Child sexual abuse survivors at Darwin’s infamous Retta Dixon Home will now be entitled to compensation under the National Redress Scheme.
Retta Dixon was used to house primarily Indigenous children, many of whom were stolen generations, between 1947 and 1980.
Several children were reportedly raped and abused at home during this time.
In January, the operator of the hostel – Australian Indigenous Ministries (AIM) – attempted to join the National Redress Scheme, but was deemed ineligible by the Department of Social Services, which said the religious group did not have the money to pay potential applicants.
The federal government announced today that it has agreed to become a so-called funder of last resort, which means it will take over any reparation payments that may be owed to former residents.
“The Commonwealth has now accepted the responsibility of being the donor of last resort, which means we have not been able to find another way for the institution to fund the request,” said the Minister of Social Services Anne Ruston.
“The one thing we absolutely don’t want to happen is that a survivor submits their claim and then finds out that the institution is unable to make their reparation payment.
“Those people who have claims against Retta Dixon Home will now be able to have their claims processed.”
Ms. Ruston said the agreement would apply to the period prior to 1978 when the Northern Territory self-government agreements came into effect.
But she said the Commonwealth was working to ensure that any claim after that date would also be covered.
“We will continue to work with the Government of the Northern Territory to ensure that any requests prior to the program can progress, and this includes any request that may arrive after 1978,” she said.
The federal government said the program will continue to work with AIM to bring them into the program with respect to their other activities separate from the Retta Dixon House.
A long fight for justice
The Commonwealth announcement was a relief for applicants.
Earlier this year, Frank Spry, 69, was one of at least 10 applicants who were unable to get their claims processed after AIM was excluded from the national recourse program.
Mr Spry said he suffered physical and sexual abuse while residing at the Retta Dixon Home between the ages of eight and 18.
“I was mistreated by someone in the institution,” he said.
“I’m glad something has happened and hope we don’t have to go through a rigorous process to access the compensation we need.
“No compensation will result in a closure at the end of the day because we are living with the trauma.”
The federal government said the governments of South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria have also agreed to take on the responsibilities of donor of last resort for 17 other missing institutions.
They include 11 institutions from the United Aborigines Mission, the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs, the Umeewarra Mission, the Children’s House of Underwear Mission, the Northcote House, the Ten20 Foundation and the Launceston Girls’ House.
Minister Ruston said that means more than 44 requests could now be processed.
“The shared responsibility for reparation recognizes that all parties have a role to play in improving the program for survivors,” she said.
The federal government will also introduce legislation today in Parliament that will establish an initial payment of $ 10,000 for plan applicants who are elderly or terminally ill.
Ms Ruston encouraged survivors to access the program, noting that the number of Indigenous applicants was low.
“We want to make sure that Indigenous Australians in particular come forward because we actually had a lower number than expected in the Northern Territory who can come forward,” she said.
“For anyone who has suffered institutionalized abuse, we would be very keen that they come forward and get the redress they rightly deserve.”