MANY of the people who attended Sharyn Killens’ book launch at the library on Monday found it hard to control their tears after hearing stories of her physical and emotional abuse in an orphanage and later at Parramatta Girls Home and the notorious Hay Institution.
Ms Killens has co-written the book The Inconvenient Child with former Bathurst resident and long-time friend Lindsay Lewis. Several times on Monday as she spoke of her years of incarceration and rejection by her mother, Ms Killens broke down.
“The reason I am writing this story is to make sure this type of treatment of children who are powerless to respond never happens again,” she said. “We were an experiment when we were put into Parramatta Girls Home and then in isolation at Hay.
“Most of us weren’t bad kids by today’s standards. We just didn’t fit in for whatever reason.
“For me it was because I was born to a white mother with porcelain skin and had an Afro-American father.
“But the worst some of the other girls had done was shoplift or have dysfunctional families and so we were subject to years of horrific abuse.”
Ms Killens’ abuse started from the age of 19 months when she was found at a foster home by family friends covered in lice, a bruised body and sleeping on an old mattress covered by an army rug.
Snatched away, she spent the few years as a toddler in a loving home but all that came to an end when her mother realised it was a house of “ill fame”.
Her mother became more distant after she put five-year-old Ms Killens into a Catholic orphanage at Leichhardt where she was beaten daily by one of the nuns - often until her body was bleeding with no one intervening to help.
The beatings only stopped when her mother took Ms Killens to buy a swimming costume and discovered the marks on her body.
“The fact she was a nun wasn’t really relevant - she was just a child abuser who would have done that regardless,” said Ms Killens.
After constantly running away back to her mother’s home she was declared uncontrollable by her mother and then began her years in Parramatta Girls Home and Hay Institution where she said her spirit was broken.
But Sharyn Killens interspersed her talk with warmth about her friendship with Lindsay Lewis after she was encouraged to audition for the entertainment industry and it became three decades of entertainment on cruise ships and the club circuit in NSW.
The book is an uplifting piece of work that chronicles Ms Killens’ quest to find her father in the United States and of the warm welcome and acceptance from her new family, something she had craved all of her life.