Report into Salvation Army’s Southern Territory released

12 September 2016

The Royal Commission’s Report into Case Study No. 33 - The response of The Salvation Army (Southern Territory) to allegations of child sexual abuse at children’s homes that it operated, was released today.

The report follows a public hearing held in Adelaide, which examined the experiences of former child residents, as well as the response of The Salvation Army (Southern Territory) (TSAS) to allegations of child sexual abuse of former residents of boy’s homes in Eden Park (SA), Box Hill and Bayswater (Victoria) and Nedlands (WA).

The Royal Commission heard evidence from 12 former residents of these institutions who spoke of physical and sexual abuse by officers and employees of TSAS, and other residents, that they suffered while they lived at the institutions.

TSAS operated 55 separate children’s homes between 1894 and 1998. TSAS estimates that more than 3,000 officers and employees were engaged to work at the homes over that period. Approximately 15,000 to 17,000 children passed through the homes operated by TSAS.

The Royal Commission found that many former residents of the institutions run by TSAS did not report their complaints of sexual abuse at the time it was occurring because they did not think there was anyone to tell, they did not think they would be believed or they were threatened with physical harm.

The Royal Commission also determined that some former residents were physically punished after telling officers or employees of The Salvation Army about their complaints of sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission found that before 1990, The Salvation Army had no policies or procedures which governed how to handle and respond to complaints of sexual abuse received in respect of its institutions.

However, the Royal Commission notes that at least from 1895, the Orders and Regulations for Soldiers of The Salvation Army (and its ancillary volumes), provide different bases for disciplinary action against an officer, soldier or employee of The Salvation Army for any physical or sexual abuse of a child within the care of The Salvation Army.

The Royal Commission concludes that in failing to take action against its staff and officers who were breaching Orders and Regulations prohibiting the mistreatment of children, TSAS provided a culture in the institutions in which staff and officers were able to continue their prohibited behaviour.

The Royal Commission heard that from 1995 through to 2014, TSAS had received a total of 418 claims and paid approximately $18 million to former residents of their institutions. The Royal Commission found that in the resolution of claims were instances in which TSAS relied on technical legal defences, statutes of limitations and vicarious liability principles.

TSAS has since reviewed settled claims, prioritising cases where claimants were not represented and cases where new factual material has come to light after a claim was settled. 

The Royal Commission recommends that represented claimants who settled their claims at a time when TSAS relied on technical defences should be included in the review. 

Read the full report.

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