Bonny George took her own life in August, a day after an interrogation by the child safety department. Picture: Supplied
Bonny George took her own life in August, a day after an interrogation by the child safety department. Picture: Supplied

Child safety failure: ‘Three weeks of emotional torture’

A RESPECTED foster carer said in a suicide note that the Queensland Child Safety department had made it impossible for her to keep going.

Bonny George was 46 when she took her own life in August, the day after an interrogation by the department that began with false accusations made by a disturbed teenager under ­psychiatric care who was earlier expelled from the house.

Bonny's father Mick George, a former Australian Federal Police and ASIO officer, has conducted a meticulous investigation and believes the department pushed his daughter over the edge.

Bonny says as much in poignant notes found by police at her home in Brisbane.

"I am sorry. I should have known better than to try and fight Child Safety," she wrote. "They will do anything to make others do as they direct. Please let my legacy be one of a foster carer who loved her children so much, losing them was too much to manage.

"The distortions of moments that the department gathered against me are the ­opposite of the family home I held the children in. They were the totality of my life and now they have gone."

Bonny took her own life after the seven foster children in her care were taken away. She was also the legal guardian of an eighth child she feared would be taken.

Bonny’s parents Glenis and Mick George. Picture: Paul Beutel
Bonny’s parents Glenis and Mick George. Picture: Paul Beutel

In a second suicide note she said: "My actions do not come from a place of guilt.

"Rather, they are because too much has been taken from me and I choose not to live with the pain that it has left me with.

"Taking my children, my identity, my reputation and my income has become a trauma I can no longer manage.

"I am sorry for the people who wanted me to continue to fight and assumed I was strong enough to keep going, hoping for a positive outcome.

"There can be no happy ending to this."

Bonny's mother Glenis George said her daughter felt she was being bullied by the department after she was wrongly accused of tying a child to a chair and pulling another by the feet across a polished wooden floor as a form of punishment.

A group of the children's mentors who had intimate knowledge of what went on in the home defended Bonny. The group, known as the ­Pyjama Angels, visited each week for up to eight years and told me they saw no aggressive or untoward behaviour. They said Bonny was an exemplary foster mum who loved her children and would not harm them.

Bonny made copious notes each time she was quizzed by the department about her ­conduct. Her parents hope it will be tendered as evidence at an independent inquiry.

Her chief critic had severe and multiple mental health issues, Bonny wrote.

"She had an extensive history of making complaints against her care providers when in a defensive or escalated state," she said.

"The young person was in a defensive state when she made allegations against the care I provided."

Bonny's dad said that the department was at fault for ­giving credibility to two mentally unstable girls who made false accusations.

"One was a compulsive liar who previously threatened to make up stories about Bonny's conduct," he said. "She had been questioned by police many times. She once told them she had been kidnapped and gang-raped by white slave traders and had been involved in a gun battle before escaping. It was baloney."

Mick George was a colonel in the Army before joining the AFP.

A letter written by Bonny.
A letter written by Bonny.

Bonny's mother Glenis said her daughter endured "three weeks of emotional torture". She now believes Bonny "got the wrong impression" that her friends at the Uniting Care agency were briefing the department against her. But they were not.

Her mother believes she fell into a "dark hole" and felt profoundly vulnerable. "She must have been thinking, 'I'm all by myself. They've taken away my family, they've taken away my income, they've taken away my reputation and that's it'.

"She had made up her mind. Without her family, life wasn't worthwhile living.

"No matter how you look at it, her life wasn't worth living because of the department's lack of support."

She said Bonny told her the department was "aggressive", and used "bullying tactics" when interviewing her.

Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman declined to be interviewed. In a statement she extended her "deepest sympathies" to the George family.

She added: "Our community partners and staff from Child Safety are supporting both the extended family of the carer and all children affected by this tragic event.

"We have a robust system, and we must listen and act on serious concerns raised."

Bonny's mother said her daughter was warned by a counsellor: "You cannot fight the department, you will lose. But if people don't fight, nothing will change. All Bonny ever did was advocate for her children."

She said her daughter was overworked. "She was drained, absolutely, drained both mentally and physically," she said.

A third letter Bonny left contained accusations against the department. Police passed it to the coroner.

Mr and Mrs George said that Bonny cared for more than 40 children in the ACT and Queensland.

As an arts-law graduate from ANU in Canberra, she started as a weekend carer for children with Down syndrome while working for ASIO. Later in Queensland, she worked in the Justice Department and volunteered to care for disabled children at weekends.

It blossomed into a full-time career. Towards the end, she had eight children in her care, five of them with high-care needs, her mother said. Yet she was only licensed for six. "The department breached its own rules," her mother said.

Bonny was also available for emergency placements.

"If Bonny saw there was a need, she would try to help," Glenis said. "Her children were her family."

If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 131 114 or visit

Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman declined to be interviewed about Bonny’s case. Picture: AAP/Glenn Hunt
Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman declined to be interviewed about Bonny’s case. Picture: AAP/Glenn Hunt

Lucy's great escape

LUCY X grew up in 18 different foster families after being removed from her drug-addicted parents when she was three.

"I was naughty. I had behavioural issues and no one could handle me," she said.

No one, that was, except Bonny George.

"Bonny showed love and kindness and compassion and she put me on the straight and narrow.

"I used to have a hatred for the (Child Safety) department for taking me away from my family.

"Then Bonny made me see it was for the best.

"I would not have made it without her. She taught me the most important thing - to love myself."

She also insisted Lucy got an education and kept busy with other activities such as gymnastics, the Girls' Brigade and frequent trips to the library.

"I would have been a completely different person today without Bonny's unconditional love," she said.

Lucy (not her real name) is now 21 and engaged to be married. She and her bloke moved to NSW to be away from the influence of her parents. They were still on drugs, she said.

Many former foster children say Bonny was a loving carer.
Many former foster children say Bonny was a loving carer.

Accusation my fault, says mum

BONNY George's mother said she may have unintentionally sparked the investigation that led to her daughter losing her children - and ultimately her life.

"One of the accusations is my fault," Glenis George told me.

It happened when she was minding a child for Bonny.

The school phoned to say the child had fallen from her chair and the teachers were watching her, she said.

"Then she fell off the chair a second time."

She was an uncoordinated, fidgety child with psychological problems.

"I picked her up from school and asked her how her day was. I said I hear you fell off the chair - twice! I said you'll have to be more careful or I'll have to tie you to the chair so you don't hurt yourself.

"That was just me being funny.

"Months later that came back as an accusation that we tied her to a chair. She was just a little kid. They interviewed her and that was one of the confused things kids say."

She said with fears that Bonny was a poor foster mother, her children were snatched by the ­department from school.

"It was devastating for Bonny," she said.

One child was so upset she tried to kill herself.

'She opened her home and her heart'

THE Pyjama Angels have alighted to vouch for the good character of Bonny George, the foster mum who tragically took her own life.

Pyjama Angels, usually teachers, are mentors who regularly visit ill or troubled children to help them with their homework and provide some companionship.

"She always put the children first," Jocelyn Haycox said.

"She was caring and generous. She opened her home and her heart.

"I never, even once had a bad feeling about what was happening in the home. And as a teacher in special schools, I am trained to detect trouble."

Haycox is cranky the department did not contact her. "I am one of her referees, but they didn't call. It upset me they didn't ring any of us.

"I'm still following up with the department.''

She believes Bonny was targeted for political reasons. The investigation was "a bit of a witch hunt" that began when foster child Tiahleigh Palmer was found murdered.

She added: "There are bad people in the system, but Bonny wasn't one of them.

"And they took the children away before they even interviewed her."

The children were traumatised. And Bonny got no ­support.

"Even criminals get support; foster carers get nothing."

Belinda Vesey-Brown has visited Bonny's home for eight years and never saw her abuse anyone. "I don't know where the allegations came from," she said. "This has been an ­absolute tragedy. I'm feeling terribly upset."

Ros Hayward said Bonny was an "awesome" person.

"I will not hear a bad word about her.

"She was a wonderful person."

Hayward had been visiting her home for more than six years.

She has no doubt that allegations of wrong­doing were ill-founded.

Heroin tot was carried in a pouch like a koala

QUEENSLAND'S Child Safety department was in crisis, with 1500 foster carers quitting in the past 12 months, the Opposition Child Safety spokeswoman Ros Bates said yesterday.

She said that carers such as Bonny George were punished for speaking out about failings in the department.

"They are treated like dirt and if they speak out they are branded troublemakers," Bates said.

She said exit surveys by a childcare lobby group showed 76 per cent of carers said they left because of the way they were treated by the department.

She said the department's work was being hindered by vexatious complaints.

Bates said the start of Bonny's troubles could be traced back to June 2014 when she challenged a decision by the department to return a foster child in her care back to the boy's birth mother, a drug addict who dumped him at birth.

Bonny's dad Mick George confirmed this.

He said Bonny made enemies in the department by challenging the decision in the Supreme Court, paying the legal ­expenses from her retirement savings.

He said the department "adopted a vindictive attitude towards Bonny, which in my opinion drove her to suicide".

He released a letter to Bonny from a Child Safety executive who warned her that if she continued to pursue the action "it will be vigorously defended and costs will be sought".

He released another ­letter in which Bonny said: " Decision and actions ­relating to myself and the children in my care have been dishonest and lacking in transparency, biased and in breach of confidentiality."

And she named a senior public servant she said made "false and misleading statements" in an affidavit lodged with the Supreme Court.

Bonny's father also released a letter Bonny wrote about her love for the baby at the centre of the court challenge.

Bonny discovered he had been born with an ­addiction to heroin and a collapsed lung.

Nurses told her the child's mother was under the influence of drugs when the boy was born.

Bonny said: "I later found out from Child Safety that (the boy's) conception was the result of a sexual assault on (the mother) while she was working as a prostitute."

Bonny said the mother had intended to keep the pregnancy a secret from her family until the child was born.

"She used drugs and worked as a prostitute until (the boy) was born, regularly leaving her eldest son unattended through the night in a drug squat in the Valley."

Bonny's mum Glenis George said her daughter became deeply attached to the baby and was heartbroken when she had to give him back.

"I ended up carrying (him) in a pouch pretty much constantly through his first four months with me," Bonny had said.

"He was my koala. Sometimes I would try hanging the pouch off my bed, but it was never any good. He would wake up as soon as he could not sense my nearness.

"I co-slept with him until he was six months old and sleeping through the night," Bonny said.