Historia est Magistra Vitae

"History is Life's Teacher" ...  Historia est Magistra Vitae

This phrase above conveys the idea that the study of the past should serve as a lesson to the future.  My story is a lesson to the future of all mankind and families.

"The smallest children are nearest to God, as the smallest planets are nearest the sun."
   Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825)

Eyes are mirrors to ones soul.

I am small in stature … I was never a large person!  I had the pet name of “Sparrow” as a child, Jack called me this.    When I came to live here in the Bellingen Shire moving down from Brisbane there was already a teacher with the name Sparrow so that name  went like everything else! Out the door because I felt I couldn’t be called this as well.

There was already a Sparrow and what would she think of me! I had lost my original nickname of “Cindy”, by choice.  Sparrow was my son’s teacher up the Valley at Orama School.  So Sparrow left… those little skinny legs is how the name came about.  Jack always called me sparrow or snookums, I loved both names!

Sparrow legs he would say with joy, come over here!  I felt loved having such a cute birdie name! I called him Dad, he wasn’t my daddy though.  He was my Great Uncle and he was married to my Grandmothers sister, this is why he was my great uncle, even though he was great!  “JACK”  he was called but his birth certificate read Michael John Cussen, and he was born in 1907 in Stanthorpe Queensland to Irish parents.  Some time in the late 1920’s he married my grandmothers sister Edith Violet Butler and they had one child Mavis Violet Cussen and they acquired Kay and I as ring-ins to the family down the track a bit!

My life story will be something epic once I start writing.  Shall I write it here?  Here seems like the place to start I think! But not today or in the next couple of weeks either, but there will be a start time.

But I am a story teller, I tell stories to myself! If you have trouble believing that, don’t, because I do!  I am my own friend and someone whom I can speak with out loud any time I so choose to!  Funny stuff that hey.   It is probably because I have spent a lot of time alone,  abandoned as a child and then again as a teenager and then by my ex husband who developed a super sport from the idea!  He was  also good at this abandonment game.

William Henry Peters and Mary-Ellen PetersON BEING BORN

I was born Mary-Ellen Peters to William and Ellen Peters on the 2nd June 1959,  at the Warwick Base Hospital in Warwick Queensland.  I am the sixth child of a  terribly strange family.  This is a picture above of myself on my fathers lap.  This picture was taken at a wedding of Rita Clark in Brisbane.  Edith and Jack attended this as well as my father for some reason.

My father, you may notice is sitting in a wheelchair,  he was a paraplegic. He used to walk but then he fell at work while working for the PMG.  He fell from a Telephone pole at work and severed his spinal chord.  This all happened when my mother was pregnant with me.  She was two months off, from giving birth to me.  It wasn’t an ideal time to make one’s grand entrance.  From the very beginning I carried a sense of “they don’t want me here“.  Of course I really only became aware of all of it when I was beginning to look around me!  I lived with my great Aunt and Uncle, they reared me from the age of four months from when I was abandoned! I was # 6 and the baby of this lot.   My mother had four more children to my step father and so I am # six of ten, altogether there are four boys and six girls.  That is a lot by today’s standards and even by the standards of then.

I didn’t live with my dad or my mum,  I was different from the onset.  I noticed that everyone else had parents who were much younger, I quizzed Edith on this fact!  I got into so much trouble asking questions.

My Fathers parents were Matilda Stellar Peters (nee Butler) and Markus Henry Peters and this photograph taken below is in the tea rooms at the Killarney Agricultural Show.   It is the only picture I have of  them together.  I have another image of my grandmother but none of my grandfather.  I remember thinking it was funny having grand parents.


My Grand parents on my fathers side!
My GRANDPARENTS on my father’s side.

She was known to everyone as Sissy and he was known to all as Kaye.  He would say his name,  Markus, then he would  say Markus with a “K”.   This is how his nick name evenuated.  This dress my Grandmother has on in this image was Navy blue!  My grandmother was a small person also like myself.  I don’t know how she died.  She was well known as a healthy person who played many sports and she played tennis when she was in her 70’s.  My grandfather loved to work with wood, and my grandmother loved to garden. FunnilyMain Range National Park, Australia Famous wat... enough, but these are the things that make me the happiest!  Gardening and working with wood or crafting something.   I am always striking cuttings from a piece of this plant or that. Just like my grandmother did.  She had an amazing garden in Killarney, which isn’t far in distance from Warwick  in the state of Queensland  in Australia.

Killarney is a  pretty town nestled in the rainforest foothills of the Great Dividing Range in South East Queensland adjacent to NSW, with the Queen Mary Falls situated nearby.

Mary is  also my name, so I liked those falls.  I went there many times in my early life before I was 12 years old.  I have been back a few times.  My father is buried here with his Mother and Father and his brothers and his sister and now sadly also his grandson is also buried there as well.

Started to add more to this on ANZAC DAY25th April 2011

So I experienced serious trauma and shock before I was born into this world or had even left the womb of my mother.   A baby feels everything whilst in utero, we know that.  We don’t have to reference that.  All mother’s will agree with this statement, that  I am sure.  My mother was approximately 7 months pregnant in her third trimester  with me.  This is when everyone’s life changed dramatically forevermore.  She experienced a shock of insurmountable measure.   Her husband, the breadwinner and father of all of her children had just been in a serious accident at work.   He was taken urgently to Brisbane to the Princess Alexandra Hospital.   He had lost the feeling in his legs and was rendered a paraplegic.  She was in shock.  My mother was carrying me inside her tummy and she had five other tiny children at home to take care of during this shocking time.  Times were not easy then.  There was no social security or help for woman in crisis like there is today.  Nothing!

A couple of months later after I was born, my chance of ever knowing what having a mother would be like would be over for ever for me.  I would never ever again feel the arms of a loving mother hold me or love me again.  I was only four months old and very tiny.

My mother had become somewhat of a fantasy person to me.   Like a gift that got hidden behind a cupboard accidentally.  I found her finally when I was 18.  Forever I will send out thanks to a boyfriend Tony O’Dell from Tamworth  who urged me to go and find my mother and he helped me to initiate this.  I’m glad about that now.  It is difficult for me to start as it’s all very raw emotion  every step of my long arduous journey.  I have been a hyper-vigilant most of my life and so it feels like this is as good a place to start as any hey.

These days I am  in my fifties and I really want to get past some of the mess that has been holding me back in my spirit for as long as I can remember.   Perhaps I  remember too much and too far back into my troubled lonely childhood.   It will be a journey you can take with me while I continue to unhinge myself from some of its pain while I write!

What Happened to everyone – The rest of my family

First off, when my mother left me, my mother bathed me that day she left, yep! and she just walked out and left.  She put a really pretty dress on me and laid me in the middle of the bed with pillows.  I was a tiny baby,  I was four months old.   I am guessing she thought that  I wasn’t going to go very far at that age.  I got really hungry laying there,  when I was found a number of hours later,  it was evident that my sister was trying to help me out and stop me crying by giving me her bottle.   She had been left in her cot and she was two years old.  I am not sure where  my other brothers and sisters were but I think some of them were at school when our mother  left.

All of this is bits and pieces of stuff  that I heard as I was growing up in a house with a woman (Edith) who hated my mother (Ellen).  I  don’t remember it all  by myself.  I only remember others talking about it as I was growing up.  My mum had been a “Bar Maid” and in that era it wasn’t the job it is today.   Women with a less than reputable nature were ‘Bar Maids’ in  pubs. I assume this was  mostly because woman did not frequent such places of ill repute.

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety

My first Memories

At around 8 months old I remember climbing out of my cot in the corner of the bedroom of the house in Stanthorpe where I had been taken to live.


I shared a bedroom with Kay  in Stanthorpe.   I remember throwing out Kay’s Teddy Bear  named Rumpar she had named herself when she was a baby some 14 years earlier.   Rumpar had been given to me by Kay to hold and to love because I had  taken quite a liking to him from the moment I first held him.   Kay carried me that fateful day away from my home to Stanthorpe.  She said she had tried everything to sooth and calm me as she carried me in her arms in the car after I was taken from Warwick and my parents house to my new home with my Great Aunt and Great Uncle for the next twelve years of my life at Stanthorpe which was approximately 30 miles south of Warwick Queensland.

I climbed out of my cot early, I was about 8 months old Kay has since told me.   Bars could not hold me in.  I climbed into bed with Kay and I got a lot of comfort from this and so from then on in I slept with Kay in the big double bed until I was seven years old.  I was seven when Kay left home. to live in the big city of Sydney!

I had photographs taken of me at Crostin Studios at Stanthorpe and I was approximately eight months old. I was in my favorite dress which funnily enough I had given a name to. The dress I wore in that photograph was known to me to be my “circus dress“. I was very obviously attached to it.    Apparently, I loved that dress beyond what was considered normal.

Edith gave it away or sold it, I remember people taking it from the Dining table in the lounge room and I remember crying uncontrollably after that.  A little bit later (a few months) on I had a dress I then named my “birthday cake dress”.  I really must have loved those pretty little dresses,  I still remember them fondly!  I gave them their own special names.  Who does that sort of thing?  Rhetorical question.

I also recall that I had a blue potty.  I remember that these dresses were sold or given away with the Potty  probably to a mother in need.  Blue though and then I remember I had a blue harness because I used to do the bolt and take off from Edith.   My Great Aunt had immense difficulty keeping up with me from day dot!  I would not eat or drink for her.  Most obvious it is to me now that I was having extreme separation anxiety issues.  I was so young and I was breast fed to that point of separation and I had never had a bottle before really other than the ones my sister tried to force me to have when I was crying on the bed.   I was four months old and where was my mummy!  Yes I am absolutely sure there wasn’t much sleep in that house  in the earlier parts of my life when I came to town.

Post office at Warwick, Queensland

Warwick post office, the town where I was born.

There are many stories.   I remember hearing about how I was so close to death because I was suffering severe malnutrition, I wouldn’t take any nourishment.  I would not take to the bottle, I refused to drink from it because I was  “breast” fed!  There wasn’t a weaning process.  I was experiencing my second round of shock and trauma and I was only four months old.  Kay said it was very sad watching me cry so much.  I loved Kay, we became close from that moment and we are still very very close to this day.  Kay lives at the Gold Coast these days.

Kay was fourteen years older than me.  She was adopted by my Great-aunt and Uncle and so she was also a child from the Universe as much as I was. One thing that differed was that  I was not the same child which Kay was and I lived in the shadow of this for the entirety of my twelve years in Stanthorpe with the Cussen Family.

Many things come to mind that I would like to write about.   I remember a lot of things from my early childhood, so many details, and it  wasn’t all real pleasant.  It was a nightmare a great deal of the time.

Kay said that I already played with my hair and I was doing this when they picked me up.   She said I only had six hairs on my head and that I knew already at four months where they all were! Today you always know that i’m tired when I start playing with my hair.  I get great satisfaction from this.  Doing this felt incredible like cold silk being pulled through your fingers.   I guess my hair became my mother the day she left. My comfort.  Edith and other’s said it was kinda cute.  My hair has always felt incredible to me.  So does other people’s  hair on heads which are handy and that can be a problem at times.  I am exaggerating here, but I will play with the hair of other people if they get too close to me.

I remember traveling in the green zephyr, I was about two and I had the best spot in the car to travel.  I used to stand behind Edith’s left shoulder as she drove!  I remember this so clearly, today’s standards have most certainly come along way since then. At about the same age I have the most vivid memory of standing behind the wheel in Jacks Utility the old Holden and saying to him as he worked under the bonnet, ” Call it a Barf-ted and it will go!”  I remember looking left and seeing Kay and Edith looking out the window at me! I had no shoes on and i had a little cotton dress.   So fond of this memory as I remember the sun was in my eyes so it was late afternoon

I remember many other tiny anecdotes along the way believe me! Like the time we all went up north  to Sarina.  I will have to check on this but I think I lost “Rumpah” on this trip.   Sarina was a sugar cane growing town close to Mackay.  There were more relatives up there.  Another great-aunt.  Aunty Elsie and Uncle Charlie.  The auntie was my grandmothers youngest sister.  Uncle Charlie was called  “Chook” by all who  knew him.  He was a cane cutter and worked hard.  I remember him coming home  all black-faced.  The fields surrounding the town were ablaze and it was the most intense smell.  I loved it.  It was hot there and it was uncomfortable at night with the intense humidity.

Then came the best bit that I remember about that journey.  We went out to a place called “Salonica“.  This is where my uncle Charlie and Aunty Elsie’s boarder, Kelly had a fishing shack and a fishing boat.  I loved that place like you would not believe.  It was a Fibro nightmare really with no glass in the push out Fibro windows – these were held open with stakes and this shack was built up in the sand hills.  The boat was nearby.  Let me tell you about this dwelling.  I could draw a picture of it today if I had to.  It was like magic to me and every time I smell mosquito coils my mind is taken back there still to today.  The mosquitoes in the north of the country would most definitely carry you away and I guess they burn excesses of these as that is the smell I remember.

Not far from the shack was a small waterway that flowed into the sea, Jack and everyone went fishing up there.  Edith hated fishing and complained endlessly about the sand and the mosquitoes  and the smell of the fish.  She was never much fun.  I was fascinated with this place where we were and this was very exciting to me.  I wandered off up the river bank while Edith had her back turned reading a book, Jack and everyone else were fishing.  This place had crocodiles so I found out later on in my life.   I didn’t know what the heck they were all spinning out about.   I was finally found in a very unsafe spot. I remember the sting of Edith’s hand on my leg and we went back to the shack immediately for a flogging with the strap.  Bad bad me.

As long as I can remember I didn’t ever feel much love from my Great Aunt.   She was a good woman but she was a somewhat  hard and bitter woman.  I never really understood the depth of why  until after her death.   I was 45 years old and living in Bellingen NSW when she passed and she passed on my birthday while Kay was visiting me at the time.  Edith was in hospital in care and she took a fall and passed away at 94 years of age!  A Tough woman who was only one of many tough woman who were all my grandmothers sisters.  There were a total of twelve siblings in her family,  and so there was a lot of people to remember and that brought many joyful expeditions in the car to see these great relatives in lots of places around SE Queensland and up North Queensland.

What I do remember from very early on is the absolute physical pain of being flogged.  While I was flogged Edith would tell me each time that I should have been drowned at birth.  Those words hung in my head like the smell of a rotting sewer.  It never ever went away because each time she flogged me which was daily on at least three occasions a day she would say it again!  Reinforcement like that is a powerful tool that left an invisible, indelible scar on my heart.

In a somewhat strange twist, I had almost drowned twice before I was six years old.  Both times Kay saved my life.  Both times Kay was looking after me.   The first time was in the little swimming bathes at Stanthorpe in the park in Marsh Street. The other time was while we were all holidaying at the Gold Coast and we were at Kirra Beach.  The water was a long long long way out and I remember walking for ages and then I remember drowning and then I remember Kay saving me.  Needless to say I am not the best swimmer today, actually I can’t swim.  I am capable of maneuvering myself in the water and staying afloat but not swim in any classic way. Both of those times I almost drowned it was my hair that helped save me.  Kay said on both occasions she could only see a little blonde knob bobbing up and back under the water! I remember these occasions and they were absolutely terrifying. Water didn’t seem to be my friend.  Edith used to poke fun at me and tell everyone I was scared of water.   All I can I recall was the feeling of being belittled and although it was only a bath, I just didn’t want to be alone in there in the bathroom with the water.

My Father

I have early memories of my father and the fact that he couldn’t walk and was in a wheel chair.  I remember he came to visit in Stanthorpe twice and I saw him at my Grandparents house in Killarney!  My father drove a 1962 Falcon and it was grey or blue! He had the entire thing refitted with hand controls and didn’t let the fact that he no longer had the use of his legs to get around.  This was a particular rarity in the early 1960’s.  He was a tough man.  A tough man who at this time had now regained custody of all other five children, but not me.  At an early age I found this very difficult to conceive.  I had called Jack and Edith mum and dad forever and I had managed to work it out in my brain that I was very lucky as I had two daddy’s and the other one who was in fact my real father, I affectionately called “Sore Daddy”.  Why?  Because he couldn’t walk, so he had to be sore.  Such a beautiful way of roughing into the brain the fact that this was one chaotic family.

I was dealing with my father’s side of the family here entirely.  There was  an extreme amount of bias towards my mother and I knew not to ask Edith questions and when I asked Kay questions I was always met with vague answers that never said or explained anything! I was led to believe that my mother was the most scarlet woman who had ever walked God’s earth.   I never got any concrete answers that made it fit together.  I was never alone with my brothers and sisters long enough at these brief outings at my grandparents house to ever get down to tin tacks when your five years old and there are kids there to play with.  The atmosphere at these occasions was always that of a party, a big deal.  My grandmother would cook up a storm.  That was  something she was also renowned for; her sponge cakes. It seemed that my father was loved by everyone and even more so because he could no longer walk, losing the use of his legs at work.  The conversations that would take place at these times in front of me were fairly full on and you would think I wasn’t there!

Early Shopping trips to Warwick

Warwick is where I was born and it was also the next largest metropolis for shopping and business next to Toowoomba or Brisbane or Ipswich.  So of ten we would head off to Warwick.  When I was still in my pram on one of these shopping trips we were in Coles and unbeknown to me my mother had spotted Edith and the pram across the shop and was making a bee line for us.  I know this now because my mother told me of this day 18 years later when we finally were re united.   Edith turned on her heels as fast as and we were out of that shop and in the car and heading for home in Stanthorpe.  Now that was different, we had just driven all of those miles and we didn’t buy anything.  See, I knew it wasn’t right but for the life of me I had no idea that it was because it was my real mother who had seen me in the shop.   You know. as I began to understand more and more and about distance and measurement, I found that Warwick is thirty miles away from Stanthorpe.  That isn’t that far.   I never knew I had a mother let alone the fact that she lived only such a short distance away.

Jack always seemed to stick up for me and he would always get chastised by Edith for this act of decency.   He would take me fishing and getting worms for bait for fishing.  I would even beg to go to work with him when I got older whenever he went to work on weekends.  In winter we would set off the local football game together and this is a very fond memory, I couldn’t see a thing except for a sea of  woolen over coats on men and loud cheering and the delicious smell of liniment.

I remember asking my sister Pam who was two years older than me under my grandmother’s house when we were playing some really awkward questions that she also had difficulty in answering.  I really knew nothing.  I knew I was born in Warwick and I had a mother and father and I had a sore daddy.   Gee! It  all made a lot of sense to me,   Quite to the contrary, I could not work out what had happened to me or where I fitted in.

Starting School in 1965

The following year I started formal schooling and that is grade one in Queensland, well it was then.  I realized very quick into this that other kids at school had parents that were way younger than Jack and Edith.   When I learned to write and to spell, straight away I asked why their surname was different to mine.  Why did I call her mum and we didn’t have the same name and on the letters for school she signed each one E.  Cussen –  “Guardian”.

What the hell was a guardian?  “Why are you a guardian on my letters”, I would ask her.   I was told  not to ask questions.  I went to Sunday School, I loved Sunday School.  Really I did,  it was an opportunity to get away from this woman who was so harsh. It was fun too.  I want to tell you the story of me swearing out loud in front of them for the first time and I was six.  I tripped up the back brick steps and kicked my toe and I exclaimed JESUS CHRIST.  I was immediately met with a fury of anger for being so cheeky and swearing.  I remember saying to her No … no it’s not, I learned about Jesus Christ at Sunday school today. It was pretty funny because she really wanted to flog me that day for that.  Kay just kept making her see the funny side in my defense.

When I did start school, the first week was a little frightening for me.  The teacher kept saying PAY ATTENTION.   Edith would not pay for this I thought fearfully!  I was so anxious about how much this attention was going to cost!  I was literally scared to death!  I was scared to go home because I thought they will tell Edith I haven’t paid.    I had no idea where I was going to get the money to pay for this attention!  Oh hell that was so stressful and I remember it till today!

Rhastus the Cat

Before I started school and afterwards , I remember going in the car to so many different places.  Edith was a good driver.  She drove everywhere.  We often went in the car to The Summit or over to Maryland and call in at Auntie Emma’s  she was 80 years old when I was a child.  She gave me my first cat, he was a male cat and I called him Rhastus because he was black and there had been something on about the Black n White Minstrel show and the mention of a Rhastus so I called my cat who was black Rhastus! He was Black and he was so so beautiful and loyal.

My first Death

I experienced death very early in my life. I was given the challenge of understanding why the little boy across the road’s  baby sister had just died!  The father was a police officer and Edith looked after the little boy that day his sister died!  I remember we went for a drive out in the bush and picked flowers in the bush and I kept wondering why did the baby die!  That family moved soon after.   Edith called the copper “Leather Legs” because he was a motorbike copper!  I’m also guessing this little boy who was a policeman’s  kid was deemed worthy for me to be alone with.  He was my first friend and as I write I cannot remember his name! I am sure it will come to me!  Yes as I said it would, It came to me and I am pretty sure his name was Scotty Wilkinson.

Because I was now a school girl, Jack would get me to go to the corner shop on a Sunday Morning and buy the Sunday papers.  He would give me 2 shillings and I would get sixpence change.  I loved doing that and I felt so grown up walking or riding there by myself at six.  I would hurry back to get ready for Sunday school.

The year I started school was the first year I went in the Christmas holidays for a holiday to Inala where my father and brothers and sisters lived.  I remember my cloths were strange next to my sisters cloths.   I did like theirs better and each time my father would buy me a pair of rubber thongs to wear  and each time they were promptly put into the garbage bin  on return to Stanthorpe and  Edith after the holidays.  She said that only really horrible people wore thongs and in the bin the thongs went.   This always left me with even more questions at such a young age.  Who were these people who were most obviously less than worthy people, who wore thongs.

The music in my life was something else.  I was always singing and talking and making lots of noise as Edith would say.  I asked many many questions.  She said I was downright annoying.  When I was about four, I had somehow ended up with a mouth organ ( harmonica) and I got so much enjoyment from this.  But how it worked was a complete and utter mystery to me.  I asked and asked and as usual I was met with more of the same.  I distinctly remember taking the instrument out the back on to the cement footpath and throwing it down as hard as my little arms could throw it down.  I smashed it but that didn’t help at all.  Have you ever seen inside a harmonica?  Its pretty basic.

Click goes the shears and everything changes

The first holiday over and back to school and that year the government changed all of the money system.  It was a somewhat confusing time.  Once again my recall is linked to pain.  On the day the money did change over from pounds shillings and pence to Dollars and cents Edith gave me a shiny new five cents to take to school under the instruction not to lose it.  After school that day the shop near the school was unusually busy with after school trade, everyone was like me and had money in their pockets.  After all its isn’t everyday the entire monetary system of the country changes.  I thought about it for a moment and I summed up that I had not lost it so I may spend this now like everyone else was.  How wrong I was and went I arrived home without my five cents I was made to remember that I had not followed Edith’s orders.

The children of Australia were certainly dealt a very raw deal in 1966.  The sixpence represented six pennies and its equivalent the five cents was only worth five cents some how when the year before we would end up with 18 lollies for our sixpence this then converted down to 15 lollies and we were officially scammed.

This same year my cat got a large sore on his face and it just wouldn’t heal! It was so sad as they were not the kind of people to take a cat to a vets for help.  They had come into town from off the land and in hard times and this was unspeakable to waste money on a cat in their books!  A Waste of money! They told me the cat was going to be dumped in the bush!  I was horrified!  I was beside myself with grief, I didn’t know how I would live with out Rhastus!  They put him in the back of the old Holden Utility and Jack or Daddy as I called him put the torneau cover on top and tied it down!  They went inside and I undone the cover on one side!  Later that after noon, Rhastus came back and was sitting on the back step!  He had found his way home to me.  Jack came home and Edith was so annoyed with me.   The next morning the same process was followed however this time I was locked inside so that I could not tamper with the torneau cover again!  I cried and cried and cried. I still cry for Rhastus and his lonely death he must have had without me. I could barely take that night after night I would hear him in my dreams calling out to me.  I was obviously very traumatized.   Again.

Yes everything was an order, sergeant major.  She was tough.   Later on that year Kay turned 21 and at that time that was the legal age of becoming an adult.  Kay couldn’t wait to leave the little town of Stanthorpe and soon after her birthday she acquired a job in Sydney and she left Stanthorpe as her home forever.  She went off and worked for a very well renowned jeweler in Sydney called Bruce & Walsh, and at that time they were on the corner of Pitt and King Streets in the City.

Kay had left home and now my world was in absolute chaos.  The person who I had shared a bed with for the previous seven  years and who was my only sane solace in all of this had packed up and left.  I felt an uneasy sense of abandonment again.  Our double bed that we had slept in for all of that time was disposed of and Edith bought me a new bedroom suite with a wardrobe and matching single bed and dressing table!  But where would Kay sleep when she come home?

My nights were full of terrors relating to many things and more recently my cat Rhastus and I found getting to sleep such a task.  I used to hide under the sheets and read my dictionary with a torch in the hope that I would fall asleep.  I mention this as these are the books I had, the dictionary and my bible.  I would hide and write letters to Kay in Sydney just about everyday  at the wee age of nearly 8 years.   I would beg her to let me come and live with her as I felt I could not endure the pain and the anger and the wrath of Edith any more.  I wrote each time promising her faithfully that I would not be any trouble and I would wash up.  Just please let me come.  She never said Yes.  My nightmares got worse as I laid awake after another one in fear and thought who the hell am I.  Why doesn’t anyone love me like all the other kids at school.   Even the most obviously poor families had love and communication.  Love was a word I wasn’t allowed to say in this house and love was not freely shown at all ever in front of me.

At school (and we are jumping a lot here) as the next year began my friends were organizing to go after school and play at each others houses.  That would be good but I already knew that I would not be allowed to do this.  I was already under the threat of the strap if I even walked or rode home from school with a single soul.  Jenny Allen lived in the next street to us and she was in my class but she lived in Housing Commission and she was fat and because of this I was forbidden to communicate with her.  Really others must have found this behavior quite bizarre.  Then came the homework issue.  When Edith went to school there wasn’t any such thing as she called.  We had to come home and work she said and school was for school work.  After that doing homework was a challenge that I managed to overcome by sneaking up in the night-time and doing it at lunchtime at school.  This made learning like the others hard.

My first friends

I had friends at school and I could name them all now still, all of them! One of my friends Debbie has  sadly passed away already many years ago with cancer.  Debbie Jones, I liked her and she was one of the blood sisters as we called ourselves.  We all pricked our fingers and became blood sisters for ever.  We did this little ritual under the instruction of Michelle Sofia who seemed most learned in these strange customs.  She was always a vivacious girl.  I had a friend Debbie Batterham who lived not far from me and up the road from her place was Ian Barlow, he was tall and he seemed to live in heaven in such a pretty house and he looked so happy.  I loved going to Debbie’s place on the occasions there was a birthday party.  Sometimes if I was lucky I could get a lift home with Deb and her sister in her mothers most awesome gold coloured Brougham Holden that had the best seats in a car I had ever seen.

Then there was Margaret Stuart, she was a Gemini like me and her birthday is also in June.  Every year she would have an amazing birthday party and twice I slept over in primary school.  I was allowed to go because Jack knew ‘Rab” her father.  I loved it at Margret’s house.  ‘Everything was a little untidy and sometimes the beds didn’t get made formally but instead they were pulled up.  Everything was comfortable and the house was a lovely place to go as it was out-of-town on many acres.  Margaret was a little spoiled as she learned Piano and Violin and she was taught ballet and Scottish dancing.  I did envy her!  I loved music so much.

“At school” was a place I loved.  There was an whole other life there.  We played the best games, elastic and ball and Vigero.  When we were younger in grade One, we all busily built pretend houses with masses of pine needles which  had fallen from the trees in our play area.  We were like frantic busy bees fighting to get the best stuff to build with.  So much fun and so many great memories!

I had some close friends  at Stanthorpe school and I loved going!  I took pride in my work and I was an interested student! I wasn’t a naughty child at all!  Quite to the contrary, I could not have been better behaved.

Writing to Kay endlessly

Every day I continued to write letters to Kay who had moved to Sydney.  I was pleading with her to let me come and live with her as I felt that sometimes I would not be able to survive or endure the pain of any more floggings!  They were three times a day every day and more as well on top of that but always those three!  I have physical scars on my body from these floggings / Edith was  a brutal person with a razor strap in her hand!  I would write to Kay as I didn’t have anyone else to turn to!  I was desperate and Seven years old!  Looking back I still remember how desperate and alone I felt then!  I felt that Kay had walked out on me as well!  She was and had been my only comfort in the seven painful years previous!  I wrote letters and stole stamps from Edith to post the letter!   I even stole money from her purse to pay for the stamps sometimes and i saved my lolly money up from the paper change that Jack gave me each Sunday and I never put my Sunday school money in the plate / I’m sorry Lord for that!  I’m sure that My god knew why?  I’m good with it!

Kay would come home for a visit and I would be so excited each time! I never ever wanted her to go!  I would cry for days when she left.  I would spend the entire time she was home trying to convince her to take me back with her!  I stopped writing letters.  I guessed she just didn’t understand!

I spent as much time with Jack as I possibly could in those years before I was 12.  Jack did great things, he picked apples packed apples polished  apples and entered apples in the show.  Apples had been his life from what I could see, he used to be on an orchard until he had a heart attack and the doctor told him to sell the farm!  This happened a year before they got me!  So by the time I came along they had moved into town.   He worked in the industry for other people but it was still apples.

I went fishing with Jack and worming and visiting Italian Apple Growers in the area!  Fishing was so much fun!  I didn’t learn anything though not much anyway.  I was always too noisy Jack said!  I did learn how to find worms everywhere though.  He showed me how to rub the rocks and make the worms come up from everywhere.  I still do this today and no one believes me.  You have to see it to believe it!

Jack packed apples for the various families to display in the Local  Show and at the Sydney Easter Show and the Brisbane Exhibition.  He had ribbons upon ribbons and awards for this little past time!  He was a veritable legend.  I did love Jack so much!  He would pull me into him close as we walked along!  Come on snookums he would say!  “The old muz is a bit cranky hey“.   Jack was never ever cranky with me, not once that I can ever recall.    He taught me to ride my push bike.  I remember the day clearly and I rode, as you do straight for the one ornamental tree in the yard!

On weekends when the season was on and he was working in the big packing sheds he would take me with him on weekends.  We would go out to Ballandean to the C.O.D.   which stood for the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing.   That is who Jack worked for.  I would spend hours and hours in the sheds looking around the place!  I would make cases on the case making machine.  You wouldn’t let a kid near that today, I must have had some brains and strength as it was operated by you feet!

Edith joined me into Brownies.  Which had to be one of her better ideas.   She said this would help me stop missing Kay so much.  Well at least she had heard me on that score I suppose.  At Brownies and I was immediately in heaven.  I was in the Tintookie six.   The sixes I remember were the Sprites, Faeries, Tintookies, and one more I can’t remember, perhaps it was the Gnome six.  I would come home from there and play brownies.  When I was old enough I went up to guides.  Guiding was an amazing experience.  Not that I did anything really far out like become a queens guide or anything exciting.  I was a leader though, and I did  so many badges.  = I loved doing badges and I learned very early in life through guiding  the ‘reward for effort‘ life lesson!

Jack got very sick

When I was eleven, Jack got sick!  He got really sick and had to have lots of operations.  He had something in his big bowel.  Of course everyone jumped to the conclusion it was cancer but it wasn’t cancer!  He had swallowed a stick or something similar and somehow this had lodged in his big bowel and it was causing absolute havoc for him!

He had a lot of operations and just when he was about to come home from the hospital he was waiting for Edith to come and sitting in the sun on the hospital veranda with another chap waiting for Edith when he let go of one of his massive sneezes and his entire stomach burst open! He caught his stomach in his hands  and the chap with him near died of shock!  He was rushed to theater where they stuffed everything back in and sowed him up!

He was in intensive care and of course we were all very very worried.  I was scared.  Kay came home.  I knew when Kay came home it was serious.  He did recuperate really well in hindsight now from that shocking event.  However he wasn’t ever much good in the tummy area and the muscles etc around there were non existent!  It made it hard for him because he was a hard  worker.  My goodness he had nearly died from a sneeze.

Soon after this time Edith started talking about how she could no longer keep me living with her anymore because Jack was sick now!  He had trips in and out of  hospital on the regular!  On one of those occasions when everyone was visiting him and I was left at home alone, I had my first cigarette.  It was one of Kay’s Benson and Hedges.  I was angry that I wasn’t deemed worthy of going to the hospital to see Dad, I missed him too!  Might make a bloody noise Edith said.  Anyway that was my first cigarette at 11.

The radio always played in the house! It was good.   We didn’t have television for some years so the radio was really used a lot!  I loved singing so much and sang along with all of the songs,  we would sing songs at Brownies and Guides and at church and Sunday school.  I loved so many, but there was one I would get a flogging for singing it and that was the song “I’ll never fall in Love again”.  I was not allowed to say the word LOVE.  If I did I got into trouble.

All through all of those years the floggings never stopped.  They got decidedly worse in severity and frequency.  I was bleeding on all of my hands and on my legs daily.  I have scars now from where this happened on my body it happened so often.  I was so sad and I felt so alone and I wondered if  I could go on.  I wondered if I was strong enough and I  remember feeling like I couldn’t do it.

I really started to rebel against some of the  harsh ways of Edith’s discipline.   I guess Edith thought she would not be able to control me!  I was a good kid really but she was frightened.  She talked about it all year.  Year 7 was my final primary school year and I started High school  in Stanthorpe.

Before I started High School, Edith took me to Warwick and had all of my hair cut off like a boy.  She said she did this because my hair would attract boys so she made me look ugly.   I went to high school with a boys haircut!  It wasn’t pleasant, answering endless stupid questions about why.   I was there for 6 months.

Then overnight with no warning  she shipped me out to Ipswich to stay with Auntie Ester who had been my (sore daddy) dad’s Housekeeper at one stage in Brisbane.   Auntie Esther and Uncle George (not related) lived on Blackstone Road in Ipswich and I started high school and finished Grade 8  at Bremer High.

I ended up attending  seven high  schools in the end! That was so hectic!  My first day at Bremer High,  I seriously had never seen a school that large and I was so worried.  Stanthorpe was a tiny school compared to this one I was now at.  I was so lost and of course I knew absolutely no one!  I had a different uniform on as well.  What a mess.  I made some friends and still to this day wonder where she is, Laverne Murphy.   She was aboriginal and she was so funny.  I really did like her and it was 1972 already!  I said good-bye to her though and I haven’t ever seen her since.  I was off after the holidays at Christmas time to another new school,  I was terrified.   Post Script added… I have since found Laverne Murphy on Facebook and funnily enough it turns out she is a friend of my older sister Julianne who is five years younger than myself.  She barely remembered who I was.  So although she made a huge impression on me, I did not do the same to her sadly.  I sent her a copy of our school photo.  She was glad.

Going to Warilida Children’s Home

During the Christmas Holidays I was picked up from Auntie Esther’s place by the Children’s Services Department car.  I felt like a little criminal.  I did not know what was happening to me or where I was going.  They asked me so many questions and my head was so full and I was terrified.  I had all of my cloths with me.  I had my girl guide uniform and the lovely crochet dresses that Kay had made for me which were such beautiful pieces of work!  They confiscated the lot.  I never saw them again.

This was my home [twice] The house was originally called Rowallan and was owned by the Muir family on Kedron Park Road before it became the Diamantina Receiving Depot. In 1897 it was a boys home from Sth Brisbane moved to here as it was the Boys Home before relocating to become the Ennogera Boys home on land at Ennogera. In 1931 Wooloowin State Children’s Home was also known as the Diamantina Receiving Depot and Infants’ Home. It became known as the Warilda Receiving and Assessment Centre in 1967 and closed its doors in 1989. It is now a Conference Centre.  Photo From Famous Houses in Brisbane Collection.

I suffered badly because of this l.  They took my stuff.  I never ever saw it again.  My girl guide uniform and my lanyard and my badges and my hat and belt and my tie.  All gone!   I still cry for this stuff.  Those items symbolised a lot, it showed to me that I was someone and from that day forward I have struggled immensely dealing with this.

I want to know where these things went.  Was it so hard to keep it for me?  I hated the government for doing this to me.  That was only the beginning!  Kay was upset about the dresses as she had spent hours and hours and hours making them.  I remember the name of the nurse who took them even! Her name was Nurse Shirtee.  How is that for memory.  Guess it did impact me heaps hey.

My first Sexual experience

The very day that I arrived there to this children’s home, I was taken over to the Ward as it was called to the big kids section.   There was babies and toddlers and big kids!  I was a big kid because  I was 13.  I was taken down stairs and my hair was dipped in kerosene and I had a toweling thing thrown around my hair.  They did this to everyone who came into the home.  It was assumed that you had head lice and this was the treatment and once a month it happened whether you needed it or not.   That night was terrible.  I had never seen a bathroom like these ones.  They were like a hospital in a way.  The girls followed me down there and the first night I was physically assaulted by the other girls.  It is Rape.  They were brutal and they said it was my initiation into the place.  I was in fact Raped with things and what not.  Very difficult experience for me to even contemplate these days.  I was so frightened.  I learned there and then to shut my mouth.  Those girls didn’t hate me, they did what had been done to them that’s all.  I learned this was the way it was!  Did I ever do that? I don’t remember doing it, but I wasn’t there that long in that particular  home.  It was a receiving and assessment home.

So after the initiation process  was endured from my peers in the Big Kids section bathroom, I had to then endure this also.

I had to visit the doctor.

The girls said he was a pervert,  “old perve” , they called him.  They knew what he was like.  I went in and really I was packing it.  He told me to take my pants off and get on the bed.  He reached his hand inside of me and it hurt so much, I wanted to die.  He then looked at me and said to me,  why did you say you were a virgin, your not!

Yeah  I guess I wasn’t technically a virgin any more after what I had been through in two short days!    He came back and put his hand in again and I was dying inside on that table.  He said all sorts of sexual things to me.  Only years after did I realize what had happened to me, I was so naive coming from Edith’s house.

Sex, Sheesh, I wasn’t allowed to say the word “love”  in that house.  Any knowledge of  sex is something I had none  of.  I had not even  started menstruating  at this point.  I felt so strange and naughty while he was saying these things to me as I knew I was a virgin, well what I thought a virgin was.  I got really angry and ran out of there and was promptly brought back by the matron.  I realized that if I put on a turn it wouldn’t be good for me.  I learned quickly how to play the game in there!  Each day was hell really, I don’ have any good memories of that place really! Who would.  I spent two different times there so I will have to think carefully what happened  on which occasion.

The first time I went to this place I was 13 years old.  I can remember The Strawbs brought out a single, I am pretty sure the name of the song was Go all the Way.  Why do I remember that?  We had a record player in the big girls section and we would play records all day most days to amuse ourselves because it was holidays now!  I had been there about a a week and I broke out in hideous sores everywhere and I was so itchy.  I had chicken pox.  It was summer and I was so hot and itchy and uncomfortable.  I laid on my single little home bed in the summer heat so unhappy! That was my Christmas Day in 1972.  They finally started to heal and I was feeling a little happier.

I got a letter from my best friend Margaret Stuart from Stanthorpe.  Her parents had contacted the children’s home and had organised to get me from the home for a two-week holiday back in Stanthorpe.  I was so excited.  My heart sank when I found out it was only a holiday as I wanted to much to live with them and learn music.  The day finally came and they came and picked me up!  It was somewhat surreal looking at them in the office adjacent to the surgery where so much had happened to me just three short weeks before.  I was so happy and did I feel loved.

My first real boyfriend

That holidays many things changed for me.  Mrs Stuart ( Margaret’s mother) made me my first long dress!  It was so pretty and I did manage to keep that dress where I wasn’t able to keep the other cloths.  It was the prettiest dress and it was shirred just under the bodice.  I kept it until I was married and for some reason I discarded it.  Sadly I don’t have it any more after keeping it for so so long!

That holidays Margaret and Mrs Stuart took me to the Doctor’s  and they had my ears pierced.  Mrs Stuart bought the gold sleepers.  I was so grateful as I had wanted my ears pierced so that I could be like everyone else.  Margaret and I had so much fun that holidays!

I got my first real boyfriend!  Mrs Stuart had made my dress and so all that was left was to attend the ball.  As it was there was a dance on at the Civic Center in Stanthorpe and her boyfriend had a friend and his name was Gary.  Gary Sims in fact and he was older than me by about 5 years.  He worked as an apprentice printer at Samuel Lee and company in Stanthorpe.  Gary’s little brother John was in my class when I went to school in Stanthorpe,  so I knew the family.

I thought he was so handsome, he had the darkest brown eyes and he was so good to me.  A real gentleman.  He bought me my first record I ever had.  It was an album that I had heard the first time that holidays and I had fallen in love with it.  Black Sabbath “Paranoid”.  I was totally sold on this sort of heavy music.  No one knew of this music that I knew, only Gary.

The night of the dance came around and I was leaving the next day to go back to the children’s home in Brisbane.  I was so excited and also so sad that I was leaving my friends and my new boyfriend. I wanted that night to last forever, I felt so grown up.  That holidays I had been to the pictures as we called it and I had kissed a man, as Gary was a man to me.  He worked and he shaved and he was beautiful! He had those adorable brown eyes and long dark hair!  He wore Levi jeans and navy blue bonds t-shirts all the time.  I went home clutching a photograph of him for safe keeping!  I wrote to him everyday.  I don’t remember much more at the moment about that but he did come to Brisbane for Technical college and I do remember somehow driving in his car but how that happened is anyone’s guess now.

I started school the next year at Kedron Park High School on Brisbane’s north side!  Off we all went on the first day in the ancient no longer worn uniforms for that school.  We didn’t half look like we were from the home down the road.  We looked like right dicks.  Our uniforms were the now defunct uniform of that school.  Guess that’s what you get when you’re a government kid.

Government gets to make you stick out like a sore thumb so that your well recognized above everyone else.  I met people there.  It wasn’t a bad school really.  This is where I got my first tattoo.  I first scratched this boys initials into my forearm with a compass until it bled profusely, success I had marked myself and I felt good.  It scabbed up and there were the marks G.T.  Graeme Thompson.  Why was I putting this boys name on my arm when I had a perfectly good boyfriend who adored me back in Stanthorpe.  Heck I had an image to portray, I had to be similar to the other girls from the home or I would be singled out and hurt for my trouble ~ no good girls in there.  That stuff was frowned upon by the others who held the power on situations such as these!

I felt so different there as well, I was a girl guide and I had been trained to respect.  This was a display of rebellion.  Something I wanted to partake in but it felt strange.

Leaving that for a bit because Life in a children’s home is something we will come back to!  I have to be in the right mind-set to write about it and to not get too emotional as it brings up much pain!

Lets skip through to year 10 in High School,  I was a terrible student to teach by this time and three years in the care of the government had taught me well how to be a pain in the butt to annoy people because that is what you did.

Once Marlene Pool and Debbie Clifford and myself let down our uniforms to our ankles for a laugh and to get negative attention.  Miss Astill made us sit on the verandah outside of her office and sew a tiny hem and it had to be left that long for the completion of the year.  So funny to remember this as it was one of the funniest times I had at that school.  I still smile about doing such a wild thing as doing the opposite of everyone else who were hitching their skirts as short as they could.  We felt so good.

After a rather bizarre incident ,I had a desk all of my own outside the principals office! I wasn’t allowed in any classes, I had assaulted the Science Teacher with a science stool, she had my diary and I had to get it back!  Violence was used on me  everyday in my growing years, only stands to reason that’s what I would do if cornered.  I left school with shining marks.  I topped the school in English for year 10.  Probably due to the solo desk I was placed at.

I had already gained a part-time job at K-Mart for Saturday mornings and so when I left school I started with K-Mart, I left there and got a job similar closer at Woolworth’s.  It didn’t work out.  The reason it didn’t work out was because I was from a home.  My register would never balance and they accused me of theft.   The registers were old and who knows, I didn’t steal the money but I was let go.

Losing my eye sight!

I  don’t have many memories about this time now as it wasn’t long before I was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road in Brisbane.   I had enough of living in the children’s home and I knew if I had somewhere to live and if I had a job I could leave.  So that is what I did.  I scammed the children’s services department and set up a pseudo place that I was living in.

It was my friends sisters house.  I never lived there ever but this bought me freedom from the government.  I lived on the street and I worked.  I didn’t earn much money and I think the total I was bringing home for a weeks work was $23.00 and I had to live on that for a week.   I stole cloths off cloths lines, I was really cold that winter.  I lived on the floor of a derelict shop that was abandoned.  I was in  squatting but I was alone.

I was bashed while walking alone one Saturday afternoon, the assailants said  if we can’t get them we will get her and that’s all I remember.   I woke up in hospital and Kay was there.  I couldn’t see. I had been beaten so bad that the sight in my eyes was effected.  I spent about 6 weeks in hospital.  Kay told me that I wasn’t ever going back to that life.  She was sorry that she had not come back to get me back when I was 7 years old.   She was sad remembering I  wrote to her every day pleading with her to come and get me.  Save me from Edith and Edith’s constant floggings.  She said, “Your coming with me, I will take care of you and you don’t have to live like this”.  I was relieved.

She took me to Tamworth to live with her where she lived.   We lived at Oxleyvale.   I got a job at Myer Tamworth and got a boyfriend next door.  His name was Steve Wooderson from Kempsey.  He was a nice kid and he smoked pot.   I had smoked pot and I liked it so this relationship was good and close. Here was someone who I could relate to.  Steven had something of the rebellious life that I had become used to also.

I loved my job, I loved  working for Myer.  I was a junior in the Kitchenware Section.  I was sent to do lots of courses in Sales and I was looking good.  One problem though, one of the other woman I worked with.  She was somewhat elderly and in her late fifties at the time, Mrs Johnson.   There was another I worked with as well Patsy and soon after I started my boss retired and Patsy was promoted to Manager, not Mrs Johnson.  Mrs Johnson didn’t like that at all.  Each time Patsy would give me a job to do, Mrs Johnson would corner me in the back room and bully me.  Today this behavior would not be tolerated.   In my day the older person always had the upper hand or respect.   One day after about two years of this never ending treatment, I just could not take it any more and I hit her over the head with a fry-pan.  The frustration had gotten too much for me and I hit out in anger and frustration.  I was sacked.  She was de-moted to washing up in the takeaway food section of Myer.  So ended that good job.

I had to find another job.  I was so disappointed with myself and my temper and my lack of control.  I then applied for a job at David’s Camera Store.  I got the job.   It was a promising job also.  I was trained to take photographs at weddings of the guests and to assist David in his photographic assignments,  through the week I looked after the shop and I loved it!  David gave me a Minolta 101B  SLR , he told me to take as many photographs as possible.  I enjoyed this and so I anxiously waited for the photo bag to be delivered each day to the shop so as to see what masterpieces I had taken the evening before.

I was doing great.  But, I was my own worst enemy, I was going out and getting smashed to the max and never sleeping.  Just how long could this go on?  I was taking diet pills so I could go to work and stay awake for the entire day and night.   Those pills gave me so much energy it wasn’t funny.  I was 18 and I had no idea what I was setting myself up for.  I have spared you a lot of  detail here as it’s full on all at once.   Suffice to say I was now living in a flat by myself.  Having parties and enjoying life to full. We thought we were cool.  I moved in with my boyfriend into a house.   I wanted to do this as it made me feel safe.  I got into the flat because of Mr Thompson.  Mr Thompson was my friends dad.  I was sleeping with him for money so that I could afford to do the things I wanted and feel like the others who had families.  He bought me cloths and he gave me money and I felt dirty but I felt more like others.  Every time I felt horrible and I felt yucky but I kept  on doing it.  I had gotten away from him by having a boyfriend.

We moved in and it was so much fun.  We shared with two other guys, there were four of us.  No 8 Kent street West Tamworth, just down the road from the swimming pool.  Oh boy did we have fun there.  It was in fact a party house.  How could it not be.  I think it lasted about 6 months, we moved out into a flat just Todd and I by ourselves, and the other boys went home.    We were all still so young!  I had taken a lot of Acid though already.  A lot of acid.  Another long story.  But I remember tripping in our flat and I remember it was hectic.  Todd and I loved each other and I really think I could have lived my entire life with him but my own emotions were guaranteed to screw that up.

We broke up.  I got a flat alone around the corner, I was having fun still but now I had a flat and I had to afford to pay for this!

I moved to Newcastle to Redhead
I moved to Telegraph Point
I was held Hostage
I married to change my name
I moved to the Hunter valley
I worked in Paterson
I worked in East Maitland
I got septicemia
Larson Escaped Prison
I moved to Newcastle
I broke up with Lee
I worked in the Home Grown Trading Post
I met John
I started Work

and on it goes….

I met John Francis Hamilton Baldwin in Newcastle in 1980.  We were married on the 6th November 1982 on the beach at Susan Gilmore Beach, Bar Beach NEWCASTLE.

We were together for eight years before I finally became pregnant with my first child.  I had endured about five years on IVF with the Queensland Fertility Group.  We spent a huge amount of money on this venture and eventually I gave it away and went to work in the BNZ International Bank in the City in Brisbane.  I had a wonderful job at last and I amazingly enough fell pregnant.  There were some issues around all of this because John was having an affair with a girl he met at work at the Embassy Hotel in the City (his night job) and so I sort to seek revenge.  I never saw it as revenge back then but now I do.  I thought it was evening the score emotionally and to a point it did do that.  It is all about energy after all.

I had my first baby, a boy in 1988 on September 19th.  We named him Jesse David William Baldwin.  We lived in Kangaroo Point in Brisbane when Jesse was born.  We moved to Bellingen in October 1989.

I had my second child in 1991.  A daughter, Matilda Sunshine Katherine Baldwin.  She was born very tiny due to circumstances beyond our control, she had the cord around her neck four times and she had only grown to be four and half pound when she was born full term.  She was perfect = though and she had a perfect APGAR Score at birth. She  wasn’t ever placed into a humidicrib at all which is a great indicator how well she responded once born.  The hospital staff were amazed.  This was surely a miracle.  She did have some learning difficulties associated with damage that occurred in-utero due to the lack of oxygen to the brain and what the cord had done to her growth.  She never grew to be a very big girl in stature.  She is 4ft 10in.

In 1996 I gave birth to my third and final child a daughter, Montana Star Christina Baldwin.  I had a lovely time being her mother.  She and I got on best out of all of the kids, we shared common interests with so many things.  She was my birthday present as she was born four days after my birthday.  Each year I say the same thing.  I have the best gift already – I have you Montana.

Bellingen Days ahead……..

The Bellingen Community Kitchen or BCC  ( the soupee)

I had always believed in the provision of God for my life and I had been attending church for sometime when I felt God speak to my spirit about helping others also receive the providence of God.   I had gone to a conference at Hillsong Church in Balkham Hills in Sydney and it was on the 2nd day as we were sitting listening to the speaker speak to us about addicted young girls who were pregnant and this one ladies desire to try to make life better for these girls and their yet to be born babies.

While the lady was speaking my spirit was doing somersaults inside.  I could feel God touching me.  I could feel so strong his impression into my spirit that it was a little daunting.  I knew it was real because it felt that way and I had a genuine sense of knowing it was real.  God was telling me to feed the people.  Feed the people, what with?  How? I was thinking at the time come on God you know I can’t cook.  But deep inside I felt God say to me “Feed the people now”.  Whoa..   when God says Now he means NOW!

On my return from Sydney back to Bellingen I was more than excited to get home and tell my husband what God had done.  I sat down and poured out to him everything that had occurred over the last few nights in Sydney and he just sat mesmerized next to me listening to every word.  He, on hearing the entire breakdown of what had happened in Sydney and how this came about, jumped up with excitement and said well what are we waiting for then.

I was overjoyed that he was there with me on this because God had directed me to do it and what the heck would I have done if he had said no.

There were many things to do to kick this thing into gear but it was all done in God and it was all so easy really.  We had a meeting with the Pastor who was Paul McGovern at that time as Alan Jones was away on holidays.  Paul gave us the go ahead to set up the meetings with the council and away we went.

The health department came and looked and they said it wasn’t up to scratch but we knew the church kitchen wouldn’t be but we told him of our plans to clean it up and make it soup kitchen ready.  He gave us ideas to work with as well and offered to put everyone who would volunteer in the Community Kitchen through the “Safe Food Handling” C0urse.  This was a substantial offer as it costs approximately $100 for each certificate.  The council did this free of charge.  Even 2 of my children have this certificate as well.  Jesse and Matilda, not Montana as she was only four years old at the time.  Matilda was 9 years old and very capable of helping us.

We opened up the doors of the Bellingen Community Kitchen.    I don’t have the records here now to quote them but it was successful.  Each week it went from strength to strength as God worked miracles into everyone to make this happen.  We had a sign made and a banner.  We got a roster and started fund raising and cooking.

I was amazed at the way everyone in the community wanted to help us.  It was amazing and it was God for real at work.  This is the sort of thing that God loves he told me.  God said to me that if  it makes me cry it makes him cry as well.  That one thought was never ever far from my mind in the coming years as this took shape and morphed into a successful helping agency in the town of Bellingen.

It was something that was evidently necessary to bring some of the Great unwashed into the house of God.  I knew only too well that the way to do this was not through the front door but through what I called the “Back Door Ministry” area.   We were out the back,  away from the eyes of the world.   I really had a heart to help people all of my life and I was filled with pure unadulterated joy from seeing the happiness on the faces of the clientele.

We opened the kitchen on Mondays and Wednesday’s.  We chose these days for a reason.  Monday was after the week end when some folks spent all of their money,  and the Wednesday because it was the day before the main pension day when Centrelink benefits were paid.  I chose these days because I really felt led this was the way it should be.

Each week we never knew what we would cook that week.  We would just leave it up to God to organize.  I would come home to my house and up the front steps and on the verandah were boxes of food that had been grown locally by individuals who just wanted to be part of this awesome work.

The butchers of which there were three took turns in donating meat.  Fullers Fruit and Vegetables donated anything vegetable wise that wasn’t already donated to enable us to cook various recipes successfully.  Many cash donations were received, one especially from Mr Kim Harvey who donated the cash for a large freezer unit and he also donated his services to up grade the kitchen electrically for free.  Another elderly lady by the name of Mary Keys offered to make a large desert once a week if John would pick it up off her and deliver her trays back to her.

So you see,  I really felt like I was being the hands and feet of Jesus doing this.  Christmas time drew closer and I was feeling the pain of others really strongly.  I discussed the fact that Christmas time for the lonely of the world was a difficult day.  I had always seen churches and organizations celebrating Christmas two weeks before the day.  To me this didn’t make sense.  The people who came to these establishments needed companionship and love on the day not two weeks prior.  I thought to myself,  we have to do something to change this.

For the next three years we opened on Christmas Day for Christmas Lunch.  One year we had 67 people for Christmas lunch.  I was more than overwhelmed with this figure.  I knew only too well what it was like to be that lonely and if I could just change that for some people then I knew I was doing OK.  One of the Christmas’s our friend Scott Harmer donated cash.  Real live cash for us to give to people when they came for Christmas lunch.  So that year everyone got $25.00 if they were a single person, more if they had a family.  What a blessing that was.  Have you ever wanted to give away money.  I can tell you that is an amazing feeling seeing people so happy.

I had so many volunteers for the kitchen we had to set up a roster system and times even.  Share the stuff around.  Train up people for specialized jobs inside of the workings of the kitchen.  I  investigated University and TAFE courses.  I decided to attend TAFE and I was accepted for the intake into the course – Community Services Welfare Certificate IV.  A two year course in Coffs Harbour.   I attended classes with all the enthusiasm there was, I was very excited to be studying again.

I finished the course and when I graduated there were only 8 people left out of the 35 who commenced with me two years prior.  It was a tough lot of learning for me.  It wasn’t hard to learn just that it was very confronting most of the time re the syllabus and its contents.  It raised many many emotions inside of me that I had to deal with.  I wasn’t getting support from home with this.  I had John telling me that the course was more important than he was.  Why because I had to sit up late and study and do endless assessment tasks.  Anyone who has attended TAFE knows this is the case and there is no mucking around.  They hand that work out thick and fast.   I was not enjoying his treatment of me during this time and I started to see that he was in fact really doing a number on me sexually using the church as his ally in the situation.  Calling it a wife’s duty to submit.

I passed my Certificate IV with a Distinction.  I was very very pleased with this.  I had succeeded and I had done it in true style.  I think I may have learned a few too many things according to the then Pastor of the church who disagreed with me and the entire government legislation around mandatory reporting.  We came to grief over this issue.  The pastor wanted me to divulge to him all  personal conversations I had with clients.  I said NO!  I cannot do that as its confidential.  I said that I would contact the relevant authorities if I was handling a case where there  were child protection issues.  He disagreed.  He said ring him and he would decide.  I wouldn’t do this as I felt that once someone discloses this sort of thing that’s it.

By this time John was falling down bad on his Christian ways.  We had purchased a house.  Our first house in fact.  It was a blessing to be able to afford to pay our very own house of and each day I thanked God for this.

Big Jumps to the here …. approximately very early September 2009

Written about how I felt two and a half years later after this  occurred….

I wish I  wasn’t trying to be funny that day… I’m still worried about me.. Now I sun-gaze at dawn… Yes I’m worried about me lol…. haha NOT! I was being facetious that day and they totally missed the point!

For the record I was having a freaking top day that day up until that moment .  I remember it as clear as if it were yesterday.  I  know where I was immediately before it all happened.  I was in an appointment with Brice and the Social Security Social Worker.  They granted him the pension.   I was so relieved for him,  as he is one person who does deserve a hand up.   The social worker agreed and we were all in tears in the office and she also said this too that after the life that was trust on him as a child and so on and so forth etc etc… and so yes  I was really happy that someone had taken notice of what Adam Patrech (Psychologist) had to say.

Then out of left field turns up Paul Rogers and my son and they were acting really weird and rather like idiots and this included my son in this and then they lay on me the crap they are worried about me, I was attempting humor to be funny and the next minute they are telling me I have been snorting cocaine.   I was joking around with them about this initially because I thought they too were joking and because I was in such a good mood.

In actual fact they had no idea of exactly what the reality of the situation was and you could tell that simply because everything they said to me and accused me of was utter crap based on one comment about me having enough coke.. dead set.. I will never ever forget that day ever!

My son still to date at the time of updating these writings has not spoken to me at all since a series of phone calls a couple of days after this event of these boys accusing me of these hideous allegations re cocaine.

The story of 2 gold rings. 

1. My son’s 16th birthday present.

 On the telephone John  said to me, “what sort of mother does that,  wont give her son’s ring back!”

You see Jesse came and stayed two weeks with us a couple of weeks before the entire situation went haywire when they accused me of snorting coke… That day ended badly and he left the ring behind when he stayed for that two weeks and it went into a jewellery box and then there was no mention of it until after we had packed and moved and I said then it was an impossibility.

Today was the first day I had heard of this.  I had forgotten it.  I haven’t gone through the boxes mostly because this house is so small and i don’t want to clutter it up. Clutter makes my mind spin. So I haven’t filled the house with ornaments and in those ornaments is that little crystal jewellery dish! Hell that is so hectic! I know i have to go through it but now I feel compelled to get it done but I won’t change anything!

He should not have left it behind in the first place for me to have to take care of it and put it away! It would not be this way if they had not come and accused me like that… NO one has ever said sorry for that. That happened and they hold me accountable for my reactions to this.  I’m not sure how one is supposed to re-act to such a situation. Everyone and everything is different, all I know is I still don’t understand anything!

Each time I ask him he gets really defensive and lets out little things like this! about the ring! The Ring is a sad point for me in actual fact. It was Jesse’s 16th Birthday and John had been screwing things up bad drinking and gambling, there was no money for a decent present for him. John suggested he give him the signet ring he was given by his mother because his name had worn off and we could get Jesse’s name engraved in its place  on it.    Polished up ,  it would be a meaningful present. I hid behind all of those lies, I didn’t let on. I lived it. The ring means pain to me if anything.

That is the story of that Ring.

Jesse knew the ring had been his fathers ring.  He thought we gave it to him for sentimental reasons.  Why would I have let on any different and purposefully hurt my son.  His father did enough of that all on his own merits.

2. Clare’s gift to Jesse, another gold ring.

At sometime during Jesse and Clare’s relationship a gold signet ring with a small diamond setting was purchased for Jesse.  Auntie Kay tells me that Jesse made most of the payments on it at the time.  However to the rest of the general world it was a gift to Jesse from Clare.  Clare and Jesse broke up eventually and Jesse starting a relationship with a girl on line called Sarah from Melbourne.

While visiting Auntie Kay and Jesse at the Gold Coast I noticed this beautiful ring amongst a pile of rubbish and junk bits and pieces.  I remarked to Jesse that he should not misplace the ring and it would be a good idea to put it away as it was a beautiful ring.

He said to me there and then,  if I was so concerned with it that I could have it and I could take care of it.  I replied to him surprised at this and said Yeah alright, no worries I like the ring a lot and besides that I still loved Clare.

I came home from the Gold Coast proudly wearing Jesse’s signet ring from Clare.  I even contacted Clare and told her that I had the ring and that I would take good care of it.  She replied to me that she was glad that I had the ring and that it wasn’t going to waste and that someone was at least enjoying it.  Nothing more was ever mentioned about this ring until after I went through the boxes and found the other ring and gave it to John to give to Jesse.

John went on holidays to Jesse’s at the Gold Coast with Montana last September and he was to give the ring to Jesse.  I know nothing more until I get another phone call from John on their return to say that my son had commenced legal proceedings against me because I had stolen his other gold ring.

I was literally floored by this allegation.  I was caught by absolute surprise at this and I was left in a state of shock on the other end of the telephone.  I was shaking and sick with pain in my heart that this had gotten to this.  I was a filled with disbelief at what I was hearing John gloatingly saying on the other end of the telephone.  I tried to reason with him to talk to Jesse, but his enthusiasm to see me before a court for anything was totally evident in his voice as he spoke to me.

About two months after this phone call I went to  Queensland to a Hip Hop festival and I took the ring with me and I gave it to my sister Kay and I told her I was disgusted that Jesse had accused me of stealing this ring.  Both her and I knew this was a complete fabrication because Kay was actually a witness to the fact that Jesse originally gave me the ring in the first place.  She saw this happen.


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  1. Mezza

    I am going to write my life story! Like Helen said Beyond the breakers for her well mine will be called something perhaps Latin.. I love Latin.

  2. Angelique Gordon (nee Cotter)

    Hi Mary-Ellen,
    My name is Angelique. I actually got your name/details from your blog. I am actually the daughter of Laurence Cotter (son of Tess Cotter (nee Cussen) and Dick Cotter). My father was orphaned, spent some time in care and then Ellen Clarke (Cussen) took him in. He had an older sister Maureen. I don’t know a lot about my father’s family (Cussens) and Tess and Maureen didn’t get on and she left home really early (she was quite a bit older than my dad), but I don’t really know.
    Anyway, I mentioned you to my dad, Laurence (“Laurie) and he remembered you and said to say hello and what a lovely woman Kay was. He said Kay was always kind to him.
    I read your blog and am so very sorry about how you were treated by Edith. So horribly sad. What a strong person you are. Take care 

    • Mezza

      Hello Angelique
      Thank you for commenting my blog. Thank you for speaking to your dad. Do you live in Warwick by any chance? I remember all of those names very clearly. And Jack Cussen who was Ediths husband was the Most kindest man ever. He was lots of fun. I liked spending time with him. I miss him heaps. I sang at his funeral. “The 23rd Psalm” Please contact me again with any thing in the future if I can help. Kay is a lovely person alright. She is still that kind person who would not hurt anyone and she is nearly 70 now and still works and is still single never married at the Gold Coast area. Talk soon xxx Ps say hello to your daddy for me please and thank you again.

      • Angelique Gordon (nee Cotter)

        Hi Mary-Ellen,
        I am so sorry I have taken so long to reply – I only checked this blog today because I was talking to dad about the family and how I wish I knew more about the Cussens and I told him how badly you were treated by Edith and the hell you went through after that. He was very sad to hear what had happened to you and I jumped onto your site so he could read what you wrote too. I had no idea you replied to my post. Anyway, its so lovely to hear from you. I don’t live in Warwick. I grew up in Brisbane but I did get posted to Inglewood to teach and would visit Stanthorpe quite regularly to go to the markets. I have been back in Brisbane now for quite a few years now. I would love to one day meet you (but I understand it if too difficult for you) and Kay too. Kay sounds like such a kind lady. My dad (Laurie Cotter) says a big hello and sends his love. My email address is:- angelique.rita.gordon@gmail.com. Hope to hear from you, Angelique 🙂

        • Eminpee

          Hello and I am sending love back …. Are you Ritas Daughter.. I have a image of my father in his wheelchair nursing me and it was at Rita Clark’s Wedding in Brisbane in perhaps 1960. Am I perhaps on the right track here? Best wishes for 2016 – I live in Deepwater now and have been here for the last 9 months and gosh is lovely and quiet too. We are enjoying this and when I sort the internet out I will do a lot more writing- that is the plan. Big love and maybe we can catch up one day then – I dont get to Brisbane too much and these days I have been staying very close to home as home is great to be at. Talk soon.

          • Anonymous

            Hi – great to hear from you again. I am Laurence Cotter’s daughter (Laurie). His mother was Tess Cotter (nee Cussen). Do you remember Tess at all? Would love to catch-up one day. I live in Wynnum in Brisbane. Dad is well and says hi too. Hope things are going well for you in Deepwater. xo

  3. Angelique Gordon (nee Cotter)

    HI Mary-Ellen,
    Sorry to bother you again but Dad & Bernie Cussen wanted me to let you and Kay know that Joe Cussen passed away. You are both invited to the funeral on Tuesday, 10:00am at St Peters & Paul Church, Bulimba. Would love to see you there. Could you please give me Kay’s number as Dad wants to contact her xo

    • Eminpee

      Angelique … I missed this message.. I knew Uncle Joe passed away. Kay went to the funeral and she stayed in the back ground mostly and said hello to Uncle Bernie after the service but she said he was very old and very frail and she feared he would not remember this. Can you remind him that Kay did say hello for me. Kay also brought me the Funeral Service sheet with Uncle Joe’s photo. It was sad to hear Uncle Joe passed… I stayed at his little fishing shack at the Tweed when our son was 10mths old so we could go to Sea World. The last time I spoke to him was at the coast when he visited Kay about ten years ago when he had the transit type van. Thank you for your attempt to let me know though. my email is mezza5555@gmail.com – I have yours and I really should use email more often. Pass on love to your dad Laurie too. He is very right about Kay – a kinder woman was never born. xxx Mary-Ellen (Cindy)

I am honoured you have given me your time, plz say g'day!

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