Digby was removed from his mum in the early 1960s, when he was still a baby. At first he was placed in a receiving centre, then was sent to an Anglican orphanage in regional Victoria when he was around seven years old.
On a number of occasions he and some other boys were made to go ‘down this dark hallway into this room’ where they were sexually abused by an elderly priest.
‘We just kept it to ourselves. I kept it to myself for 50 years.’
Later he was moved to a foster care placement in suburban Melbourne. While living there one of his foster family’s relatives sexually abused him. Although his foster parents were good to him he was too scared to tell them what had happened.
Digby started to ‘run amok’, getting into trouble and ending up in juvenile detention. There was lots of fighting in these places, but by then he was old enough to fend for himself.
After he was moved to a boys’ home his mother managed to track him down, and after she visited and introduced himself he ‘took off’ to try and find her. It took him some months to locate her again and they then lived together and he met his siblings too – ‘we all started getting back together then’.
Being sexually abused impacted upon his ability to trust adults, especially ones in authority. He would get jobs ‘here and there’ through mates sometimes. He abused alcohol and other drugs, including methamphetamine, and ended up in prison several times.
The last time he was released from jail he and his wife stopped using substances altogether.
‘I just got sick of going to jail, sick of going into institutions ... And when I left five years ago I made a decision, I said I’m not going back.’
Digby has children to a number of partners and is now a grandfather. He is particularly protective of the youngest ones. ‘I don’t want anything to hurt them what happened to me.’
When a media report came on the television recently about priests sexually abusing children, ‘I just broke down in front of my family. My wife, she goes, “What’s the matter?” and then she just sees the thing on TV and she know what’s going on ... I told her.’ In a way he felt better for disclosing the abuse to her, ‘but in a way I felt real shame’.
Digby enjoys playing sport and participating in community activities. He has been seeing a male counsellor weekly for around two years, and credits this with helping him settle down.
Digby is keen to learn more about his Aboriginal culture, his traditions, his country and his kin. ‘Yes, I can speak some of my language, but not fluent. I speak in English, it’s an embarrassment – I’ll say this to the young ones – that I can’t speak my language ...
‘I didn’t know who I was, where I was, who I belonged to, and to this day now I still don’t know who I am properly.’