Ivan Robert Marko Milat was born on 27 December 1944 into an extended Yugoslavian immigrant family, one of fourteen children. Family life was rural and insular, and the Milats kept to themselves, making reliable information about Ivan Milat’s upbringing difficult to obtain. Interviews with his brother, Boris, after Milat’s trial, indicate that he exhibited psychopathic tendencies early on, although other family members dispute this. Milat was described as a good-looking, well-muscled boy, who had a fascination for hunting and guns, and took great care of his appearance. His parents were hard working and authoritarian although, with fourteen children to manage, discipline was difficult, and he and his brothers had a reputation for lawlessness in their neighbourhood. The family endured numerous police visits to their farm, as the children grew older.
From the age of 17 Milat was constantly in trouble with both the police and the courts, on charges as varied as housebreaking, car thefts and armed robberies.
In 1971, Milat was put on trial for the alleged rape of two female hitchhikers, who testified that he had been armed with a knife during the attacks, but he was acquitted on the rape charges when the prosecution failed to make a convincing case against him.