Dangerous journey to peace on the other side of the world

18th July 2003 at 01:00
Linda Malone left school barely able to spell. But thanks to the Home School Community Project, she now has an NVQ level 3 in childcare, her passport to a new life in Australia.

If anyone deserves a fresh start it is Linda. The story of her early life is a litany of horrors. She had an abusive father, and was dragged from hostel to hostel with brothers and sisters, stepbrothers and stepsisters.

Once her father locked her in a room for four days without food.

After nights disfigured by family violence, Linda would fall asleep in class. "Every day I'd pass a policeman wishing he would ask if I needed help," she said.

Two brothers committed suicide; and a third was left for dead by Protestant paramilitaries, punishment for going out with a Catholic girl. He was found in a body bag by a policeman and given the kiss of life.

That Linda still has her sanity, and is clear-minded and confident, is remarkable. If driven by anything, it was a determination not to let her father ruin her life. She married at 19, a partnership that has lasted 20 years. But in her 30s she had a nervous breakdown and was depressed when approached by Daphne Mears.

She now has a job she loves, working with children in a community centre in north Belfast. But getting the qualifications took courage - a regular walk more than two years from a Protestant to a Catholic enclave.

"If people in my neighbourhood knew, my house would have been burned down," he said.

By New Year she expects to be in Perth with her husband's family, where a job as a classroom assistant awaits. "I could persevere here, but it's for my kids - I've been wrapping them in cotton wool here," she said. "We'll make it work."

Names have been changed

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