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Alfred Rodney's story

From the age of six, Alfred lived for nine years on a Queensland government-funded Aboriginal mission. He was separated from his mother who resided in the women’s dormitory and his sisters who lived in the girls’ section. If he wanted to talk to his mother, Alfred had to apply for a permit, and he was never allowed to speak to the girls.

He described the mission as ‘tough’ and ‘sad’. Children were given heavy chores to do and one of the workers was particularly brutal in his punishment.

‘If we talk at the table we’d be punished’, Alfred said. ‘I remember a few times him making some of the boys, touch our toes, don’t bend your leg. You bend your knee or anything you get a belting. A lot. Not even once, nearly every day, all the time I was in there. Straps, sometime we get a belting with a switch. We love to get the belting with the strap because it don’t sting. Switch, it stings. We got used to it, getting belted.

‘We were sort of like, in between. If we do anything wrong we get punished. If we don’t do anything wrong we still get punished. We hardly do anything. No sense.’

Alfred told the Commissioner he tried twice to escape the mission, but he had nowhere to go and was brought back each time and given a beating. On several occasions while he was asleep in the dormitory, an older boy got into his bed, took his pants off and sexually abused him. ‘I never told anyone 'cause I was frightened, because if you tell anyone they think you’re telling lies and you get a flogging. I just kept my pyjamas up. I was frightened. I was scared.’

The first time Alfred told anyone about the abuse was when a friend who’d been on the mission told him that he’d been abused. ‘When he told me he got abused, I told him, I said, “That happened to me”. I said, “Why don’t you come, bring your story out”, but he reckoned he didn’t want to go through that situation, 'cause it bring back memories, 'cause he got abused not once, a few times, by a girl older than him.’

In the late 2000s Alfred received $7,000 through the Queensland Government Redress Scheme. He didn’t tell them about the sexual abuse because he was told he’d have to go to court if he raised it so he decided to keep it to himself. ‘Seven thousand dollars, for nine and a half years. That’s bullshit, eh?’

When Alfred left the mission in the 1960s, he moved to the city and found work, then he married and had children. When his marriage ended he still struggled with the memories that kept coming back to him. He married again and is now bringing up his grandson.

‘It had a big impact, like we used to get belted. I used to do that to my children you know, but it sort of like was making me feel guilty, and not my first missus that I broke up with, my second she used to take off with drinking, take the kid there, then she said, “I’m not coming back to you till you go and get counselling”. I went down to a government place there, I used to go there once or twice a week, and I stopped dishing out the punishment, and they love me for it.’

Alfred said he was trying to get others who’d been on the mission to come and tell their story to the Royal Commission.

‘Down the track let them know what we been through. We been through a lot.'

‘I just like to see what’s going to come out of all this. Hopefully something good come out of it.’

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