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 8-month-old girl was being deliberately starved by her mother while her father was away managing a farm.


Her mother was diagnosed with Munchausen syndrome by proxy, where a carer deliberately makes their child sick to get attention.

Baby Yoey was taken away from her parent as a baby. Photo / ABC
Baby Yoey was taken away from her parent as a baby. Photo / ABC

Milne tells ABC how that diagnosis meant his wife lost custody of their two children and that he had no idea what was going on as he was busy working on the farm.

Because of this because he had failed to recognise his wife's abuse, he too lost custody and it took him until 1986 to prove he was a capable father.

Following the Munchausen diagnosis, Milne's two children were placed in the New South Wales foster care system.

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

Her father 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," Milne told 7.30, an Australian current affairs programme. "I made her a jumper. They just cut us off."

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


And the shocks and setbacks kept coming. He found out his daughter has Smith-Magenis syndrome — 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 (Milne) was complicit in (Yoey's) abuse".

Yoey and Russell reunited. Photo / ABC
Yoey and Russell reunited. Photo / ABC

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

Life is hard for Yoey, but 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 Milne says the money is not being properly spent on one-on-one care.

He is planning on raising Yoey's case with the Australian 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," Milne said.

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

Where to go for help or more information:

NZ Police
Help Auckland 24/7 helpline 09 623 1700
Rape Prevention Education
Wellington Help 24/7 crisisline 04 801 6655, push 0
Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.