Dillon Mark's story

Dillon was born in Western Australia in the early 1950s. At the age of five he was sent to an Aboriginal mission run by Benedictine monks. Some of his siblings were sent there too, arriving at different times.

Conditions at the mission were appalling. The children were beaten and starved. They were allowed a change of clothes just once a week. There was no hot water. Blankets were thin. Winter nights were often freezing. As well, the nuns at the school they attended were extremely violent.

When Dillon was eight or nine years old he was sexually abused by a boy, George Dennis, who was a little older. Dillon would wake up to George holding him down and abusing him. This happened three or four times. Dillon didn’t report it as he feared further punishments. He also believed everyone knew sexual abuse occurred in the mission.

Dillon only attended school until Grade 6. ‘I couldn’t function or do any schoolwork. My mind was pretty downhill.’ Dillon ran away a few times and eventually, at 12 or 13, he was allowed to leave the mission and live with his aunt and uncle. They were good to him but he only stayed there a short time.

The experience at the mission has profoundly affected Dillon’s life. In a written statement he provided to the Commissioner, Dillon said:

‘I regularly wake up in sweats from nightmares. I have trouble maintaining a relationship, and I have been violent to my partners and children in the same way that the missionaries were violent to me. As a result of my experience I have not been the father I wanted to be, and this resulted in my children being taken away from me by their mother.’

Dillon also has a history of drug and alcohol abuse. He has done some time in jail but not for the last 10 years. He believes drugs and alcohol are the biggest barriers to keeping kids safe.

Dillon also told the Commissioner that some of his children and grandchildren were or are experiencing sexual abuse from other family members.

As an adult, Dillon tried studying but he couldn’t concentrate, ‘went blank’. He applied to WA Redress for compensation and was awarded $28,000 plus a further $5,000 from the Catholic Church. He was expecting much more but says he got ‘knocked down’. At the time he didn’t reveal the full details of his abuse as he didn’t want to be shamed.

Dillon obtained his native welfare file but found it hard to understand. However, he did find some useful information in it about his parents and grandmother and where they came from. Dillon revisited the mission as an adult and experienced an ‘empty feeling’.

Dillon lives alone but is currently facing eviction. He gains strength from his faith and the Bible but admits it is a challenge. ‘It’s pretty hard to try and hold that … just a little word in a black book from someone else. Very hard to hold back and hang on to it.’

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