are
being ripped apart."
Her son died from a drug overdose but she wants to take her four daughters to
the tree under which she was born at Warren, to "let them feel what they want
to feel". It took her years to realise her Aboriginality. "We were puzzled by
the references to our colour on Aborigines Welfare Board documents. We were
either light or dark or somewhere in between. Lorraine said she felt like a
piece of steak, dark on the outside and light inside.
"The whites didn't want us - even though my uncle, Maurice Wright, fought in
the war, was on the Burma railway and is buried in Thailand - and the blacks
around Redfern used to call us `uptown niggers'. I was terribly angry. I used to
fight. I've knocked out blokes.
"Now I would like to help young Aboriginal kids get off drugs. I would also
like to help other Aboriginal women who have blocked things out of their minds."
THE Federal Government has committed $63 million over four years as a
response to Bringing Them Home , the stolen children report, but it is not clear
how individuals will benefit from this.
Aboriginal groups will continue their fight for compensation for the stolen
generation, despite the Kruger judgment in the High Court last August dismissing
claims by nine Aboriginal people that policies of removal of Aboriginal
children had breached their constitutional rights.
The High Court ruled that 1918 Northern Territory legislation under which
Aboriginal children were taken from their families was valid, although the Chief
Justice, Sir Gerard Brennan, said: "The practice of enforced separations is now
seen to be unacceptable as a general policy."
George Williams, a lecturer in constitutional law at ANU, says the Kruger
claim was the first salvo in an attempt to get compensation for the stolen
children. Since the High Court has said that the Constitution won't help, the
stolen children will have to pursue claims through common law at State level.
Matthew Storey, a lawyer for the stolen generations in the Northern
Territory, says claims based on common law grounds such as negligence and breach
of fiduciary duty will come before the Federal Court next month and hearings
are expected near the middle of the year.
Tony Buti, a human rights solicitor with the Aboriginal Legal Service of
Western Australia, says Kruger dealt only with a particular ordinance and common
law actions are proceeding.
Joy Williams, who was taken from her mother when she was 10 hours old, began
an action five years ago seeking monetary compensation from the NSW Government
for alleged breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and false imprisonment. Justice
Kirby, then President of the Court of Appeal, ruled that the claim was not out
of time, as argued by the Crown, but the substantive case is still to be heard.
The Sydney Aboriginal Legal Service is handling a matter involving another
Cootamundra old girl, Valerie Wenberg, who makes similar claims to those of Judy