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Joan Bellingham

Joan describes her experiences as a trainee nurse at Burwood Hospital, and then as a patient at Princess Margaret Hospital (periodically from 1970 to 1982). At Princess Margaret, Joan was subjected to trial medications and hundreds of doses of ECT shock treatment - all in the hope of curing her homosexuality. In 2021 Joan testified before the Abuse in Care - Royal Commission of Inquiry. Heartfelt thanks to Joan for allowing her story to be recorded and shared.

Note this interview contains talk about abuse in State care, suicide, and sexual assault.

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The audio recording presents an in-depth interview with Joan Bellingham. The interview documents Joan's experiences, initially as a trainee nurse at Burwood Hospital, and subsequently, as a patient at Princess Margaret Hospital from 1970 to 1982. The interview unfolds Joan's journey, marked by an unwavering acceptance of their sexuality amidst an era of profound societal and medical misunderstanding and prejudice.

Joan's story begins with their nursing career, a familial legacy, at Burwood Hospital. Despite their competence, Joan faces discrimination and false accusations due to their sexuality. This situation escalates, leading to their admission to Princess Margaret Hospital. There, Joan endures erroneous diagnoses of personality disorder and schizophrenia, and is subjected to excessive medications and relentless electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), all under the guise of 'curing' their homosexuality. These treatments result in significant memory loss and a transformation from a confident individual to a 'walking zombie'.

The societal context of Christchurch in the 1950s and 1960s, as described by Joan, was one of silence and ignorance regarding sexuality. This environment influenced their family's understanding and reaction to their sexuality, especially during their involuntary hospitalization. The interview touches upon key historical events and the overall climate of the era, highlighting the systemic biases and the dire consequences faced by individuals like Joan.

Joan's narrative also delves into the broader implications of their experience, including the long-term psychological impact and the fight for recognition and compensation. Despite the challenges, Joan's story is not just one of suffering but also of resilience and an unyielding spirit.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

Record date:13th October 2023
Interviewer:Gareth Watkins
Location:Christchurch, Canterbury
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (reference number to be confirmed).