Darby Chris's story

Darby was born out of wedlock in the mid-1940s. He spent several years living with his father, and was sent to his mother when he was eight. Darby believes his father hoped that he would be welcomed into his mother’s home. However, she now had a new family and soon after, he was sent to a Catholic boys’ home in Western Australia run by the Christian Brothers.

He remembers being forced to do manual labour in exchange for basic education and being beaten because of his stutter. Brother Hastings was particularly cruel. He remembers being struck with a thick leather strap multiple times and having his head slammed into desks, walls and doors.

Darby said he’s lost count of how many times Hastings sexually abused him. He was molested and raped, always in the man’s office. He had no idea what was happening, and there was no one he could tell.

He was also physically and sexually abused by Brother Nyman. He was kicked twice in the leg before being molested in Nyman’s room. He recalls this being done several times, even when he didn’t do anything wrong.

In the mid-50s, Darby decided to say something to the home’s superior, Brother Johnson. Johnson disbelieved him and repeatedly beat him for lying. With the benefit of hindsight, Darby has no doubt that Johnson knew what was happening in the home.

When he was 12, he was transferred to another boys’ home in a different town. He felt relieved and hoped that things would be different.

Brother Young, who ran the home, was known for physically abusing the boys and Darby was kicked, punched and given the strap several times in the few months he lived there. Young’s attitude was no different from any of the other Brothers.

While he was doing hard labour, Darby was frequently hit by Brother Levitt. Levitt did this with a large piece of timber, a cane or his fists. Darby never wanted to do anything wrong, just avoid being hit.

There was one lay worker who was always at the home. Oliver Potter was in his mid-30s and seemed to be close friends with the Brothers. Potter would lead kids into the room where he sometimes stayed, on the promise of having treats and Darby was sexually abused in Potter’s room many times. Again, he couldn’t tell anyone what was happening.

Darby was in his early teens when he was discharged from state care. Since then he’s never been able to hold full-time work, always moving from one job to the next. But he was able to teach himself how to read and write.

‘I was reading, I watched documentaries and … my bible is the dictionary … The dictionary, the word spreads from one word to about a dozen words and you can keep looking at it and then you get a grasp of what it means.’

Darby has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. His flashbacks are often triggered by sexual relationships, so he avoids intimacy. His marriage broke down because of this. He also doesn’t like people sleeping in the same room as him.

In the late 90s Darby joined a support group, where he disclosed the abuse he experienced, and discovered that there were many other victims from both institutions he attended. Several months later he was subpoenaed to give evidence against Brother Hastings, who was subsequently jailed for his crimes.

Darby then approached the Catholic Church about the abuse he endured in the homes. He was disgusted that they offered him $5,000.

‘I told them … “You haven’t walked a mile until you have suffered as I did. You cannot say I’m entitled to $5,000”. Eventually they came up with $10,000 … A week later they shut the financial payments so basically you couldn’t challenge them again.’

Since the 90s Darby has been raising awareness of the Forgotten Australians. He came to the Royal Commission to further share his story and hopes it may help someone who has not yet disclosed their abuse.

‘A guilty hides; an innocent has nothing to hide from.’

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