File photo of children and a nun at the Neerkol Orphanage, near Rockhampton, which was investigated under the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.
File photo of children and a nun at the Neerkol Orphanage, near Rockhampton, which was investigated under the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse. Contributed ROK050412neerkol1

House plan ignites 'fire of hell' inside Neerkol survivor

A STRIPPED little girl, standing before the convent screaming for nuns to help her still lives within one of Neerkol's victims.

This memory is one of many to haunt the now-adult woman, and is as raw today as in the years of ongoing sexual and physical abuse between 1961-9 at the horror orphanage.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, first stepped foot in Neerkol a 10-year-old girl alongside her six siblings, aged between three weeks old and 11.

Fire damaged the former girls dorm at St Joseph's Home at Neerkol in 2014.
Fire damaged the former girls dorm at St Joseph's Home at Neerkol in 2014. Allan Reinikka ROK191114aneerkol

Yesterday , a "gut-wrenching” report revealed the walls which had hid her suffering at the hands of Catholic priests, could soon become someone's home.

The Rockhampton Regional Council had just granted approval for a developer to convert two of the 132-year-old buildings into a private residence.

During their Planning and Regulatory meeting, councillors moved a motion of approval for a grazing family to fit out the historical buildings with plumbing and electricity for the new resident to preserve the land.

They have leased the property off Stanwell to run cattle, before recently purchasing the property.

The two buildings highlighted in red are both planned for redevelopment by the new owners.
The two buildings highlighted in red are both planned for redevelopment by the new owners. RRC

The victim said she gave council "hell” at the news, but this was "just the beginning” if they move ahead with the development.

The prospective resident wanted to ensure better management of the property and up-keep the buildings as they are prone to trespassing and vandalism by curious thrill seekers.

But the victim said all it would do is "traumatise us (victims) all over again”.

"I am on their case, I am not going away, you are not going to approve this,” she said to council via The Morning Bulletin in the hours after the decision.

"It was an orphanage, you'd have to change the zoning for starters.

"You better do it or you will have everyone who was there still alive out there blocking it all.

"You are not building where children are buried and dead.”

Statues for the Memorial Garden Neerkol, which commemorates the lost former residents.
Statues for the Memorial Garden Neerkol, which commemorates the lost former residents. Melanie Plane

The victim said a memorial garden, set up to remember the infants and children who suffered at the condemned orphanage, should have marked the "closure of the place”.

Having lived between St Brigid's and Neerkol during her childhood and teenage years, the victim's first home out of care was under the Fitzroy Bridge.

People leave mementos at the Childrens memorial gardens Neerkol.
People leave mementos at the Childrens memorial gardens Neerkol. Chris Ison ROK031116cneerkol4

She lived there about a year before she left Queensland for good, only returning for police and legal matters involving her time at Neerkol.

But this latest move could be enough to lure her back.

Pacing around her inter-state home on a broken ankle, the victim said the "fire of hell” was stirring inside her.

Photo from the archives of the St Joseph's Neerkol Orphanage near Rockhampton.
Photo from the archives of the St Joseph's Neerkol Orphanage near Rockhampton. Photo Morning Bulletin Archives

"I will lead the charge alright... plenty of ex-residents are still living in Rockhampton,” she said.

"We have a lot of leverage.

"They (ex-residents) will walk from Brisbane to Rocky if they have to.

"They (developers) can't do it, out of respect for those dead and buried out there, there's a lot of children buried out there.. you have to have some respect.”

Drone footage of the Neerkol Orphanage showing the remaining buildings with the two far left chosen to be developed.
Drone footage of the Neerkol Orphanage showing the remaining buildings with the two far left chosen to be developed. Allan Reinika

The Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse concluded the St Joseph's Orphanage at Neerkol was run by 'sadistic nuns' and festered in part due to inadequate government scrutiny, supervision and training.

Thirteen former residents of the orphanage, now aged in their 50s to 80s, detailed the serious emotional, physical and sexual abuse by priests, nuns and grounds workers

They recalled abuse ranging from pubic floggings, being walked on by high heels and being made to drape urine-soaked sheets over their heads.



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