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Archie's story

In the 1950s, after the death of both parents, Archie and his brother were sent to live in a Salvation Army boys’ home. Proceeds from the sale of the family’s house were meant to be held in trust for the boys but were taken by the Salvation Army.

‘The [New South Wales] Public Trust took over and they slipped up’, Archie said. ‘For some reason the Salvation Army got their hands on the money. I assume it would have been put into their care and they would have drawn out a certain amount for our care at the home. It really should have been left until we were 18 or whatever the legal situation was then … There was a will. I managed to get a will and it was everything to be left to my brother and I.’

In the mid-2000s, Archie received $100,000 in payment from the Salvation Army after he threatened to take civil action against them. He thought of the money as part compensation for the sale of the family home and part payment for being sexually abused by Salvation Army Captain, Rowan Plover while in care. Over several years, Plover abused many boys in the home, taking them from their beds at night and sending them back later crying and holding bags of lollies.

The home was generally violent and there was no one to tell about the abuse. Archie recalled on his first night seeing a boy being beaten for crying out for his mother.

While he’d done well in later life, Archie knew others who hadn’t. They’d got ‘into drugs, an unsettled life’.

‘You don’t get over it’, he said. ‘I think it’s probably determination that’s got me through it, and I can see why others have really failed. See, I only had four years in the home. What about some of those who had 10 years? I got off lightly to be honest.’

Boys from the home went to the local school, but they looked different and didn’t fit in. ‘Socially, you couldn’t mix with outsiders. That’s what we called people: outsiders … As far as sport goes, at one stage I was really good at the javelin and I had a really good PE teacher. He wanted me to represent the school but the Salvation Army wouldn’t let me.

‘Education is another thing. They didn’t encourage education. You get a good education you’ve got good opportunities, that’s another factor. If I’d received a better education, more encouragement, I would be better off. Most of the kids from the home at school were in the lower classes. I think I was in the lowest class. You were out working, you weren’t doing your homework when you came home. The school just accepted that home kids just didn’t do their homework. I think a lot of the teachers would’ve just given up on us. You’re a home kid. You certainly were treated differently at school, that’s for sure.’

Archie left at 15 as did his brother and they never spoke again about their time with the Salvation Army. ‘We just don’t talk about the home’, Archie said. ‘No discussion.’

He was certain the Salvation Army knew about Plover’s abuse and kept moving him on, until they eventually sacked him. When Archie later tried to access records, Army officers told him they didn’t have any that related to Plover. ‘They lied to protect themselves.’

He hadn’t given up hope of finding out more information about Plover and continued trying to gain access to Salvation Army files. The process had become slightly easier since the commencement of the Royal Commission, he said, but he still felt that records were being withheld. He recommended that all files from the Salvation Army be held by the Commission until its work was finished, and that the files then be placed in a secure location and not returned to the Salvation Army.

Archie didn’t tell anyone about the sexual abuse until he sought compensation from the Salvation Army. ‘The lawyer knew about it and my wife knew about it because she was a secretary and had to type everything up. It was many, many, many years later. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t tell any of the other kids in the home, I didn’t tell any relatives at all. I think that would be applicable to a lot of people that were affected by, victims of these paedophiles. It’s not the sort of thing you talk about … It can be sort of 50, 60 years later when you start talking about it.’

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