Performing Arts

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Sharyn Crystal

Sharyn Crystal

Australian singer and entertainer, Sharyn Killens (also known as Sharyn Crystal, b. 1948, was in as born at a time when illegitimacy and black skins were problematic in Australia, and abortions dangerous. Her mother chose, therefore, to keep her baby—the father of whom was an African American serviceman—but to not raise her.

Instead, Grace initially put baby Sharyn into foster care. In 1950, friends of Grace, concerned about the child, travelled out to Liverpool and were appalled to discover she was covered with lice and bruises. Ellie and Dorrie retrieved Sharyn, and cared for her over the next 3 and a half years. In 1954 it was Grace’s turn to retrieve Sharyn from her friends’ care, this time taking the now five year old to St Martha’s Industrial Home. When Sharyn was 9, and after a couple of Christmas holidays with her grandmother and mother, Sharyn began running away from St Martha’s, until finally, in 1960, she was allowed to live permanently at her grandmother's. Until in 1961, Grace and Sharyn moved in with Grace’s husband, Lars.Openly rebellious and defiant, Sharyn hung out on the streets until she was eventually charged, as a 15 year old, with “being exposed to moral danger” and taken to the Glebe Children’s Shelter. Eventually Sharyn found herself locked up the notorious Parramatta Girls Home with up to 160 other girls who’d been neglected and abused by parents and/or the state. From there she was imprisoned in the hard core jail, the Hay Institution for Girls.

As an adult Sharyn tried out a range of work. She trained as a nurse, became an exotic dancer, worked in musical theatre and “and as a housekeeper and personal assistant” for 20 years.

From 1985, Sharyn worked on cruises as an entertainer, her professional name being Sharyn Crystal.