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Esther Foundation
Gabriel Osborne spent 18 months at the Esther Foundation when he was a 15-year-old girl. Gabriel is now a 23-year-old transgender man working towards a happier and more secure future.

Esther Foundation survivor criticises abuse handling

NEWS of the Esther Foundation’s closure amid a state government inquiry into abuse allegations is prompting more survivors to speak out.

One of them is Gabriel Osborne, a now happy 23-year-old transgender man who in 2014 was living in Stoneville when he was sent to the centre by his family as a then troubled 15-year-old girl.

His experience there has led him to start a ‘survivors’ group’, a place for nearly 300 past residents to share stories and support each other.

“For the entire time Esther house has existed girls have been going to the police, submitting official complaints and reports but nothing was ever done and Esther was given even more government support,” he said.

“I put in a complaint to the Australian charities and not-for-profits commission back in 2018 but never got a response.”

His story is both horrific and frightening and highlights the desperate need for more to be done to protect vulnerable and troubled members of the community.

“The medical abuse and neglect were awful in Esther but the incidents that haunt me the most are psychological,” he said.

“I remember sitting in the middle of the lounge room while being surrounded by up to 30 adults being yelled at, told I was a child of Satan and evil.

“Throughout my time in Esther, I was exposed to and experienced exorcisms which would involve being held down by workers while they demanded for demons and spirts to leave you.

“I witnessed girls screaming and shaking during these.

“Once my nose started bleeding from the stress on my body and emotions, this was seen as the demons leaving my body and the exorcism ended.”

In response to the announcement of the formal review earlier this year, the Kalamunda-based rehab’s current board said the incidents had occurred at the hands of the former chief executive and board.

In an interview with Echo News last week, interim chief executive Phil Sparrow said the Foundation was focusing on the ongoing wellbeing of women currently in its care.

As for Gabriel, 18 months of fat-shaming, brainwashing, bullying and gay conversion therapy allegedly at the hands of the Foundation’s founder Patricia Lavater was not easily forgotten.

“I was told that I could be cured from being gay, I was encouraged to dress more feminine, I was given prayer and exorcisms to remove the spirit of homosexuality and I was given workbooks on how to be a godly wife,” he said.

“I was told by Patricia that I should have told her I was gay as she wouldn’t have let me into the program.”

Gabriel was also shocked by rumours the disgraced former chief executive went on to work at Swan Valley rehabilitation centre, Shalom House, after she left the Esther Foundation in 2019.

Shalom House founder Peter Lyndon-James, however, quashed reports she was still working there stating Ms Lavater “ceased employment with us on her own accord and for her own reasons” and that she had never worked with women and children in any capacity at Shalom House.

“I think that our government needs to invest more in mental health care and government run treatment facilities that are heavily regulated to prevent abuse from taking place,” Gabriel said.

After leaving Esther, Gabriel was homeless for many years but is now in a much better place.

“I have many supports around me for when things get tough but the tough days come less and less.”

By Rebecca Peppiatt 

About The Editorial Team

Echo News gives readers an alternative to other media outlets in WA and enjoys a very high rate of readership in its distribution area. Our Echo News team are a small group of devoted individuals who work hard to give the local community an easy to read, yet intelligent mix of local community stories.

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