The organisation that operated the infamous Retta Dixon Home in Darwin, where multiple children were allegedly raped and abused between 1947 and 1980, will not be a part of the National Redress Scheme.
- Despite trying to, the organisation that ran the Retta Dixon Home cannot join the National Redress Scheme
- At least 13 applications for redress are now stuck in administrative limbo, with no “funder of last resort” identified
- Stolen Generations representatives say compensation should be paid before more elderly claimants die
Australian Indigenous Ministries (AIM), previously known as the Aborigines Inland Mission, ran the facility that housed mainly Aboriginal children, including many who identified as being part of the Stolen Generations.
AIM tried to join the National Redress Scheme, but was deemed ineligible by the Department of Social Services.
A spokesperson for the department told the ABC it prohibited AIM from joining the National Redress Scheme because it did not believe the organisation had enough money to adequately pay out potential claimants.
“To join, under the National Redress Act institutions must be able to demonstrate their capacity to pay redress for current and any possible future applicants over the life of the scheme,” a statement from the department read.
“As AIM has taken necessary steps to join the scheme it will not, at this stage, be subject to financial consequences.”
The news that AIM will not be required to participate in the National Redress Scheme has left a group of people who say they were abused at Retta Dixon unable to move their claims for redress forward.
As AIM is not a participating institution, survivors cannot expect to receive any financial compensation from the organisation.
Further, no “funder of last resort” has been identified, meaning neither the NT nor Federal Government have committed to picking up the tab for any redress payments that could be owed to former residents.
Anna Swain, the acting principal lawyer at knowmore Legal Service, which has provided legal advice to 10 survivors of alleged sexual abuse at Retta Dixon, said the delay was devastating for the service’s clients.
“It’s frustrating, it’s disappointing, it feels as though they’ve been forgotten again,” she said.
The lawyer said the situation illustrated a flaw in the current structure of the scheme that needed to be urgently fixed.
“The funder of last resort provision needs to be broadened so that in cases such as this, where an institution has tried to join the scheme but cannot because of their financial situation, state and commonwealth governments can step in and say, ‘We’ll pay for this,'” Ms Swain said.
In 2017 a landmark class action led to a settlement for 71 of the people who say they were abused or mistreated while at Retta Dixon.
Stolen Generations NT chairperson Eileen Cummings says this went some way to healing the wounds of the past, but not everyone who was abused while at Retta Dixon was included in the settlement.
In the years after the class action, when former Retta Dixon residents came to her saying they needed redress from their time in the home, Ms Cummings directed them to the National Redress Scheme.
She said she was disappointed it had not delivered swift compensation, acknowledgement and justice.
She urged the Commonwealth Government to quickly find a solution to the current problem.
“The people that have put into the redress scheme are still suffering,” she said.
“We see them on a daily basis.
“There are a lot of [Retta Dixon] children that are elderly, they’ve got chronic illnesses, and surely the Commonwealth can come to the party and try and help these people.”
AIM willing to apologise
In a statement provided to the ABC, general director of Australian Indigenous Ministries (previously Aborigines Inland Mission) Cliff Letcher said his organisation did attempt to join the scheme.
“We have indicated to the National Redress Scheme our desire to provide support for the survivors,” the statement read.
“They have indicated that, under their current regulations, if we cannot meet our financial obligations we cannot participate in any other way through the National Redress Scheme to support them.”
Mr Letcher offered an olive branch to former residents of Retta Dixon, whose allegations of mistreatment are from decades before he managed the organisation.
“Should any of the survivors wish to contact us directly to be able to tell their story and receive an apology it is my belief that our organisation would be willing to undertake such a meeting,” a statement read.
Claims hanging in the balance
For the former residents of Retta Dixon seeking compensation and acknowledgement under the National Redress Scheme, a wait that has gone on for decades continues.
In a statement, a Department of Social Services spokesperson said the fate of National Redress Scheme applications relating to Retta Dixon Home would be discussed at an as-yet-unscheduled Ministers’ Redress Scheme Governance Board Meeting in 2021.
Ms Cummings hopes her message is heard loud and clear in any such discussion.
“I want [the Commonwealth] to take responsibility, because they were the ones that removed the children in the first place,” she said.
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