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Dorothy Hewett's Daughters Tell Lisa Wilkinson Of Underage Sexual Experiences

The famous writer's daughters have lifted the lid on the dark side of growing up in bohemian Sydney in the 70s.

The daughters of celebrated Australian writer Dorothy Hewett have spoken about their experiences of underage sex with famous older men, at least one of whom is still alive.

Speaking to Lisa Wilkinson on The Sunday Project the women said the men were "literary types of that generation" -- including the late Bob Ellis -- but they were too scared to name them.

"I’m scared  -- already in just this last week we’re just in this maelstrom and one of our brothers has disowned us, particularly me, and it’s frightening; the whole thing is frightening," Kate said.

Kate and Rozanne, who have since poured their experiences into two books of recently published poetry, described themselves as "sitting ducks" growing up in Sydney with their mother and her second husband Merv Lilley.

Their Woolahra home was a magnet for writers, artists and theatre types and Dorothy and Merv's "free love" knowingly spilled over into the lives of their young daughters.

Kate said she and her sister were "in sexual peril" from age 12, with "people who were very predatory and did very explicitly groom me in an obvious way".

By the time they were 16, the legal age of consent, both girls had had multiple partners.

Asked by Lisa about their mother's attitude to sex and men, Kate said Dorothy thought "it was the best possible thing in the world, the most important thing in the world".

"They didn’t have an idea that children should be separated or have a special kind of life or attention," she said.

Despite this the girls still loved their mother, who died in 2002.

They thought we should just be in the mix and I think mum’s idea was once you hit puberty you were sexually in the world and you were kind of fair game."

Kate first had consensual sex with a man in his 30s when she was 15. Very soon after she says she was sexually assaulted by another and then raped by an older man.

"That was the worst moment of my life," she said.

"Mum had a relationship with him so I think she didn’t want to know about this from me because I guess possibly she was already interested in him."

Rozanne told Lisa she was just 14 when she was sexually assaulted by Bob Ellis. The screenwriter, author and Labor icon, who died two years ago, was a frequent visitor to the house.

"I was going to school one morning and mum and dad were asleep. He called me from the guest bedroom . . . going, 'Come here child, come here child.'

"He just grabbed my hand and shoved his hand down his pants and then he walked me to school and we had a chat on the way to school."

Rozanne said she felt tired and ashamed because it was "a murky period of my life".

For national 24 hour counselling, helpline and support call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

Catch The Project from Sunday to Friday at 6.30pm on Ten and on Tenplay.