ACT News


Artist guilty of child sex abuse

One of the Australia's leading indigenous artists has been found guilty of raping and sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl at her family home in the mid-1990s.

Dennis Michael Nona, 40, was widely considered as one of the Torres Strait's best artists, and his works have been displayed in prominent galleries around the country and the world.

But sexual abuse allegations were first levelled at the award-winning artist last year, when he was found guilty of molesting a different victim aged 12 or 13.

The girl became pregnant, likely with his baby, but had an abortion.

He is currently behind bars, but has not yet been sentenced for those crimes, with the ACT Supreme Court still waiting on the outcome of an appeal.

Nona stood trial this week for sexually abusing a second victim, aged 13, in the 1990s.


He raped and sexually assaulted the girl in her family home, and threatened to hurt her or kill her family if she told anyone.

The child believed Nona's threats and did not tell anyone of the abuse, the court heard.

The abuse occurred while Nona was studying at the Australian National University.

The jury deliberated for just over a day, and found Nona guilty on Friday morning on all nine counts.

Nona stared straight ahead, and did not appear to react as the jury delivered its verdict.

It is the second time he has stood trial for the abuse of this victim.

In the first trial last September, a jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, forcing a re-trial that began Monday.

Nona has won a number of prizes for his work, including the $40,000 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander award in 2007 for a bronze sculpture of a crocodile with a man on its back.

Many of his works are still being sold online.

He was born in Badu Island, north of Queensland, and has had work displayed at the National Gallery of Australia, the Queensland Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Victoria, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, as well as overseas at Cambridge and at the Museum of American Indian Arts in the United States.

In their opening submission, Nona's defence team told the jury it would be inhuman not to be moved by the allegations.

But Nona's lawyer urged them to be impartial, objective, and to weigh up the evidence as it came out.

He asked them to examine the evidence carefully, and said they would reach the conclusion that the artist was not guilty.

Justice John Burns has delayed the sentencing of Nona for at least a month, so the outcome of the appeal relating to Nona's other victim is known.

He will remain in prison until the case returns to court next month.