‘I went to school one day, I was a six-year-old, just started school. Went to school on the bus and never went home.’
Darcy was six in the 1940s when he, and his sister and brothers, were picked up by Western Australia Police and taken to a local jail cell. Darcy’s sister was separated from the boys and never returned to the family, while the brothers were transferred from one jail to another as they travelled in the back of a truck to a ‘native settlement’ in the south of the state.
The trip was frightening and confusing to Darcy who, until then, had been living happily with his family in a home attached to the property of a farming family. His father worked and his mother cared for the children who were all well looked after.
Darcy was whipped with a strap soon after his arrival in the settlement because he hesitated about going into the cold shower. He remained in the place for approximately two years during which he was sexually abused by one of the older boys who’d come into the junior boys’ dormitory when no one else was around.
‘The bloke who sexually assaulted me … lucky he’s dead, otherwise I’d kill him’, Darcy said.
The abuse stopped after Darcy told his brothers what the boy had been doing to him. ‘Whatever they said to him, whatever they done to him I don’t know; but he never come back.’
Darcy and his brothers were released back to their parents in about 1950 and Darcy had to catch up on the education he’d missed. At school other children taunted him with racist comments, but one teacher took action to stop them.
‘He was the sort of teacher, if someone called you a nigger and you went and told him, he’d bring that child up in front of the class and he’d say to that child, “There’s no niggers in this school. We’re all the same”. And you know, I’ll never forget that. That shows he was a really good teacher.’
The teacher tried to encourage Darcy to finish high school but the thought of going to a large city was too daunting. Darcy left and got a job. He’d had a good working life, he said, but his personal life had been difficult.
‘I’ve been living on me own now for 12 years. No lady’ll live with me 'cause they reckon I’m too hard. They reckon I haven’t got a heart; I’ve got a brick in there. I don’t know where that come from – you know, early life.
'Even my mum said, “You’re a very hard person”. She said, “Why don’t you forgive people?”, ‘cause my mum was real kind.'
The experience of being snatched from his parents, then physically and sexually abused, had been such a shock that Darcy thought it contributed to his later estrangement from his children and grandchildren.
‘It affected all my relationships, and my children. I’d say it changed me a lot because like Mum said, “You won’t forgive anyone”. A couple of days before she died, she asked me to forgive my first missus, and to go and make friends with my children. Just the two of us sitting together and I said, “Mum, I can’t do that”.’
He told the Commissioner that he’d learnt a lot from his father who’d made him ‘understand what growing up to be a man was all about’.
‘He taught me how to live in the bush, how to grow up to be a man. He wouldn’t let us do anything until we turned 18. Wasn’t allowed to smoke, wasn’t allowed to drink. The day I turned 18, I sat alongside him and smoked a cigarette.’
Darcy received $13,000 as a participant in Western Australia’s redress scheme but thought the amount ‘paltry’ in light of his experiences, and because after legal and other expenses were deducted, he was left with only $9,000.
‘After I left the mission, I made the best of my life and I’m happy with what I done, you know … I never got the dole in my life. I worked hard and I’m still doing a little bit. I’m nearly 72.
'I’m still trying to help Aboriginal people in Western Australia in the courts here. I go to court and I tell them where they’re going wrong. I tell their lawyers where they’re going wrong as well. If I see a lawyer go in there and he’ll say, “Oh, she’s an old Aboriginal lady and she lives on the street”, I’ll have a go at him. I’ll say, “Can’t you say something different from that?” I say, “They can see she’s an old Aboriginal lady, why don’t you start with something else?”
‘They’re charging them here with move-on notices. They got nowhere to go; they live in the park. Then they get fined up to $600 if it’s three times, and they live in a bag. They live in bags. I can’t talk for them because that’s not my job, I’m not a lawyer.
'There was a lady one day, she was at a bus stop; it was raining. They locked her up because they asked her to move on … Brought her to court here, a hundred dollar fine. Why didn’t they just let her go next morning over at the watch house there? Why couldn’t they just say, “Go and have a good day, love”. Why fine her one hundred dollars? They’re never going to get their hundred dollars. She’s living off the street. That’s the way Aboriginal people are treated.
‘Right back to my day, we wasn’t allowed on the street after six o’clock at night. When I was 16, 17, if you were caught on the street after six o’clock you were locked up and given three months vagrancy. That’s when I was 16. You had to have a job. Most white people wouldn’t give you a job because you was a black fella.’
He still didn’t know why he and his siblings were taken away. ‘Never ever got to know why I was taken off my parents. Never to this day … I just wanted to get it out of my mind and tell people like you who’s interested in something like this. No one else was interested. That’s the reason I’m here today, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.’