A child was sexually abused at a home for the Stolen Generations. 50 years later he's still chasing an apology

Key points:

  • The royal commission recommended that all institutions should offer survivors an apology when asked
  • The man was abused as a child at the home
  • The Commonwealth said it did not need to offer an apology because it disputed liability

A man abused at a notorious care home for Stolen Generations children says the Federal Government's refusal to apologise despite acknowledging his experience is "another betrayal."

The man was born in the 1950s at the Retta Dixon Home for Stolen Generation children, where the royal commission found dozens of cases of sexual and physical abuse were perpetrated by staff from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Last week he was in court with Federal Government representatives in Darwin in mediation hearings as part of a settlement over his treatment at the home.

He was awarded a financial settlement but his request for an apology from the Department of Indigenous Australians was refused.


"The provision of an apology/acknowledgement was not a term of settlement," a government lawyer said in an email to the survivor and legal firm Maurice Blackburn.

Maurice Blackburn said the Federal Government was failing to meet royal commission recommendations over the refusal.

The man's lawyer, Jed McNamara, said he was "shocked" to have the request for an apology for his client "knocked back".

"I have worked in close to a hundred cases and I've never seen this sort of treatment of a survivor before," Mr McNamara said

The firm has complained to Ken Wyatt, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, over the refusal.


'I just want closure'

The victim, who contacted the ABC but cannot be named for legal reasons, said he was repeatedly abused while a young child at the home in Darwin.

He said he "just wanted closure".

"I feel like the refusal by the Department to apologise for what happened to me at Retta Dixon is another betrayal, all over again."

As a young boy he was thrown into a pool of sewage as a punishment.

"To this day I can't go for a swim, it brings back that memory," he said.

"It scarred me for life."


In another incident, he and two other boys were beaten until they were "peeing blood".

At age five, he was sexually abused by a member of staff at the home.

"I am screaming for justice here. I can't put the pain behind me until there is recognition from the Government about their role in what happened. It's about justice, it's about moving on."

Department accused of 'passing the buck'

The Commonwealth legal team pushed for a settlement but refused any liability, and passed on a request for an apology to another organisation, the National Indigenous Affairs Agency (NIAA).

"The matter was resolved on the basis of no admission of liability on the part of the Commonwealth," the government lawyer said in emails seen by the ABC.


It comes despite the home being the subject of a landmark class action by more than 70 former residents who suffered horrific abuse between 1947 and 1980.

The class action, only the second of its kind in Australian history at the time, was settled out of court by the Commonwealth in 2017, with the Commonwealth paying out compensation to victims.

Mr McNamara said the Commonwealth was "passing the buck".

"The abuse here of my client happened on the Commonwealth's watch, in their institution and for that, if no other reason, they need to say sorry."


Retta Dixon was run by the Australian Indigenous Ministries (AIM), but the NT was being administered by the Commonwealth at the time, effectively making the children wards of the state.

The current head of AIM, Reverend Trevor Leggott, apologised at the royal commission to Retta Dixon abuse survivors.

But Maurice Blackburn said the Commonwealth should also say sorry to victims, because it funded the home.

Many of the Retta Dixon children were forcibly removed from their parents as part of the Stolen Generations.


Retta Dixon was featured as Case 17 in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Ken Wyatt's office has been contacted for comment.


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