At the beginning of the month, The Australian reported that the daughters of prominent playwright and poet Dorothy Hewett, say they were forced into sex at 15 by men including the late Bob Ellis and Martin Sharp. The shocking revelations by Rozanna and Kate Lilley in their new books recount their mother as the encourager of “underage sex between her daughters and famous men she entertained at her Sydney home, which Rozanna characterized as a ‘party house’.”1
We are so sorry for the two sisters who had their childhoods stolen from them.
The sisters say the men enjoyed having young girls around and their mother, a left-wing radical and admired feminist, encouraged them to join in the very free sex scene of the times. Kate even described her mother’s house as “a brothel without payment”.2
In the Woollahra terrace where Hewett lived with her husband, writer Merv Lilley, there was a revolving door of famous men coming and going, with the sex facilitated by Hewett (who also slept with some of the men while her husband had sex with other women).
“When she turned 16 years old, Kate Lilley had already slept with six men and her younger sister Rozanna had slept with a dozen men by the time she reached the age of consent.
‘It was unbearable at home,’ Kate Lilley said, ‘I used to have sex with men to prevent them having sex with Rosie. But then I would find out they did have sex with Rosie.'”3“
Kate’s teenage years are referenced in poems in her new book, Tilt, which the 57-year-old poet and university English professor published. And her sister Rozanna, 55, an anthropologist and autism researcher, also wrote poems about sexual abuse by unnamed older men in her book, Do Oysters Get Bored? A Curious Life.
“Other men included a local film producer who is still alive and a poet who raped Kate Lilley when she was underage, plus renowned British erotic photographer, David Hamilton. Known for his soft-lit images of prepubescent young girls, 83-year-old Hamilton took his own life in 2016 after a former model accused him of raping her in 1987 when she was 13 years old.”4“
And if all that wasn’t bad enough, at the age of 13, Rozanna was cast in the lesbian-themed film Journey Among Women about female convicts living in the bush; a script written by her mother.
We hope the girls have found writing about their journey to be cathartic and that they can finally get some peace now that the books are out and their mother has passed away.