Alice needed a break. After two serious accidents the single mother ended up partly disabled. Dixie, aged 12 and the youngest of Alice's children, was more than a handful. Suffering from ADHD and diagnosed with an intellectual disability, she could be hard to manage. So Alice arranged for Dixie to enter a respite care program in southern Sydney.
'Barbara and John Everson were DOCS-approved carers and Aboriginal – but "white Aboriginal", not like ourselves', Alice told the Royal Commissioner.' I thought, "Great". So wrong!'
'I would go and stay at Barbara and John's place every second weekend', Dixie said in a statement to police. The Eversons had a foster daughter, Tamara, who was a year older than Dixie. 'Tamara and I would get on sometimes … but I got on really well with Barbara and John. They had trampolines and toys … and an in-ground pool. I loved to go swimming in the pool.'
The first trouble came when Dixie was in Year 6. 'I remember standing in the shower and washing myself … and John opened the door which led into his room and said, "Have you washed your hair yet?"’ Dixie answered that she hadn’t and so he washed her hair in the shower. He then left her to finish showering and get dressed before re-entering to dry her hair.
'I didn't say anything to him at the time, but I spoke to Barbara, and said, "I don't feel comfortable about John coming into the bathroom and seeing if I'm okay". Barbara said, "I will speak to him".'
The following year: 'John and Barbara had just bought a spa … I was sitting in it one night with Tamara, another girl called Louise, and John and Barbara ... After about 20 minutes I got dizzy, so I got out and went into a little garage area, and stood against a fence with a towel wrapped around my waist. A few minutes later, John came out.'
Standing behind Dixie, he touched her on the breasts and vagina – 'His hand was on my vagina under my costume, and he moved it in a circular motion' – then he put her hand on his penis. 'I felt his penis under his costume … this happened for a few minutes.
'John said to me, "If you tell anyone, I will hurt you".'
Dixie asked Barbara to take her home early that weekend, and she told her mother that she didn’t want to stay with the Eversons anymore. Dixie did not reveal the abuse, as she was scared of John Everson's threat.
A few months later Dixie learned that Louise had been sexually assaulted by John Everson, which led her to disclose to her mother. At the time they didn't approach the authorities, but after a couple of years Dixie made a statement to police. John Everson eventually faced two trials for abuse of Dixie and of Louise, but was acquitted in both.
'He got away with it all', says Dixie.
Dixie, on the other hand, has not emerged unscathed. In her early adulthood she tried to kill herself and then entered a mental health facility. Several years later her newborn was removed by welfare authorities, beginning a long battle for return of the child that has no happy ending in sight. She lives in fear that this child may face abuse in a foster home, and that her other child will also be taken into care.
'I have anxiety attacks when the police or DOCS turns up at my doorstep. My voice starts trembling, I start shaking and get a red rash all over me. Police – they're meant to be there to protect you, and they never do.'
She sleeps with the light on, a metal baseball bat by the bed.
'I can't trust no one. People don't understand, they're like, "Oh, but you gotta trust, like if you can't get over your trust issues things aren't going to work out". Well – sorry! I have trust issues with males. Plain and simple. And I always will, and there's no way that I can get over that.'