Starving daughter’s shock diagnosis

 

RUSSELL Milne has been through more than any one parent should ever have to go through, but he's never given up fighting for his little girl.

The fight started in 1984 when little Yoey showed troubling signs of malnourishment.

Doctors at Royal Brisbane Hospital diagnosed her with a rare genetic condition, but a second opinion changed her trajectory entirely.

Doctors at Sydney Children's Hospital said the eight-month-old girl was being deliberately starved by her mother while her father was away managing a farm.

The shocking discovery forms just the start of an incredible story that aired on the ABC's 7.30 program on Thursday night.

In it, Mr Milne tells how that diagnosis meant his wife lost custody, but Yoey did not get to stay with him.

 

Baby Yoey was taken away from her mother as a baby. Picture: 7.30
Baby Yoey was taken away from her mother as a baby. Picture: 7.30

 

Instead she was shipped around to foster homes, sexually abused and raised without her father despite his undying efforts for them to be together.

He wrote letters to the government department responsible for her care but at one point the letters stopped coming back. He thought she was dead.

"We kept sending stuff but we never got any reply," Mr Milne told 7.30. "I made her a jumper. They just cut us off."

It wasn't until Yoey was 22 that the finally saw each other again. Yoey had been moved out of the foster family home and into western Sydney and into a group home Mr Milne described as being "like a prison".

And the shocks and setbacks kept coming. He found out his daughter has Smith-Magenis - a chromosomal condition - and that she was sexually assaulted at the age of 12.

But he also found out the reason he was never allowed to see his daughter; a psychiatrist who had never met him wrote in an official document that he "felt that at the very least (Mr Milne) was complicit in (Yoey's) abuse".

 

Yoey and Russell reunited. Picture: Brendan Esposito
Yoey and Russell reunited. Picture: Brendan Esposito

 

According to 7.30, Mr Milne believes that was a key reason he was denied access to his child.

Life is hard for Yoey, but Mr Milne believes it was made harder by the poor decisions that were made on her behalf by government officials.

Yoey has cataracts caused by self-harming, anxiety and autism. She receives care at a group home via the NDIS but Mr Milne says the money is not being properly spent on one-on-one care.

He is planning on raising Yoey's case with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability, which just began.

"Yoey has been deprived of her family. It's not the other way around," Mr Milne said.

"She's lived a life of hell." But, he says, "she's an amazing human being".

If you missed tonight's episode, you can catch up on iView