Royal Commission releases findings on The Salvation Army case study

17 March 2015

The Royal Commission's Report into Case Study No. 5 - The response of The Salvation Army to child sexual abuse at its boys homes in New South Wales and Queensland, was released today.

The four boys’ homes in this case study were run by the ‘Eastern Territory’ of The Salvation Army and provided homes for boys who were wards of the State. The homes included Indooroopilly and Riverview in Queensland and Gill and Bexley in New South Wales.

The Royal Commission heard evidence from 14 men who as boys were residents at one of the four boys’ homes operated by The Salvation Army.

The Commissioners found that The Salvation Army did not protect the boys from sexual abuse in each of the four homes by officers or employees of The Salvation Army.

The Commissioners also found that The Salvation Army received more than 100 claims of child sexual abuse concerning boys’ homes and in most cases, the boys who reported the abuse were punished, disbelieved, accused of lying or no action was taken.

The public hearing also examined the actions of government agencies in Queensland and New South Wales: the relevant children’s welfare departments and police forces. The Commissioners found that from at least 1973, senior officers of the Queensland Department of Children’s Services were aware of frequent sexual activity between many of the boys at Riverview Boys’ Home, including occasions of rape.

In New South Wales, staff from the Department of Child Welfare regularly reported on the homes but rarely recorded allegations of child sexual abuse. The Commissioners concluded that abuse went unreported for several reasons, including limited interaction between visiting staff and boys, and that issues were not generally referred to the police.

In relation to the response of The Salvation Army at the time, the Commissioners concluded that The Salvation Army’s policies and procedures were inadequate to oversee managers who were, in some cases, involved in abuse.

The Commissioners found that between 1965 and 1977, The Salvation Army’s policies and procedures did not enable the prevention or detection of child sexual abuse and The Salvation Army failed to provide appropriately trained staff to ensure an environment suitable for the care and safety of children.

The public hearing looked at whether the regular transfer of officers between the four homes allowed for sexual abuse to continue. The Commissioners concluded that the senior officers responsible for transfer decisions were often, but not always, unaware of allegations rather than deliberately trying to protect offenders.

The case study highlighted various systemic issues including the training and supervision of staff, mechanisms for handling complaints of child sexual abuse, reporting of child sexual abuse to authorities and record keeping in non-government institutions.

Read the report.

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