Recitations of 'sorry' are no help to this survivor

Abused ... Sue Treweek suffered under state care.
Abused ... Sue Treweek suffered under state care.

JASON spent his days lying on a mattress. He had a muscle-wasting disease, which had left him little movement and unable to talk.

''One day, a nurse went past and Jason wanted to go to the toilet,'' said Sue Treweek, who would spend eight years in the same ward at Wolston Park Hospital's Osler House after being placed there as a 15-year-old in 1980.

''I was only about eight feet away from him and he brushed the nurse's pants with his hand and the nurse has turned around with his steel-capped boots and kicked Jason's teeth out of his head, literally. He smashed this little boy's teeth. They didn't get a doctor to him for a few days and the next thing I remember is these people in suits and his mother - they all came and they took him out of there. But they would have told him that a patient beat him, they wouldn't have said a nurse beat him.''

Ms Treweek is one of the ''lucky ones'' who has had people in power listen to her story and was able to testify in the 2004 Senate inquiry into ''forgotten Australians''. As she told of her experiences at Wolston Park, two senators had to be helped from the room.

''Witnessing, seeing and experiencing things like that,'' she said, ''I'd like to see a separate inquiry. And some real help.''

Ms Treweek, a ward of the state, was sent by a nun at Nudgee Orphanage in 1979 to Lowson House, a mental health facility within the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, for rocking herself to sleep.

A psychiatric assessment found she did not suffer from a mental illness but, when no institution would take her, Ms Treweek was transferred to Osler House, a long-term maximum security ward, in 1980.

''They called me a catch-22 because I was bound by two systems - by the child welfare system and the Health Department,'' she said.

Raped and sexually assaulted, beaten and witness to atrocities against children and the disabled, Ms Treweek said she spent much of the eight years lying on the floor of her concrete room, too drugged to move.

''I think the most damaging thing was the isolation cells. Spending day after day in there, not knowing when you would be getting out. If we behaved ourselves, we got a bucket, but otherwise you would try and hold on or go to the toilet in the corner of the room,'' she said.

''They would control whether it was day or night for you - you wouldn't have a clue what day it was.

''From the beatings and being forced to lie on the concrete all the time, and because of the submissive holds, I have no discs between three of my vertebrae. Soon I won't be able to walk and they won't even give me a wheelchair.

''No one ever argues with me and says 'no Sue, we didn't do that', or 'it wasn't that bad'. They say 'oh yes, that was terrible, so sorry'. But 'so sorry' doesn't cut it when I can't live. Half the time I can't leave my house because I feel like I don't belong in society. I have never been able to sleep in a bedroom.

''I have a spine that is about to clap out on me because of what they did and they just say 'sorry'.

''It's not enough.''

This story Recitations of 'sorry' are no help to this survivor first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.