Evidence of respondents
7.203 Sr Alida stated in evidence that, during most of her time in Goldenbridge, there were 150 children and four staff members. In order to maintain discipline, she had to be very controlling. Given the nature of the work and the constraints under which the staff operated, she stated that it was very possible that staff were bad tempered.
7.204 It was the system that obliged her to use corporal punishment as often as she did. She explained:
Today I would hate to think of the things I had to do or the things I did, but in the system as it was I don’t know what resolution there was to it. Maybe it was a too easy situation to get rid of a problem, instead of sitting down to talk or to advise you slapped and that was the end of the problem.
7.205 She asserted that she never saw anybody else use a slapper except for Sr Venetia. She said, ‘Lay people could give a clout with their hand but that would be the most that I would see them doing’. She said that no lay person ever beat the children, as far as she knew, nor did they have authority to punish the children in any manner.
7.206 Sr Alida had a clear memory of children being on the landing during Sr Bianca’s time, but she had no real memory of that being a feature of her time there. Although she could remember chastising a child on the landing, it was not on a regular basis. She also said that lay staff did not chastise children but left it for her to deal with.
7.207 Sr Alida maintained that she and Sr Venetia were the only persons who administered corporal punishment in the School: the lay staff were not authorised to slap children and, as far as she was aware, they did not do so.
7.208 Ms Garvin,15 formerly a Sister of Mercy who had worked as an assistant teacher in Goldenbridge from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, was adamant that, while there was corporal punishment, it was not excessive.
7.209 Sr Gianna16 gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. She worked as an assistant in the School from 1960 until she took her final vows as a Sister of Mercy a few years later. She stated that, although Sr Alida used a stick for corporal punishment, it would cause no more than temporary discomfort to a child. She agreed that it could leave bruising on a child’s body, but she said she never witnessed such injuries.
7.210 Both the above witnesses said that they believed the atmosphere was very good in Goldenbridge and that the children were happy there.