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Dieter Lee's story

When Dieter was a toddler in the late 1970s his parents separated, and he lived with his mother in Sydney. She started a new relationship and when Dieter was 13 and not getting on with his mother’s partner, it was arranged that he be placed in a nearby youth refuge.

The refuge was staffed 24 hours per day and Dieter had his own room. He went to high school during the day and continued his study at the refuge without any problems. However, a carer named Nigel began to come into Dieter’s room at night and, over a period of a year, sexually abused him.

He tried to isolate Dieter and offered him cigarettes in a bid to make him feel ‘special’. He warned Dieter ‘not to say nothing’ because no one would believe a ‘street kid’.

Nigel appeared ‘too confident’ and Dieter was convinced he was abusing other children so he told a staff member, Leona. Some time later she told Dieter that she’d spoken to Nigel who’d offered the explanation that he was checking boys weren’t entering the girls’ dormitory. Nothing more was done except a ‘slight change in shift times’.

Within a short time, Dieter’s behaviour started to change. He was aware that Nigel was going after younger boys and he started to defend them, often disobeying staff instructions. He learnt that another boy named James was being sexually abused by Nigel, and asked him to disclose it to a staff member, but James didn’t want to.

When he was 14, Dieter was asked to leave the refuge because he was ‘disruptive’ and ‘causing problems in the house’. He did so and James went with him. They moved into an apartment together but it didn’t work out because Dieter learnt that James ‘liked what Nigel did’ and would invite older men to the house.

After finishing school in Year 10, Dieter began travelling around Australia. At 16 he started using drugs and alcohol and he became a violent person with poor impulse control. Through his adult years he’s committed a number of criminal offences and has been in and out of jail.

Dieter still struggles with talking about the abuse. He told the Commissioner that he has spoken about it to ‘a few friends’, and mentioned it briefly to a counsellor he was seeing for issues to do with his drug dependence.

‘I tried to push it under a rock and found out if I don’t talk about it then I’m all right. If I do and sit down and think about it, that’s where I tend to screw meself up.’

Dieter’s children were placed into care while he was serving a jail sentence. He recently learnt that his son, who is now 12, was sexually abused during his time in care, and that he was removed quickly after the abuse was disclosed.

Dieter said that he feels ‘very protective’ of his children and is motivated to ‘get help’ when he is released from jail. He doesn’t want to see his son follow the same destructive path as he did growing up.

Dieter has never reported Nigel because he doesn’t know his full name. He hasn’t sought compensation because he believes it’s ‘not really going to help with what’s happened’.

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