A mother tells the Tasmanian Child Abuse Inquiry Commission that she feels ignored and belittled by staff at Launceston Hospital
A mum phoned Tasmania’s Child Safety Service because she said she didn’t know who else to call as she grew increasingly worried about what was happening to her daughter in hospital General of Launceston.
- The Inquiry heard testimony from a mother whose daughter was abused while a patient at Launceston General Hospital in 2018
- The mother said her concerns about what had happened to her daughter had been ‘ignored’
- She told the commission she was no longer taking her daughter, who has a disability and does not speak, to LGH – instead traveling several hours to Hobart for medical treatment.
Angela* gave evidence to the Commission of Inquiry into the Government of Tasmania’s responses to institutional child sexual abuse on Tuesday.
CONTENT WARNING: This story contains details that may cause distress
She told the commission that her daughter, Lillian*, who has a disability and is non-verbal but able to communicate, was a dynamic ‘people person’ whose life changed forever when she spent time in the LGH Children’s Department in 2018 when she was about 11 years old.
It was the same ward where pedophile nurse James Geoffrey Griffin worked for years.
Angela said Lillian started “acting strangely” around Griffin.
“When I asked him about a rash that had started he wanted to see it, and then when I pulled his diaper down a bit…he came over and patted it with his hand and said, ‘She’s going. to be right. “”
Angela said Griffin touched Lillian on the vagina and made no attempt to communicate with her. She also said that hospital staff generally do not try to communicate with Lillian.
She said when she told Griffin that Lillian was able to communicate, he was “very shocked”.
“Over the next two days things got worse,” Angela said. “I arrived the next day and she was screaming in her sweaty bed.
“The blinds were all down, and it was the room just outside the ward office.
“I just stormed in there and saw her, and I picked her up and gave her a hug, then I gave her a shower, and she had cream all over her vagina. . it was just stuck on it, it wasn’t normal, it’s not right.”
Angela said she noticed that Lillian had an injury to her vagina.
“I was running in and out of the hospital crying because I just didn’t understand what was going on with her and the doctors weren’t listening to me, no one was listening to me, no nurses were telling me what was going on , putting cream on her, none of that.”
Angela said that was why she called Child Safety Services.
“I didn’t know who else to call.”
She said she asked Griffin about the cream.
She said the head nurse told her she could press charges.
“She said she could give me a form to fill out and she did, and she told me she was going to take complaints but whether that happened or not, I don’t I have no idea.”
Angela said no one had ever followed her and she felt hospital staff looked down on her for being a single mother.
“They called me at one point, ‘Oh the girl with the Ugg boots’, you know, that’s how they treated me…they were always happy to see us back to any reason.”
Angela said Lillian suffered from separation anxiety when she was younger, but made progress before going to LGH in 2018.
Now, she says, Lillian was reluctant to go anywhere without her mother, and Angela no longer takes her to LGH for medical treatment. Instead, she goes to Hobart.
Angela said she planned to move out.
For years, Griffin worked as a registered nurse at the LGH Pediatric Centre, Spirit of Tasmania Ferry and Ashley Youth Detention Centre.
He died by suicide in October 2019, a month after being charged with a number of child sex abuse offences.
The first alleged abuse dates back to the early 1980s and, according to an internal review by Tasmania Police, the first allegation against Griffin was made in 2009.
Angela said it was “a big reality check” when child sexual abuse allegations against Griffin were reported in the media.
“Everything made sense since our last day [at the hospital]. It was a big shock,” she said.
The commission of inquiry is holding six weeks of public hearings in Hobart and Launceston over the next few months.
His particular areas of focus are the Departments of Health and Education, Launceston General Hospital, Ashley Youth Detention Center and the state’s out-of-home care system.
When asked what message Lillian would have for the commission, Angela replied:
“That everyone has a voice and just listen, people have to listen.”
*Names have been changed.
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