THE Salvation Army has told a Victorian sex abuse inquiry it is ashamed of the treatment of children that occurred in its homes, as it revealed it has paid out more than $15 million to victims and that 50 Salvation Army officers had been named as abusers.
In a statement to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry, Salvation Army legal secretary Malcolm Roberts said, “The Salvation Army is ashamed of the treatment many children placed in our care in children’s homes received.
“This should not have happened and this was a breach of the trust that was placed in us.
We are deeply sorry.
“We are ashamed and deeply regret what occurred all those years ago and for those who were abused and whose lives have been so damaged I sincerely apologise on behalf of the Salvation Army.”
He said that since compensation claims began to arise in the late 1990s, the Salvation Army had received 474 abuse claims, 470 of which arose out of children’s homes, the last of which was closed in the 1980s.
He said the Salvation Army had so far paid out $15.5 million and had an annual budget of $4 million for abuse compensation.
Under intense questioning, Captain Roberts said the Salvation Army had not conducted an investigation into allegations of systemic abuse at homes including the Box Hill and Bayswater boys homes and the East Camberwell girls home, in Melbourne’s east, even after a judge found there was a “nest of pedophiles” at Bayswater, who would abuse boys at the home and take them away from the home to abuse and torture them.
He said the Salvation Army would conduct such an investigation if directed by the inquiry, but said, “The difficulty of this situation is that so many of these people are dead.”
Captain Roberts revealed that 50 Salvation Army officers had been “named” in allegations of abuse.
Of those 50, he said, 37 were deceased, three or four were in jail and two were still active officers, against whom nothing had been proved.
He said he had seen a service card for one officer who was put on “sick leave” and then transferred away from children’s homes after confessing in March 1950 to the sexual abuse of four boys at Box Hill and Bayswater. He said he knew the officer was never assigned to a children’s home again, but did not know whether he was reported to police.
Captain Roberts said the Salvation Army was endeavouring to respond to abuse claims in a “caring and compassionate manner”, but angered victims at the hearing when he said he did not believe there was a pedophile ring at Bayswater and that he did not believe the Salvation Army hierarchy knew of the abuse.
Outside the inquiry, Alf Stirling, 72, and Brian Cherrie, 60, who have been compensated for the abuse they suffered at Bayswater and Box Hill homes, condemned the Salvation Army for not investigating the suffering that occurred in its homes.
The Salvation Army made a formal apology for the abuse of children in its care up to the 1990s in Canberra in 2010, in which they acknowledged the “rigid, harsh and authoritarian” environment inside many of its homes.
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