Two former foster children told a tribunal they had endured degrading abuse, including being confined to their rooms and forced to use a bucket for a toilet.
A Victorian nurse allegedly made one of her foster children sleep overnight in a dog kennel and the other eat from a dog’s bowl during the four years they spent in her care.
She is accused of physically and psychologically abusing the two children by not giving them enough food, using alarms to confine them in their rooms, and making them go to the toilet in buckets in their room.
The children, a girl and a boy, were six and seven respectively when they entered the nurse’s care in 2004 and remained there until 2008.
The girl was made to sleep in the dog kennel, while the boy was forced to eat dinner from a dog’s bowl before he was kicked on the buttocks, causing him significant pain, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) was told.
The tribunal last week upheld a March decision from the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia to suspend the nurse’s registration, after the child abuse allegations were reported to police last year.
The report was made after the girl had her own child and reflected on her experience, the tribunal heard.
As a result of the police report four charges were filed against the nurse, including common law assault and false imprisonment.
She denies assaulting the children and intends to contest the charges.
VCAT heard she accepts she was unable to care for them adequately, especially due to the grief she experienced after her husband died.
The allegations considered by VCAT include claims the nurse would beat the children if they tried to leave their bedrooms, repeatedly threatening the girl: “I will break you”.
The alleged beatings included the girl being hit by a metal spatula and the boy, who had a mild disability and cerebral palsy, being kicked on the shins, back and bottom without warning.
At school, teachers saw them steal food from other children’s bags, the hearing was told.
The children said the alleged abuse had long term effects.
The boy said the beatings had a “profound impact on him as a person” and he suffers from substance abuse issues, while the girl suffers post traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks.
The nurse argued her suspension was disproportionate given the alleged conduct occurred 12-16 years ago and she is entitled to the presumption of innocence.
She also argued her nursing record is unblemished and waiting for the criminal process to unfold, given delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, would be “unduly detrimental”.
However, VCAT said allowing her to continue practising in the face of the allegations would cause a loss of confidence in the nursing profession.
“Providing care for people when they are at their most vulnerable is fundamental to nursing,” senior tribunal member Jonathan Smithers and members Pam Barry and Mary Archibald, said in their ruling.
“The conduct alleged, if proved, would rightly provoke outrage due to the way in which vulnerable children were treated.
“Given the nature of the alleged conduct, allowing (her) to continue to practise would cause a loss of public confidence in the regulatory system for the nursing profession.”