Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Mick’s story

By Bernie Matthews - posted Friday, 17 August 2007

The state-sponsored child institutionalisation process that created emotional wastelands where abused and psychologically crippled children matured into adolescence continued to create men like who wreaked a terrible vengeance on society. Those creations were the unintended consequences of state-sponsored child caring.

Mick Kennedy and his sisters; Rita, Ruth and Roberta, grew up in the state-sponsored child nurturing process when they were assigned to the care of the Barnardo's homes after their parent’s marriage broke down in 1963. The family had been in Australia less than 12 months after emigrating from England.

“We were put in a place called Hartwell House in Farmer Street, Kiama,” Mick Kennedy recalled. “The best way to describe the routine at Hartwell House is that it was an extremely institutionalised environment that existed within a culture of absolute fear.”


“The house parents were Vic and Yvonne Holyoak. Both had been house parents at the state-run Mittagong Boy’s Home before taking over Hartwell House.

“Vic Holyoak’s brutality knew no boundaries. It could be severe beatings. Punching in the stomach. Pulling hair. Lifting off the ground by hair or ears. Caning. The strap. A constant stream of verbal abuse always accompanied these punishments from both Vic and Von Holyoak.

“Occasionally we would be summonsed into Holyoak’s office and sexually abused or beaten just for the sake of it. He was selective which boys he sexually abused but Holyoak sexually abused all of the girls.”

Mick Kennedy recalled one of many traumatic incidents when he was raped by Holyoak.

“I was about 14 and I was cleaning the outside toilet as part of my morning job. It required me to mop the floor with hot water and disinfectant. While I was working Holyoak’s son, Garry, entered the toilet and deliberately messed up the floor with his dirty feet. I complained and he punched me in the face and stomach.

“His mother Von heard the noise and came to the toilet and saw him punch me. When she asked what was going on he accused me of being a ‘whingeing coot’. Von picked up the bucket of hot water and threw it over the toilet floor and myself. I cleaned up the mess and went inside to get changed.


“Vic Holyoak saw my wet clothes and directed me into his office. I was forced to strip my clothes and he caned me on the hands and bare buttocks for being a sissy and a dobber. He then raped me for good measure and after he finished I was directed to get ready for school.”

When Mick Kennedy left Hartwell House in the mid 1970s he discovered he was not the only child physically and sexually abused by Holyoak: he had abused everyone in his care including Kennedy’s own sisters.

“You have to understand that because of the fear that was instilled into us as children we did not discuss what was happening on a day-to-day basis with any other kids. Generally we were forbidden to talk to each other and even on the way to school we would be very careful what we discussed.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

This is an edited extract from Griffith REVIEW 16: Unintended Consequences (ABC Books). Full essay is available at

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

10 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Bernie Matthews is a convicted bank robber and prison escapee who has served time for armed robbery and prison escapes in NSW (1969-1980) and Queensland (1996-2000). He is now a journalist. He is the author of Intractable published by Pan Macmillan in November 2006.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Bernie Matthews

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Bernie Matthews
Article Tools
Comment 10 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy