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Royal Commission hears shocking claims of abuse at Christian mission

Retta Dixon Home

Former Retta Dixon residents in Darwin attain compensation - In February 2017, after enduring years of horrific sexual and physical abuse, 71 former residents of a home in Darwin will be compensated in what their lawyer says is the largest class action in the NT's history. Article

First Nations girls were chained to their beds, starved and flogged with leather belts until they bled, as punishment at the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin.

Sandra Kitching says she was chained up when she tried to intervene in the abuse of a girl at Darwin's Retta Dixon home.
Sandra Kitching says she was chained up when she tried to intervene in the abuse of a girl at Darwin's Retta Dixon home.

(ABC News)

Children were "chained like dogs" and sexually assaulted at a government-run home for Aboriginal children in Darwin, a child sex abuse inquiry has heard. A former resident of the Retta Dixon home in Darwin told the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Ellie Turner NT News 22 September, 2014

Sandra Kitching, 64, has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that she was victimised by one of the "house parents" in her time at the Christian mission, on Bagot reserve.

"He was a big bloke and very cruel," she said.

"If you backchatted him or complained to the Superintendent (of the home) he'd chain you to the bed and leave you there until you were sincerely sorry."

Ms Kitching, who was taken from her Gurindji mother as a toddler, broke down when she gave evidence about the same man, Mr Pounder, forcing cabbage down the throat of a little girl, named Sandy, who she later found out had died.

He used to watch them shower and would run his hand up her thigh when he drove her to school, she said.

Ms Kitching ran away from Retta Dixon and lived with her mother, who had followed her stolen children to Darwin from Alice Springs.

Her experiences were similar to those of Lorna Cubillo, 76, who was the first former Retta Dixon resident to take the witness stand this morning.

She was taken from her home at Banka Banka, north of Tennant Creek, during the "war years", where she had been raised by her Granny Alice and auntie Maisie after her mum died.

Granny Alice smeared soot from the billy can all over her pale-skinned grand daughter but the authorities caught on.

Ms Cubillo said she was carted off to the "jailhouse" dorms of Retta Dixon.

House parent Mr Walters once fondled her breasts and touched her thigh when he drove her to basketball.

The bright student once punched the man and tried to run away after he flogged her for going swimming on "the Sabbath" - an activity that was banned.

She said the home's then-Superintendent Amelia Shankelton contacted her before her Stolen Generations court case in the late 1990s because she was "concerned about what we would say about her".

Early undated photo of Lorna Cubillo (far R) seated on truck fender outside the outside the Retta Dixon home in Darwin
Early undated photo of Lorna Cubillo (far R) seated on truck fender outside the Retta Dixon home in Darwin.

(Picture: News Corp)

Indigenous people who identify with the Stolen Generation have raised concerns that Retta Dixon isn't the only compound that needs to be investigated in the Royal Commission.

In his opening address, Justice Peter McLellan said: "I have previously emphasised that the Royal Commission must be selective in the choice of institutions which it considers in public hearings.

"This is true of all institutions, including those where Aboriginal children lived.

"The hearing in Darwin this week is an important chapter in our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."

THE sexual abuse children suffered at the hands of "house parents" and other kids - who had also been violated - will be explored at the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse and institutional responses to alleged atrocities at the Retta Dixon Home.

Victims and their families, government officials, lawyers and media crammed into a room at the NT Supreme Court this morning.

Counsel assisting the commission Sophie David said nine indigenous Territorians would share their "harrowing" experiences of alleged physical and sexual abuse at the Christian mission Retta Dixon home.

Most of the alleged perpetrators walked away unpunished, including a man Mr H who was charged with more than 70 historic charges of buggery on boys and indecent assaults on girls in 2002.

The DPP is expected to give evidence why charges against house parent Mr H that were committed to trial were withdrawn on the basis a conviction was unlikely, with "latently ambiguous" charges.

The detective in charge of the investigation will also speak out.

NT Children's Commissioner Dr Howard Bath and NT Children an Families Department boss Simone Jackson are expected to give evidence regarding what is currently regarded as best practice for indigenous children in out of home care.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Darwin has been focusing on abuse of children at the Retta Dixon home, which mainly housed Aboriginal children between 1946 until it closed in 1980.
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