22 Jun 2021

Former nurse aide recounts 'hideous' abuse at Lake Alice

9:55 am on 22 June 2021

A staff member at Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital says she was too scared to question the ill-treatment of patients in the child and adolescent unit in the 1970s.

Lake Alice Hospital

Lake Alice Hospital Photo: PUBLIC DOMAIN./ Pawful

Survivors have told the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care they were given electric shocks and drugs as a punishment.

Gloria Barr was a nurse aide in the unit.

She trusted the medical staff knew what they were doing, because they had been trained, she said.

''Even though it looked hideous to me these sorts of behaviours, but maybe they were bona fide treatment methods. I was very uncomfortable with it though.''

Electric shocks were given as punishment, but masqueraded as treatment, she said.

''It was common knowledge among the staff in the unit that ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) was given as punishment. The kids knew this as well. Whenever a patient was taken upstairs the rest knew what was going to happen. It was awful.''

She witnessed one boy of about 12 who was given unmodified electric shocks for soiling his pants.

And because he wasn't given a muscle relaxant, he had to be held down.

''The jolt could actually dislocate their shoulders, their hips, their knees, their ankles. So people needed to hold onto those joints of the body when the ECT was administered. He was absolutely petrified.''

"I believe giving ECT without an anaesthetic is tantamount to assault."

''The kids were terrified of being zapped through their head while being fully conscious,'' she said.

She used to cry inside seeing what she described as screwed-up young people.

"I had three boys myself at that stage and I couldn't imagine my sons having to endure the lives these kids had and the treatments given to them."

"I used to think that what most of these kids, between about 13 and 18 years of age needed, was a loving mum and maybe dad, a safe, stable life and not be in an institution like this."

Barr said she wishes she had done more back when it was going on, but said she did not know who to go to.

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