Survivor breaks code of silence to reveal tale of torture
THIS is a story never meant to be told, but Kirra woman Maria Tinschert has broken the code of silence.
Maria's life story is brutal: one of prostitution, sexual, physical and mental abuse and violence.
All the graphic details are laid bare in her book Daughter of the Razor, which will be launched on the Gold Coast later this month, but Maria warns it is not for everyone.
"It's very confronting," the 84-year-old said.
"The book is restricted reading because it's very raw - it's a horror story."
Maria was born into the slums of Sydney in 1932. Her family was entwined in the city's criminal underbelly, a brutal environment where vicious 'razor' gangs were battling for control.
Organised crime flourished in Sydney in the early 1930s, influenced by the prohibition on prostitution, the criminalisation of cocaine and the early closing times of public bars and hotels, decisions that gave rise to sly grog shops, a burgeoning drug trade and prostitution.
And there, amid the battle for supremacy, were the razor gangs - criminals who opted for a straight shaving blade as the weapon of choice - and into this world Maria was thrust.
Her mother, Violet Goodfield, was a prostitute, a peer of sorts to the infamous Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh.
For a young Maria there was no escape. Before she turned 11, she had been introduced to the world of prostitution by her mother.
"My mother used me as a partner," Maria said.
"I was in brothels. I was a prostitute because, as she said, children were always popular. So she would take me and I would be there with her, but the cruelty that went with it was very bad."
Her mother was a brutal woman who abused not only Maria but others as well.
"The razor gangs were made up of men but my mother had one and she knew how to use it," Maria said.
"I saw her use it on a woman's face once. It was horrific.
"I was sitting on the arm of the big chair in the brothel. I was sitting there swinging my legs. Another woman arrived and the lady sang out to mum, 'Vi, Lee is here.'
"When she came out she came out stark naked and I saw she had a razor in her hand and she just did it. My mother just ripped her open.
"Then it was bedlam, there was screaming and blood.
"Next moment my mother came out dressed, took my hand and out the door we went."
Maria, the only daughter and youngest of seven children, recalls little of her very early years but when she was four the family moved to Chullor, now Greenacre, in western Sydney.
Maria remembers arriving with her parents and brothers at the small, isolated house that was to become the scene of so much abuse.
"I call it the house of horrors," she said.
"My family was very cruel. My father was a sadist, a pervert.
"I had very horrible, abusive parents and brothers. They trained on me. Six brothers. I was their training instrument under instruction almost from our parents.
"Let's put it this way, boys generally went out and sowed their wild oats. Well, why should they when they had a little sister?"
But Maria's torture went unnoticed for years.
"I spent a lot of time locked in a cupboard," she said.
"They even had a story ready if I was to die. You didn't talk. I did only what I was commanded to do."
Maria endured years of abuse at the hands of her family before eventually entering into a loveless marriage.
Her husband also abused her but when she was 29, with four children in tow, she fled.
The years passed and life took a turn for the better when she remarried.
But her old life resurfaced about 30 years ago when she was assaulted by a woman while she and her husband were living in Brisbane.
In the wake of that incident, a counsellor from the Victims of Crime organisation contacted a reluctant Maria.
After much encouragement, Maria agreed to meet with the woman and after many meetings she began to write.
"I ended up breaking the code of silence and began writing things down on little bits of paper," she said.
"I had this stack of little bits of paper with things that had happened and they eventually became the book."
That book is now complete. It details a horrific life but also reveals a remarkable character.
Maria, who now lives at Kirra, is not bitter.
Far from it.
She spends her days helping others as a volunteer community care counsellor and motivational speaker - and she is happy.
"I am the luckiest woman in the world," she said.
"I've had the works: three lots of cancer, broken neck, collapsed lungs. It's been stitched up and put together, but here I am and I can still laugh and have jokes.
"I'm a survivor, not a victim."
Daughter of the Razor can be purchased online at www.amazon.com.