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A long-awaited memorial garden on the site of the former Parramatta Girls Home will provide a powerful reminder that the abuse suffered there should never be repeated.
The memorial design in honour of the survivors of the home will include the words Never again at its centre.
Parramatta Girls Home was a reformatory and training school for girls. Many former residents have spoken out about the abuse, torture and violence they experienced there.
After a Royal Commission in 2014, the NSW Government agreed to develop a memorial that would commemorate the survivors of Parramatta Girls Home on the site of the former home.
Bonney Djuric, a former resident of Parramatta Girls Home in 1970 said that her experience was one of fear, uncertainty, aloneness and shame.
“I felt that I had done something terribly wrong to be punished in such a way – of course I hadn’t, but the idea that you weren’t worth anything and would amount to nothing, was very much impressed upon us in the home,” she said.
...no good can come from locking up people in need of care
Ms Djuric said most of her fear was due to the other girls who would bully the more vulnerable girls, like herself.
She said that being able to reconnect with other former residents had been a tremendous help.
Ms Djuric, as the founder of Parragirls, a support network and contact register for former residents, said that it was important for Parragirls to be represented in the process and for the design to acknowledge their contribution and insights.
“I hope the memorial provokes curiosity in people who have no knowledge of the site, its history or the children once incarcerated here to understand that no good can come from locking up people in need of care,” she said.
Former residents of Parramatta Girls Home met with the Minister for Family and Community Services, Pru Goward at Parliament House this month to view the memorial design.
“The memorial will not change what happened, but it will send a clear message that abuse against children is not acceptable and should never happen again,” Ms Goward said.
“We heard from more than 80 survivors of the Parramatta Girls Home while we were planning this memorial and what they shared with us were stories of the long-lasting impact of the abuse they experienced at the home.”
The design is very much a collective response
A Sydney based design group, Trigger, were selected to design the memorial.
The former residents were involved in contributing to the design process.
Gregory Anderson, Creative Director of Trigger said the design was very much a collective response.
“I’m the conduit to which these women have expressed how they want their stories to be told and how they want this trauma of this experience in their lives to be remembered in a physical way,” Mr Anderson said.
The memorial design- the center piece says "Never Again" and the scratchings etched into the walls made by the girls during their time of confinement are seen on the stone.
Mr Anderson said that the memorial uses plants, pathways and natural materials with discoverable messages.
“It’s very much a landscape response as much as a built response. One of the main factors was to create a living memorial rather than a dead, relic one,” he said.
The scratchings that were etched into the buildings and the dungeon when they were confined on site have been transferred into stone so that they can be collected and read by others.
The memorial features a plaque in the center that says, “Never Again”.
Mr Anderson said that one of the women’s main aims is that an experience like this never happens again to anyone.
“They [the former residents] don’t want this type of trauma or treatment to happen to any other women or men for that matter or anyone,” he said.