‘This (mistreatment of children) is like a cancer… we can’t deal with the future unless we deal with the past. And the past is right here. Right now.  We’ve got to deal with this right now, before we think about how we are going to (in future) deal with the welfare of indigenous children, of non-indigenous children…It is important not to assume that kids have a behavioural problem, or that they are bad, or naughty. There is usually a reason why they are behaving in a particular way. They have to have a chance to talk about what’s bothering them, and to not feel fear…When we lived there, we felt nothing but fear. We left and we still have fear.What I’m trying to say here is there has to be acknowledgment…This has to be the truth…I feel that the welfare of children has to be out of the hands of religious institutions.

I’m not a victim. The people that did the bad things to me are the victims. Perpetrators are victims of their own selfishness, their own destruction. When I was about 6 years old, I was placed in the Retta Dixon institution which was on the sacred the ground of Larakeeta country. As children, you don’t expect to have this terrible experience, but you think that’s what life and the whole world is; full of tragedy, abuse and struggle. We were precious little children, processing evil and trying to find good. We turned to each other and became brothers. We were told we would be failures and our children would end up in this home. I blamed myself for everything. You look for answers but sometimes you just don’t get answers.  The more you look, the harder and more painful it becomes.

After I left Retta Dixon at 17, I ended up on a property, where I started finding myself amongst nature, Aboriginal people and the culture that I was denied. It’s where I had an amazing revelation, where I found this different side of humanity, a good side of humanity where there weren’t threats, abuse and negativity. I was very privileged to be able to help start up the Aboriginal ranger programs in Arnhem Land some 20 odd years ago. I’ll never forget being around the Elders learning knowledge that they were so humbled in sharing with me, they must have sensed something about me. I may have lost one part of knowledge or identity, but I felt like I gained another set of knowledge and identity, which has had a profound effect on my life.’

-WAYNE BARBOUR, DARWIN NT, 2019

 

Wayne is photographed at the site of the Retta Dixon Institution in Darwin where he was a resident.  The Christian doctrine was distorted to blur the boundaries between good and evil in order to groom and abuse the child residents. The context of abuse is holistic: psychological, social, educational, racism, loss of culture and physicality. Wayne provided evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses on Child Sexual Abuse in 2014.