Kenyan-born Rose­mary Kar­iuki-fyfe.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - as told to Al­ley Pas­coe

Igrew up in Kenya, one of 16 chil­dren. My father had two wives and we all lived to­gether on a farm. We were al­ways work­ing, help­ing with house chores and look­ing af­ter the an­i­mals. The sex­ual abuse in my fam­ily was able to hap­pen be­cause the house­hold was so full and busy and we were scared to come out and say any­thing. We were told not to talk badly about oth­ers.

When I moved to Aus­tralia in 1999, aged 39, it was a fresh start. I was lucky that I found so many won­der­ful peo­ple who helped me. When I came to this coun­try, I didn’t have any in­for­ma­tion about be­com­ing part of the com­mu­nity – so it made me re­alise how im­por­tant that help is. I’ve worked as a mul­ti­cul­tural com­mu­nity li­ai­son of­fi­cer with the NSW Po­lice Force in Western Syd­ney for 10 years now. I love wak­ing up ev­ery morn­ing to go to my job. I work with the whole com­mu­nity, refugees, im­mi­grants and asy­lum seek­ers, to ed­u­cate them about the role of po­lice and how to do the right thing.

The hard­est part of my job is try­ing to gain peo­ple’s trust. Lots of them are very trau­ma­tised. They don’t trust any­body be­cause of where they came from.

I can un­der­stand how they feel. I had never told any­body about my life un­til I met Ros Horin in 2011. She was work­ing on a play about African women who had sur­vived abuse, kid­nap­ping and war, and she wanted to hear my story. For some rea­son, I trusted Ros and my story spilled out. It was very painful. But af­ter telling her, I felt like I had been born again.

When we started re­hears­ing the play, I felt scared about shar­ing my story [pub­licly]. I was wor­ried, be­cause so many peo­ple knew me. I thought, “How will I walk down the street?” My sons didn’t even know what had hap­pened to me, and I didn’t know how they would re­act. But af­ter see­ing the play, my chil­dren ma­tured overnight. And now they love me more.

A doc­u­men­tary about the play is be­ing re­leased. It’s im­por­tant for women who can’t move for­ward to know that what­ever is­sues they have gone through, there is more to life.

This ex­pe­ri­ence has given me a voice to speak on be­half of those who can­not. I’ve man­aged to open up, move on and forgive. I get my strength from lov­ing my­self. I wanted to heal – and I have. The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe is in se­lect cin­e­mas na­tion­ally from Oc­to­ber 6.

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