, Sydney, Mar 17 – The Salvation Army failed to protect children from brutal sexual and physical abuse in four of its Australian homes, and instead punished them for complaining, a national inquiry ruled Tuesday.
A Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in Australia began hearing evidence last year into shocking allegations of abuse at four Salvation Army homes for children, between 1965 and 1977.
It heard of children being sodomised with a garden hose, locked in outdoor cages and savagely beaten by Salvation Army majors. One boy was kicked unconscious when he refused to have sex with an officer, waking up to find the man raping him.
In another case, a boy was dangled head first into a well, while another was tied to a tree with a chain attached to a metal collar. Another was forced to crawl around a sports oval naked holding a chicken in the air while others stood by laughing.
“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 report said.
“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 investigative commission was established by former prime minister Julia Gillard in 2013 after more than a decade of pressure to investigate claims of paedophilia in institutions such as religious organisations, schools and state care.
Its hearings have covered damaging allegations of child abuse involving places of worship, orphanages, community groups and schools dating back decades.
In the case of the Salvation Army, it heard that survivors who gave evidence had suffered mental illness or other problems as a result of the abuse they suffered, including depression, panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, and attempted suicides.
The public hearing also found that the Salvation Army failed to report allegations to police or its divisional headquarters.
During the inquiry, Kate Eastman, counsel for the Salvation Army, offered an “unreserved apology” for the “horrific experiences” of victims.
“We acknowledge that it was a failure of the greatest magnitude,” she said, insisting that today’s Salvation Army had strong policies in place “so that children will never be placed in situations like this again”.