The graffiti on the holding room wall says it all: ‘Gunyah is hell on earth’. And Ellen’s about to find out why. Ellen was never the daughter her mother wanted. Patent leather shoes and frilly dresses just weren’t her thing and, at age fourteen, she’s ready to leave school and find her own way. No one is going to stop her from going where she wants, doing what she wants, and hanging out with Robbie. Or so she thinks. But when the police turn up, Ellen is deemed to be in ‘moral danger’ and is sentenced to the Gunyah Training School for Girls. Suddenly, she’s no longer Ellen, she’s Girl 43, and she has to follow the rules, work hard and – most importantly – stay quiet. When it’s discovered that she’s pregnant, there’s no respite from the staff. Told she isn’t capable of bringing up a child, they twist the truth to make her cooperate. But however hard they try, they can’t destroy the connection between a mother and her child . . . or can they? Drawn from experiences in Parramatta Girls’ Home in the seventies, Girl 43 is a story that could have come straight from today’s headlines about the shocking treatment of innocent children and teens by people in the very institutions that were supposed to protect them.
Girl 43 was first published under the title Invisible Thread in 2001. Hachette Australia republished it in 2014 following the Royal Commission Inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Girl 43 is now being read in secondary schools and universities by students studying the Forgotten Australians, forced adoption practices, sociology, Australian history, social work and psychology.
Invisible Thread aka Girl 43 was written before its time, when there had been very little publicity about events at Parramatta Girls’ Home and the Hay Institution for Girls, and over 800 similar homes across Australia at that time, where brutality was the norm.
As a result, names were changed to protect the innocent and also to protect me, the author, from legal or personal repercussions. At the time of writing I thought no one cared about what had happened and that anyone who had been locked up “for their own good” was “bad.” I believed that society in general would view anyone who had been sent to Parramatta would judge us as “bad” and deserving of punishment, and that the authorities were well within their rights to abuse and intimidate. Time has proved us wrong. We were not bad, we did not deserve to be punished.
I could not have predicted the huge public outcry and government response to what will be remembered and recorded as one of the worst human rights violations in Australia’s short history.
If you have any questions about the book, please leave a comment or email me and I will do my best to get back to you quickly.
“Girl 43 is well written and will make you angry. It deals with a difficult aspect of our history but one that needs to be examined.”
– Debbie Phillips, Toowoomba Chronicle
“Giles tackles some tough topics, not the least of which is forced adoption, but does so in a way that is sensitive to and respectful of the girls who passed through the doors.”
– Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin
– Cleo Magazine