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Dalton John's story

Dalton came to the Royal Commission to share his story and to raise awareness of the mistreatment he had as a child, saying he hopes no other Aboriginal child has to endure physical and sexual abuse.

In the early 1970s, Dalton was born into a small family. His parents were homeless and he spent the first two years of his life moving around different camping areas around Perth. When he was three his mother obtained a home, but shortly after moving in, he was placed into state care. He explained that his parents suffered from alcohol abuse.

For a period of nine years, he and his siblings were placed in several different homes. He also spent a long period of time in a youth hostel in a suburb of Perth. He was fine in the homes and hostel, had friends from each place, and enjoyed going to school.

When he was eight, Dalton was placed into a foster home in a small town of Western Australia. His carer was a single woman in her 50s and he lived alone with her. He described her as ‘terrible and cruel’. She forced him to eat food he didn’t like, and would lock him in a cupboard for extended periods of time, even when he didn’t misbehave.

He hated living at the home so he would spend time walking around the suburbs after school. He explained that this was the only time he felt safe; away from his carer. He recalls getting into trouble with the police for wandering around alone and would be returned to the foster home, where he would be beaten. He was also sexually abused at that home.

‘When I was in bed at night, someone would come into my room and touch and rub me. It was always late at night … I don’t know who was coming into my room.’

He couldn’t tell anyone about the abuse and can’t recall if Welfare came to check up on him. When he left the foster home at age 12, he still did not know his carer’s name and he never knew who regularly sexually abused him.

Dalton was placed in a hostel and then moved to a children’s home not too far away from his parents’ home. There, he was regularly physically abused by the staff. He recalls being beaten by a staff member, who hit him with a belt. Every couple of weeks he would run away from the home to escape the abuse and see his parents, but the staff would find him there and take him back, beating him as punishment. When he was 13, he was discharged from the home and sent back to live with his parents.

In the mid-1980s, Dalton was enrolled at the local high school, where he was reunited with his siblings. However, his behaviour soon changed and he got involved in criminal activity and dropped out of school.

Dalton explained that he has spent ‘significant parts’ of his life in and out of juvenile detention and adult prison. He suffers from flashbacks and thinks about what happened to him ‘all the time’. He often feels ashamed and embarrassed about the abuse and would not talk about it for many years.

In the late 2000s he disclosed some of the details of the abuse. He applied for compensation through Redress WA and received $15,000 but he was disappointed with the amount and regrets that he couldn’t disclose all of the abuse because he was embarrassed. He feels ambivalent about the written apology he received and never reported his abusers to the police.

Dalton learned that his parents continuously fought the authorities to regain custody of him and his siblings when they were in care. He told the Commissioner that knowing this helped him with his own children, who he would do anything for. He is hypervigilant and worries about them constantly as he doesn’t want them to suffer the way he did when he was away from his parents.

‘I feel that I lost most of my childhood to the hands of abuse. I feel deeply regretful and saddened that I will never be able to get back the years I lost with my family.’

Dalton said he’d like to see a program that lets Aboriginal parents reunite with their children in care, which he believes would be extremely positive for both sides. He explained that if he’d had that growing up, he might have been able to tell his parents what was happening.

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