My story: Survivor Colleen Kelly

Colleen Kelly tells her story as a “joyous survivor” of institutional sexual abuse. Colleen gave evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and has since pursued a claim for damages arising from her abuse as a child. knowmore helped Colleen find a solicitor to take her case and work with her in a trauma-informed way.

Thank you Colleen for your courage in sharing your story.

If you are a survivor of institutional child sexual abuse and need free legal advice or support, please contact knowmore on 1800 605 762.

Read the video transciption

My story: Survivor Colleen Kelly

DESCRIPTION: On a grey background, the knowmore logo. Logo text, with the letters K and W in teal and the phrase “no more” in white: knowmore, free legal help for survivors. A woman in red sunglasses sits by a rocky shore and speaks to camera. Text: Colleen Kelly.

COLLEEN KELLY: I’m Colleen Kelly. I’m 73 years old, and I’m a joyous survivor.

DESCRIPTION: Beside a café, Colleen chats with a woman in a sunhat.

COLLEEN KELLY: I gave evidence at the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse. But they recommended that I go to knowmore and I worked with knowmore, but they then recommended me to another solicitor.

DESCRIPTION: White text on black: knowmore helped Colleen find a lawyer to pursue a claim for damages arising from her abuse as a child.

COLLEEN KELLY: He personally was very interested in this and would I be happy to work with them. And I liked the fact that he asked me, “Would I like to work with them”, rather than, “Yes, I’ll do it”. And we then spent the next three years trying to find an entity that we could hold accountable for the crimes that had been committed against me in that home. And we found an entity. They accepted responsibility and decided to work with us on seeking a resolution to the questions that I had and the needs that I had.

DESCRIPTION: Colleen walks down the stairs between two light blue buildings.

COLLEEN KELLY: When it came to picking the mediator, there was one I felt incredibly comfortable with. I felt, I trusted them. Even though I selected her, she was an independent person in that process, and her job was to be independent, and made sure that both sides had the opportunity to say what they needed to say and to be respected. I liked that. For me, my number one need was to hear somebody associated with that home that they were sorry that that had happened to me. The second thing what I’d like to do is to tell people that the joy you get out of taking responsibility for finding the solution that you need. Yes, lots of tears, lots of panic, lots of angst.

DESCRIPTION: Colleen brings her hands to her mouth in a gesture of anxiety.

COLLEEN KELLY: But the end of every phone call, when we moved a little bit closer, “Yes, we did it!”. And it was fantastic. Really, really good. So that’s very important, because that helps you heal.

DESCRIPTION: Colleen reads a document held in a plastic pocket.

COLLEEN KELLY: The third thing, you’ve learned to trust yourself again, and I had spent my whole life not trusting myself, because of what had happened to me. I trusted myself to make key important decisions that were going to affect me and, potentially, maybe hurt me or not, but I trusted myself. And that is enormous. I walk lighter in the world just because of that.

DESCRIPTION: White text on black: With knowmore’s help and guidance, Colleen found the strength and resilience to pursue options for redress.

COLLEEN KELLY: The day started with introductions, then me telling my story. That was incredibly emotional. Here I was for the first time facing the people that I’d waited 73 years. And when that happened, I knew they heard me, even though they made it very clear, “We were not involved”. And clearly when you looked at their age, you knew they weren’t there. But we accept full responsibility for the body that we are still part of. I understood that this was… they had been left a rotten egg, but boy, did they step up. They were fantastic. They asked questions about was there anything else that they could do to assist me, then I said to them, part of what I wanted to do when I left this room was that I wanted to use this experience, to be able to encourage others to use this process.

DESCRIPTION: White text on black: To receive free legal advice and support please contact us at 1800 605 762, knowmore.org.au.