The play was staged as a reunion of eight former-inmates of the Parramatta Girls Home – now grown women – in 2003, forty years after they finished their respective terms.
It moved between the present (the reunion) and the remembered past (in flashbacks).
The play opens in the courtyard of the Home, November 2003. The women begin to arrive at the reunion, (some more tense than others), and congregate outside the institution’s iron gates.
When they step through the gates, the audience is taken on a journey between the past and present as the women explore the building. In flashbacks, the girls re-enact each other’s experiences at the home: their arrival (and the court trial that brought Marlene there), their medical examinations by ‘Dr Fingers’, their chores, their abuses and mistreatments – sometimes by invisible guards, sometimes to one another and sometimes in acts of self-harm.
As the play comes to a crescendo in the second Act, the past and present merge on-stage. Two of the girls attempt to escape the institution and their torment, but after being told that a particularly dangerous guard is after then, they climb to the roof of the Home and refuse to come down. A riot ensues, involving all the girls but comes to an end when tragedy strikes the group.
The grown women are left to clean up the mess of the riot (their literal past), which clears a path for the women to come together, to open up, and to reveal harboured secrets, lies, and truths and “wash away” (some of) their past. This activity leads to the end of the play, and the women ask that their stories be remembered and leave the audience with a message of hope for good, for remedy, and for claiming their own futures as women, mothers, and Parramatta Girls.
- Marlene: a 57-year-old indigenous woman and former inmate; she is 13 years old during flashbacks
- Much of the play (especially the flashbacks) happens through Marlene’s eyes. She was the youngest of the eight to enter the Home after being charged with “neglect” and “mental retardation”.
- Judi: a 59-year-old woman and former inmate; she is 16 years old during flashbacks
- Her real name is Fay McKell. She reveals that she allowed the guards to sexually abuse her to feel like she was in control. After leaving, she entered prostitution and acquired an extensive criminal record. She is cynical about the reunion, but eventually sees its value.
- Melanie: a 58-year-old woman and former inmate; she is 15 years old during flashback
- Incarcerated because she ran from her abusive home, she is a protective figure to the other girls throughout the play, especially Marlene.
- Lynette: a 57-year-old woman and former inmate; she is 14 years old during flashbacks
- Hailing from a wealthy Eastern Suburbs family, with a private school education, Lynette’s “posh” upbringing is a contrast to the rest of the women who come from lower-class backgrounds. She is haunted by the death of Maree, her close friend, and experiences deep anxiety throughout the play.
- Kerry: a 58-year-old indigenous woman and former inmate; she is 15 years old during flashbacks
- Kerry has been in institutional care her whole life. She escaped the home but was caught, returned and punished. She tells of her role in having the Home closed down, and that the reunion is her first chance at her story being heard (and believed).
- Gayle: a 59-year-old woman and former inmate; she is 16 years old during flashbacks
- The ‘House Captain’, she experienced a “little bit of power” during her time after living with an emotionally and physically abusive mother and stepfather. She is haunted by memories of the Home’s ‘dungeons’, and her acts of self-harm. Though she treats the girls with disdain, she did protect them when they needed it.
- Maree: a 14-year-old female inmate.
- She is a memory and a ghost – appearing to Lynette and Gayle (as adults). She took her own life in the home after her cruel and traumatic mistreatment.
- Coral: a 58-year-old indigenous women and former inmate; she is 16 years old in flashbacks.
- Adult Coral is one of the organisers of the reunion, she speaks of being impregnated by one of the guards but was brutally bashed in a deliberately attempted abortion. Though she gave birth to the child, it was forcibly removed from her.