It is not easy for Frank Spry to talk about what happened to him at the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin decades ago.
- Australian Indigenous Ministries has been barred from joining the National Redress Scheme
- At least 13 redress applications from Darwin’s Retta Dixon Home are in limbo as a result
- The Federal Government is remaining firm in its refusal to guarantee Retta Dixon residents’ claims
“I was in there from when I was seven until I was just under 18,” he said about the institution that was supposed to care for children.
“There was abuse … physical, mental, sexual.”
Mr Spry is now 69 years old.
He has been a teacher, a musician and a vocal advocate for people from the Stolen Generations.
But when he looks back at his life, it is clear to him what happened at Retta Dixon had a major impact.
“There were times where I basically wanted to commit suicide,” he said.
“I’ve not gone that far, but there were occasions where I felt really deeply hurt by what happened to me.”
In an attempt to seek redress for what he says occurred at the facility, Mr Spry made an application to the National Redress Scheme [NRS] for people who have experienced institutional child abuse.
He was shocked this week to learn that that application has hit major hurdles.
The organisation which ran the Retta Dixon Home, Australian Indigenous Ministries [AIM], has been barred from participating in the scheme by the Federal Government, which says the church group does not have the money to pay out potential claimants.
On top of that, no “funder of last resort” has been identified for the Retta Dixon Home survivors, meaning no state, territory or federal government has stepped up to guarantee that any compensation payments ordered through the scheme are fulfilled.
It has left people like Mr Spry in administrative limbo, with no guarantee the National Redress Scheme will deliver compensation or acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
“Some of those people have passed on”
The ABC has asked the Federal Government if it will step in as the funder of last resort for people in Mr Spry’s position, of which there are at least 10.
The Department of Social Services said a decision regarding this would be discussed at a NRS governance board meeting this year.
“The scheme continues to actively explore options, including with state and territory governments, for expanded funder of last resort arrangements,” the department said in a statement.
It suggested a two-year review of the scheme, which is due in the first quarter of this year, could deliver changes to how the funder of last resort provision could be applied.
“Any changes from this review will be considered by the state and territory ministers, who are also required to give approval to substantive redress changes,” it said.
For Mr Spry, who previously received some compensation from a 2017 class action regarding Retta Dixon Home, accessing the full amount of compensation he may be entitled to under the law is important.
But equally pressing for him is a desire to have his story acknowledged.
It is for this reason he is asking AIM to apologise to him and others who might be in his situation.
“They must wear it and take it on the chin.”
The church group, which rebranded from Aborigines Inland Mission in 1998, maintains that it did all it could to join the National Redress Scheme.
In a statement, AIM said it would like to find ways to meaningfully apologise to Mr Spry and any others in comparable situations.
“We would like to explore with them how they would like to have us make a relevant apology,” AIM’s acting general director Cliff Letcher said.
Mr Spry is yet to respond to AIM’s offer but given the Federal Government has decided to allow AIM to stay off the scheme, he believes the onus is now on it to help people like him find justice.
“If they’ve said to AIM and Retta Dixon Home: ‘Because you don’t have enough money, you can cop out of it’, then the Federal Government needs to be [the] owner of this,” he said.
“Own what happened to these little children, to us, in this institution.”
Thank you for checking this news update involving NT and Australian news called “Survivor seeks apology and demands Federal Government action over abuse claims at Retta Dixon Home in Darwin”. This article was presented by My Local Pages as part of our Australian news services.
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