Arthur's story

In a moment of terror, Arthur felt he had no choice but to stab his father with a steak knife.

‘He was hitting my mother and after I did it, I said, “If you ever touch her again, I’ll kill you”. He left and never came back; a violent drunk, never gave us a penny. I was seven years old when I done that.’

Five years later, in the mid-1950s, Arthur began skipping school. He was charged with truancy, then sent to a Salvation Army boys’ home in regional New South Wales.

‘Cruelty there was commonplace. My first three nights I was molested by Major Leon. He was touching and fondling, teaching me how to masturbate. He was a very big man.

'His wife came into his office on the third night, and told me to get dressed and go to bed. She was a friend of my mother, she was crying her eyes out. He never touched me again after that.’

Two years later, Arthur became the target of further abuse, this time at the hands of Captain Piper.

‘I don’t know what brought him to drag me into his room, but I wasn’t the only one he picked on. I’d hear him go into the other dormitory and someone get dragged out at two, three in the morning, and I’d thank God it’s not me – but then you’re wishing it on someone else, aren’t you?’

This time the abuse continued for several months until one night Piper attempted to rape Arthur.

‘He called me a slut and bent me over the bed. I knew what was coming and I swung around and hit him. He was off balance and he went down, so I grabbed my stuff and went out of there.’

By that point, Arthur recalled, Leon had been replaced, and he told the new major’s wife what was happening to the boys.

‘I never told her I was one of them. She went white and said, “Leave it with me, I’ll look after it”. Piper was gone within a week, but he started working down at the railway station, so every time you travelled, there he was.’

At 15, Arthur decided to make a police report.

‘Well, they laughed at me, the whole station thought it was quite funny. They said, “The Salvation Army wouldn’t do that! Rubbish! Bloody liar!” That was the attitude everywhere.’

Arthur went on to build a career and start a family, but never told anyone about the abuse until he was 65 and stumbled across the CLAN (Care Leavers Australia Network) website by accident.

‘I’ve received counselling through CLAN, and they urged me to tell my story to the Salvation Army, so I did.

'I didn’t ask them for anything but to listen. But then a couple of weeks after the meeting, they rang me and offered me an ex gratia payment of $55,000, which I took.’

Arthur was horrified to later discover Piper had previously worked at another boys’ home where he abused a number of boys.

‘I just can’t believe it was allowed to continue from home to home. I mean, this man would stand there with an erection watching us all shower, but no one would listen to the kids in those days.’

To Arthur’s knowledge, Piper was never charged or punished for sexually abusing the boys entrusted to his care.

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