Glen Atkinson says his life was stolen from him when he was taken from his family.
Sent to the Alexandra Babies Home when he was just 18 months old and moved to Ballarat Children’s Home from the age of 5 until 14 with his three sisters, Glen’s formative years were shaped by beatings, sexual abuse and the theft of his connection to both his family and country.
“It was very frightening, just about every kid in that orphanage grew up in fear. They stole everything from me,” the 53-year-old says.
But it was the lies told by Orphanage staff and isolation from his family which left the deepest scars. When he was 18 Glen learned that he had three older brothers, including one who had died, and for most of his childhood, he and his sisters were told their parents never tried to visit them.
“But later on in life we found out that they had come: that's very sad, that part.”
Glen would spend the next few decades between homelessness and prison.
"He was so institutionalised, that was the only place he could function," his sister Karen explains.
"Glen's life has never, ever been any good... He just got booted out there after all that abuse and had to fend for himself."
"If it wasn't for [his wife] Merryn, he wouldn't be here."
Glen says his life has been leading up to the ‘inevitable’ moment three weeks ago, when doctors in Canberra Hospital gave him a terminal diagnosis for an eight-centimetre tumour in his liver. Last week he was sent home to the New South Wales south-coast where he lies in palliative care.
“Their responsibility is to absolutely provide an expedient payment for all of the suffering that Glen’s experienced, and the payment should be the maximum which is $150 thousand”
Glen’s family are now racing against the clock to see his application under the National Redress Scheme for child sexual abuse survivors approved – a process his wife, Merryn Apma started last year.
“This should’ve happened a long time ago, and not just for Glen, for all Stolen Generations survivors,” Merryn says.
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) assisted the family in finalising their application this week, and submitted it Friday morning.
VACCA Manager, Jeannie McIntyre, says the application is accompanied by a medical letter so that it can be fast-tracked by the National Redress Scheme.
“Their responsibility is to absolutely provide an expedient payment for all of the suffering that Glen’s experienced, and the payment should be the maximum, which is $150,000,” Jeannie says.
In December, CAFS –the organisation responsible for running the Ballarat Children’s Home before it closed– passed a motion to join the Scheme. With the Victorian government, it will be equally responsible for payments to people – like Glen – who experienced abuse in the Ballarat orphanage, if it signs up.
The federal Department of Social Services told NITV News applications for people who are terminally ill or very elderly are treated with urgency and are subject to shorter timeframes, 'where possible'.
"The Scheme will also take into account the health and life expectancy for Indigenous applicants, including those from the Stolen Generation," a statement reads.
"If a person dies after lodging a complete application, and they are assessed as eligible, their estate will receive the monetary payment."
Merryn, who married Glen two years ago after thirty years of friendship, says she has no words for the pain their family has been through in the past few weeks, but she says it only emboldened her fight for justice.
"It has really stirred me up. I thought, 'I have to make this happen for him, because he deserves justice,'" she says.
"We've kicked some goals, me and Glen in the last few years, so this would be really important for him, for me and for his children."
For Glen, compensation cannot heal the past, but it would be an acknowledgment he can live with before his final goodbye.
"I feel numb, and it won’t bring me peace but maybe peace of mind. I'd like to be able to leave me kids some money, because they've suffered too."
The family plan to host a celebration of Glen’s life while he is still with them. On January 20th, friends and family will gather in Tilba on the NSW south-coast to say their goodbyes and remember a life of heartache and love.