Darrell was given conflicting accounts of the reason he was removed from his mother at six months of age and made a ward of the Victorian State.
One story was that his mother couldn’t look after him; another, that he’d been removed as part of the government’s forced removal of Aboriginal children. He was 40 when a service for reuniting Aboriginal people helped him find his mother and siblings.
After placements with foster families, Darrell was seven when he was sent in the mid-1960s to a home overseen by the St John of God Brothers. He told the Commissioner that the home was for boys like him who had intellectual disabilities. He said the Brothers meted out harsh punishment, including slapping boys across the face, whipping them with a strap and kicking their testicles.
Darrell said he dreaded school holidays because the teachers and most of the boys left, and only he and two or three other boys remained. It was during holidays that the sexual abuse by Brother Hodges was worst.
‘The first time, I was 11 and in the TV room. He told me to sit on his lap, then he put his hand down my pants and grabbed hold of my penis, moving his hand on it. After a few minutes he told me to go and clean myself up.’
The abuse continued two to three times a month for the next four years. Darrell said he was first raped by Brother Hodges in the showers. ‘I told him it hurt and to stop, and he told me to stop crying. Afterwards he told me to clean up the blood with a mop and bucket. Then he gave me two aspirin and said I wasn’t to tell anybody.’
On the occasions Darrell refused to do what Brother Hodges wanted, he was locked in the kitchen cool room and told he’d stay there until he cooperated. He told the Commissioner that he was also punched in the face and given alcohol spiked with drugs that made him lose consciousness. Later, Darrell was made to wear a women’s wig and clothing while the abuse was perpetrated.
‘It was always worse in the holidays. I don’t participate in Christmas because of the flashbacks and the nightmares. I wake up screaming sometimes. It doesn’t go away.’
When he was 12, Darrell told a teacher that Brother Hodges was coming around at night time and hurting him. The teacher spoke with Hodges who told her that Darrell was making things up.
Around this time, another Brother at the home also started sexually abusing Darrell, who made several further attempts to disclose the abuse. He told the secretary who worked at the home as well as a male nurse and a psychiatrist, but no-one followed up his complaint.
After leaving the home, Darrell was convicted of several violent crimes and spent years in jail and the secure wards of psychiatric institutions. In the early 1990s, he told a disability worker about the abuse.
‘He was the first person who believed me’, Darrell said. ‘It was such a relief.’
The disability worker encouraged Darrell to report the abuse. He’d heard media reports that St John of God Brothers were being investigated by Victoria Police for child sexual offences. Darrell joined a class action against the Brothers and received $430,000, which included $35,000 for legal fees.
‘I would have liked an apology’, he said. ‘They said they’d make a public apology, and I wanted to be there for that, but in the end it was just a notice in the newspaper. No one from the Catholic Church ever spoke to me. The money put a roof over my head and I haven’t been in trouble again, but it hasn’t healed me. I still worry about kids in institutions. I don’t want any other kid to go through what I did.
‘Someone needs to keep an eye on them.’