Forgotten Australians & Inter-Generational / Inter-Familial / Intra-Familial Issues (Or: New Facebook Group Formed)



As I said in yesterday’s post, for me, this is a time for reflection, regrouping, and thinking for me. As well as for sorting out a number of pressing problems.

Something I have wanted to do for years but haven’t, however, is to get in touch with more people whose parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, spouses, or other relatives have been through the Homes or other forms of institutional ‘care’ in Australia. Largely, as a way of trying to understand things better.

From my searches, it doesn’t look like a group exists solely for kids / grandkids / etc. of institutional ‘care’ survivors to meet and talk with each other. I feel that we have much that we could do to support each other, learn from each other, and help arrive at our own personal goals in relation to our loved ones, whatever these goals may be. I’ve recently joined a number of groups of Forgotten Australians and similar groups on facebook and elsewhere and have been touched by being accepted into these groups. It’s helpful to listen to what people have to say about where things are at. I strongly encourage people who want to learn more about the issues to ask to join such groups. Just as I encourage people to undertake their own research: there is a wealth of information on the Internet nowadays. 

Since my father died, I’ve been approached by quite a few people looking to find information about their formerly institutionalised parents, when they’ve passed away. Some people have also approached me to ask about what support services are available to help them care for their parents who are still living. I’ve generally pointed people towards the various support organisations that now exist and of which I’m aware. Mostly, it seems people are searching for historical records and wanting to piece together missing elements in the stories of their families’ lives. Underlying this, however, I suspect there are many who are searching for broader answers to questions they may have about why things happened the way they did. 

Just as there are commonalities in experiences of those who survived ‘care’, I suspect there may be commonalities of experiences and insights among those who love and support these survivors. It would be helpful for people to be able to get together and talk about these things. People who’ve worked out solutions to problems they’re facing or have faced can help each other by sharing with each other. For example, while not all survivors of ‘care’ now require care themselves, many do. It may help carers to have a place to talk about this and help each other with day-to-day problems – e.g., dealing with governmental organisations as part of their caring responsibilities. 

Something that concerns me as well is that there is currently a dearth of research into Inter-generational / inter-familial / intra-familial effects relating to Homes survivors. (I use the term ‘Homes’ loosely to encompass groups such as Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants, Stolen Generations, and others.) This stands in stark contrast to the situation in respect of, for example, second-generation (and even third-generation) Holocaust survivors, and descendants of Vietnam War veterans, where there has been some work done. From my own, limited experiences in talking with members of the medical / caring professions, there is less than optimal understanding of the experiences of Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants, Stolen Generations, etc., although this is changing a bit. There’s an even smaller understanding of the impacts on and experiences of family members. Without such understanding in the professions, it’s unlikely that people can receive the counselling and support they really need.

That suggests to me that it’s up to family members / descendants to start the ball rolling by working together to develop our own understanding of ourselves and our experiences. It may be hard to talk about these things. I find it hard. It might be hard to talk about these things because if you care about someone who’s been through ‘care’ and had a very bad time of it, there may be a tendency at times to want to ignore your own problems as being ‘lesser’ in some way. Hopefully, people will find that there’s a shared understanding that you face your own difficulties, and that it’s okay to acknowledge them without diminishing what the person you love went through. Again, it would be good if there were a way for people to provide each other with constructive advice about dealing with day-to-day problems and feelings about loving someone who was in ‘care’, but with an acknowledgment of their own feelings and problems too. 

A lot of people who love someone who’s been through ‘care’ have superb levels of understanding about the issues. In my experience at least, a reasonable level understanding of the issues has been very helpful, even if painful. When my Dad, Lewis Blayse, started the support group ‘FICH’ (Formerly in Children’s Homes) in 1990, his initial motivation was to develop his own personal understanding of his experiences and to find out the extent to which they tallied with those of others; this was partly intended as a way of understanding himself and trying to heal from his experiences, although he never achieved this goal. Critically, as well, he felt he’d worked out a fair bit about what impact his experiences had had on him, and he was interested in helping others obtain similar levels of understanding if he could. He learned as much as he taught, and this was of great benefit to him, even though the learning process never ended. For me, having a reasonable level of understanding helped at many points in my life with my Dad. He was awesome, but there were times when I struggled to understand him and wished I knew more than I did. I don’t know how deep the level of understanding is among family members of survivors of ‘care’ throughout Australia. In my view, it would be good if it were much deeper: lack of knowledge is a common reason for avoidable conflict and pain.

There are many fantastic resources these days for anyone who wants to learn more about the issues with a view to helping a person who went through ‘care’. These can be accessed even if the person you care about isn’t up to talking much about what they went through, which may be the case. As I say, though, there doesn’t seem to be a place for people who love someone who went through ‘care’ to chat daily about matters affecting them. Such discussions may take the form of trying to find a way to come to terms with what has happened to someone they love or loved and lost. They may take the form of talking about ongoing struggles to support and care for a loved one who survived ‘care’. They may be to talk about resources / support services available to assist them in their care of family members. They may be to track down lost members of extended families. They may be of a more overtly political flavour. 

Whatever your motivations, for those who are related to or otherwise in a relationship with someone who was in ‘care’ who do want to get together and talk about things in a constructive, respectful, and gentle way with each other, I’ve just set up a facebook group called “Kids & Family of Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants, Stolen Generations” (

I recently kicked off a discussion asking people of their experiences in providing information about the experiences of loved ones to the current Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. A few people have already posted up useful informational resources for those who may not know much about history and are keen to learn more.

I look forward to talking with new members. The group is also open to survivors themselves. You just need to ask to be joined, as it’s a ‘closed group’ in facebook format so that only members can read posts on the group page. I hope readers who join will jump on the site and start their own discussion threads about whatever they want to talk about.

Kind regards,

Aletha Blayse



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Salvation Army Fails in Response to Lewis Blayse’s Family (Or: I Hear Sunbury Court’s Lovely This Time of Year)


On 11 April, I wrote to several high-ranking members of the Salvation Army Australia and elsewhere explaining how it could respond appropriately to the matter of compensation for the family of Lewis Blayse, my father. In this, I indicated a willingness to wait until 18 April, 2014 for a positive response (

This elicited a response from ‘major’ Peter Farthing, who said:


thank you for your email. as you mention, I have said I am willing to meet with you, and remain willing. 

I think however that I am not the best person to respond to your email properly. My role has been Royal Commission Coordinator, and I am not responsible for ‘claims’ against The Salvation Army. Lieut-Colonel David Godkin, Secretary for Personnel, carries that responsibility, and am cc him.

All the best


The email was cc’d to (Dr. Bruce Redman, the new PR man helping the Salvation Army with its PR efforts at the moment, a man with a very big job on his hands given what’s come out of the Case Study 10 hearings), (‘commissioner’ James Condon, current Australian Eastern Territory Salvation Army head who apparently still holds his position and who apparently hasn’t had any charges laid against him following the extraordinary revelations about his conduct in the Case Study 10 hearings), (Luke Geary, head of Salvos Legal), (Australian Salvation Army Media and Communications Office), (General André Cox, world Salvation Army head), (Richard Munn, Chief Secretary and Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries), (David Godkin, new Salvation Army Secretary for Personnel in Australia).

I did not explain to Mr. Farthing that he was the last person in the world I would like to be anywhere near after reading of role in Salvation Army handling of child abuse matters, which you can read about here:

I wrote back instead to all cc’d in on the email addressing Mr. Farthing and Mr. Godkin, in which I said:


Thank you,
I don’t believe we’ve met, Mr. Godkin
I look forward to hearing from you in due course.”
The 18th has come and gone, with no response from the Salvation Army. I wrote again to the people in the cc list tonight saying: 
“Dear Mr. Godkin,
I expect a response either stating that your organisation will compensate my family in the manner I have set out or a detailed explanation as to why it will not. 
Please advise immediately.”
In response were two automatic email replies, one from Mr. Farthing and one from Mr. Godkin. 
Mr. Farthing’s automatic response said: 
“I am out of the office until 30/04/2014.”
Mr. Godkin’s automatic response said: 
“I am out of the office until 28/04/2014.”
Given that the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has now completed its Case Study 10 hearings into the Salvation Army Australia Eastern Territory, I do not know why Mr. Farthing and Mr. Godkin should now be unavailable to respond to emails. 
Given that not a single person from the Salvation Army has responded to my most recent email, and that the two key individuals apparently vested with the authority to handle my matter are off work for the next week or so, I am now of the opinion that the Salvation Army is unlikely to be responding positively to my family’s call for justice. By extrapolation, I feel that my suggested approach to appropriate quantums of compensation to victims of Salvation Army children’s homes and other matters I had hoped to be able to provide constructive advice to the Salvation Army about are unlikely to be part of official Salvation Army policy any time soon. 
What I do know, however, is that today the Salvation Army world head, ‘general’ Andre Cox (who, rather than sack James Condon, has just extended his period as Eastern Territorial Australian head), is about to officially open the renovations of the palatial Sunbury Court in England, which are nearly complete. According to the Salvation Army, the first ICO delegates “move in next week.” Sounds like a great bash is being planned! 
Perhaps Mr. Farthing and Mr. Godkin are headed to Sunbury Court? If they are, who could really blame them for wanting to be there rather than back in Australia dealing with incomplete business regarding Salvation Army victims and their families? Sunbury Court sounds like an utterly lovely place, as the following description of the premises suggests (see also ‘Read more here’ and ‘See more here’, below): 
“Sunbury Court, a fine Georgian mansion overlooking part of the River Thames where pleasure craft and houseboats abound, is but 14 miles from the great metropolis, London. Woven into the fabric of the backcloth which throws into colourful relief this country residence are the gold and silver threads of history and romance.”
“Historical associations are enriched by the close proximity of the beautiful and royal Windsor Castle, a few miles upstream. Almost equally famous, Hampton Court faces the broad river near Kingston-upon-Thames.”
“The grandeur of the crystal chandelier in the lounge is surpassed only by the beauty of the murals, painted in oils on to the plaster by Elias Martin, the Swedish artist, between 1768 and 1780 for the second Earl of Pomfret.”
I’d love to offer a proposition as attractive as a stay at the gorgeous Sunbury Court, if this is indeed where top decision-makers in the Australian and world Salvation Army movement are about to be spending their valuable time, but can’t. In fact, I’m not sure I can offer any accommodation at all, as I am now going to have to figure out a way to save the home in which my father and I lived, which has very special meaning not just for me, but to all members of our family, and which currently looks set to be lost.  
I hope readers will understand why it is that I will be a little quiet for a while, as the Salvation Army’s silence on the matter of compensation and my interpretation of such silence means that I believe I am now in a fairly difficult situation in a number of respects, and not just in relation to loss of my father’s and my home. I have to give these my urgent attention. I feel reasonably confident of finding some sort of solution to these matters, but it will take some time. Time during which I may have to step back from writing about the Salvation Army a little. 
That does not mean, however, that I am giving up the fight, either on behalf of myself and my family, or on behalf of those I believe have received utterly inadequate responses from the Salvation Army. It also does not mean that I have forgotten that there is much work to be done in respect of what has come out of the Case Study 10 hearings of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the organisational failings of the Salvation Army vis a vis child protection. Nor does it mean that I will not be continuing my discussions with other people who are aware of failings of the Salvation Army organisation in many respects. It just means that I need to retreat for a little while until I’m in a better position to do something constructive.
I will use this time to reflect on where best to direct my efforts over the years ahead to be of most use to those who also have problems with the Salvation Army. And hopefully to resume some sort of coverage of unfolding events at the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, starting with the up-coming Case Study 11 hearings into the experiences of a number of men who were resident at Christian Brothers’ residences in Western Australia and the responses of the Christian Brothers and relevant Western Australian State authorities to allegations of child sexual abuse at the residences.
To all who have offered messages of support, who have written to the Salvation Army, or who have otherwise attempted to assist my family in its quest for justice, I thank you. Thank you particularly to those who signed the petition I set up at (see below). While it looks at this juncture that nothing has come of things, I feel the opposite is true. It demonstrates that there are those who are concerned about the practices of the Salvation Army in its treatment of victims and their families. This gives me heart that there is some point in pushing on in the near future, however long the journey may take. As I say, however, I may be taking a step back for a little while in relation to the Salvation Army to deal with other matters. I will be back in due course, and I hope that all of you who have written to me or spoken to me about difficulties you’ve experienced with the Salvation Army will stay in touch: I’ll still be offering personal support to anyone who is having their own problems with the Salvation Army for whatever that’s worth.  
[Postscript: The Salvation Army in the United States has recently been pressured into paying $US450,000 to each of two wrongfully dismissed employees after a group of 19 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Salvation Army in 2004 alleging that the Salvation Army "was using public taxpayer money to proselytize their evangelical religious beliefs, discriminate, and terminate employees based on religious beliefs." Read more here:
Read more here: 
See more here:
Images above: Salvation Army Sunbury Court, London
Image: Not Sunbury Court; a Salvation Army homeless shelter
Aletha Blayse
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Extend the Royal Commission to the end of 2017 (Or: Sign the Petition to George Brandis)

The author has recently become aware of a call by Justice Peter McClellan for an extension of time for the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

At present, the Commission is to due be wrapped up by the end of 2015, with an interim report due in the middle of this year.

Justice McClellan has called on Australian Attorney-General, George Brandis, to give the Commission another two years to complete its work.

Justice McClellan, noting some of the ‘victories’ already achieved by the Royal Commission, has warned that as many as 2,000 people may miss out on providing their stories to the Royal Commission. That number is almost certainly an underestimate, but even if we take this as the number of people who are yet to speak to the Commission, it certainly underscores the need for the Commission to be provided with the extension it requests.

Attorney-General George Brandis is aware of Mr McClellan’s request, which at this stage appears to be informal. Mr. Brandis has said that the request for more time:

“… hasn’t been formally sought yet but Justice McClellan did indicate to me that at the time the interim report is delivered to the Government in the middle of the year, I should expect an application or request for an extension of time.”

The present government needs to receive the message, loud and clear, that the Australian public wants to see the work of the Commission continue as long as is necessary to achieve its objectives. Compelling arguments are needed to get the current government to see the sense in extending the Commission’s work. So too are indications that the Australian public wants the Commission to go as long as is needed to complete its work.

In this regard, readers are urged to add their voices to a petition recently set up by Mr. Trevor McNamee that calls on George Brandis to accede to Justice McClellan’s request:

Some of the comments that have already been made in support of this petition are as follows:

“Please extend the Royal Commission so everyone can do their submission and so that all abuse providers can be inquired into.”

“Every one deserves to have their stories heard, they deserve to be Validated for the horrid crimes inflicted onto them.”

“I have been before the Royal Commission myself however there are many who have not had the chance. Maybe just maybe this can bring some type of closesure for many.”

“Every victim deserves to get to tell their story.”

“We need more time… There are thousands of us that need to be heard.”

“many people still haven’t come forward and it may be very difficult for them Time is much appreciated”

“The Royal Commission needs to be extended…there are still SO many stories to be told and recorded…”

“Justice delayed is justice denied.”

“The work of the Royal Commission is incredibly important. As you know, it had overwhelming public support. If its head says more time is needed, it is needed. This should be taken very seriously. Australian society wants the mess of institutional child abuse cleaned up. Please listen to what people are saying about the need for more time. People are fed up with institutions that fail to protect children. If economic considerations are an issue to the current government, please don’t consider this a cost to government in difficult economic times. Child abuse costs society as well as its victims and their families. It’s been estimated that the cost to society of each instance of child abuse can be as much as $1 million. If you have to make a decision based on economics, please understand that the Royal Commission will deliver multiples in terms of ‘return on investment’. More importantly, however, there are still many who need to have their cases heard, and may not. They deserve to be heard. Please provide hope to those who wish to see the Royal Commission continue its work by providing an immediate positive response to Justice Peter McClellan’s call for a 2-year extension.”

Read more here:

Aletha Blayse


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James Condon and Salvation Army Organisational Culture (Or: A Fish Rots from the Head Down)


Image: James Condon and Peter Farthing at the Royal Commission (Image Source: ABC).

Management experts know that organisational culture is a key determinant of how an organisation engages with stakeholders and comports itself in its day-to-day operations. Organisational leaders are particularly important in demonstrating, through their practices, what values an organisation embraces as part of its organisational culture. In particular, how a leader behaves says a lot about an organisation because organisational members generally follow a leader’s example as being a tacit indication of how they should behave themselves.

It is extremely disturbing, therefore, to see how Australian Salvation Army chief, ‘Commissioner’ James Condon, has acted in relation to claims of child abuse by Salvation Army members, including accused paedophile Colin Haggar. Disturbing not just in its own right but because of what his conduct conveys to organisational members who take direction from their leader about what conduct is acceptable or unacceptable, whatever official policy documents may say to the contrary.

James Condon’s rather bumbling testimony about how he took confessed paedophile Colin Haggar to the police raised disbelieving eyebrows to all who listened to it. You could drive trucks through his story in places. Close and critical observers of his testimony, which had just the right mix of uncertainty and certainty in its telling to sound somewhat plausible to the casual listener, felt instinctively that it was clearly scripted and, to be frank, utter rubbish, and were clearly increasingly distressed at having to listen to it.

Witnesses to his self-serving accounts and his intermittent attempts to use a grave environment such as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to get in little ‘plugs’ for the Salvation Army also became increasingly angry as Mr. Condon continued on with his testimony in a way that indicated that Mr. Condon appeared to be using the proceedings to push the image of the Salvation Army.

It was even more galling to observe Mr. Condon smiling broadly throughout his testimony. To be fair, a lot of people smile when they are nervous, but it seemed to this author at least that Mr. Condon smiled the most broadly when he delivered his lines without faltering. Perhaps that’s a little unfair, but that’s just how this author, who fully admits bias, saw things. Perhaps Mr. Condon was just trying to show that he had a human side? Some people have the misfortune to have faces that, in their relaxed state, regrettably and unfairly make them look like unpleasant people, and need to work hard to show their true colours through appropriate modifications to their ‘resting state’ faces. Poor Mr. Condon may be one such person, as the images below demonstrate.



Images: Would the real James Condon please stand up?

In any event, after having to listen to Mr. Condon go on and on and on in a way that was causing increasing distress and anger to most of those listening to him, it was therefore an enormous relief after this sickening charade to witness surprise and brilliant cross-examinations of Mr. Condon by solicitor Karen McGlinchey and NSW State Lawyer John Agius QC.

In relation to Mr. Condon’s assertion that he took Colin Haggar to the Parramatta police station in 1990 upon Haggar’s confession of his crime to Mr. Condon, which included a patently unlikely claim that the police didn’t ask for any details that might have assisted them in investigating the matter, among other things, John Agius ably ripped Mr. Condon’s story apart at every turn, concluding with the statements:

“Your evidence is ridiculous, isn’t it?”

“It beggars belief, doesn’t it … that the police would not have asked for details of the complaint?”

Karen McGlinchey also showed how preposterous it was for Mr. Condon to have accepted Haggar’s ridiculous assertion that when he told the victim’s parents what he had done, they forgave him. And how ridiculous it was of Mr. Condon to have accepted Haggar’s claim that not only did the parents forgive the man who hurt their child that they actually asked Mr. Haggar to stay for dinner, invited him back to their home on several occasions, and even told Mr. Haggar that they did not want to go to the police.

Mr. Condon is a family man, with children and grandchildren of his own. As a parent and grandparent, it seems unlikely in the extreme that he would act in the way he claimed the family of Colin Haggar’s victim behaved were he to find himself in the same awful situation as they found themselves. Yet he expected those listening to him to believe it of the victim’s parents. As Karen McGlinchey said:

“Well, that’s just ludicrous. Parents don’t behave that way.” 

But there was more to come. And that was in the accounts of how James Condon and the Salvation Army fought the NSW Ombudsman tooth and nail about the Salvation Army’s reporting obligations to that governmental organisation. Reputable charitable organisations involved in provision of services to children should be falling over themselves to work with governmental organisations charged with protection of children. Not so the Salvation Army, it would seem.

When Salvation Army whistleblower Michelle White told Mr. Condon in early 2013 that additional abuse allegations had been made against Colin Haggar, who was running at the time a shelter for women and children,.what did the Salvation Army do?

What it did not do was immediately take the matter to the NSW Ombudsman, which it should have done whether or not the Salvation Army was absolutely certain that the Ombudsman had a right to such information or not. What harm could there have been in going to the Ombudsman? Instead of taking the approach that in pursuance of the interests of child protection it was better to help the NSW Ombudsman, whatever reservations it may have had about the necessity of doing so, it dug its heels in.

According to Michelle White, there were very long delays by Mr. Condon in fulfilling the Salvation Army’s mandatory reporting requirements. Eventually, this led her to take action of her own and report to the NSW Ombudsman that there was an active Salvation Army officer with a known history of child-related sexual abuse in a position to abuse children.

That Ms White had to take this action herself and that it was not done by her employer as soon as she alerted it to the problem is a damning indictment of the Salvation Army. So too is how Ms White was treated by her employing organisation for taking the initiative to follow the law and fulfill her legal and moral obligations to society to protect children from harm. Ms. White is reported as indicating that that high ranking members of the Salvation Army actually intimidated her personally and professionally after she reported a child sex-abuser.

There was another thing that also beggared belief. Not only did Mr. Condon not immediately report Haggar to the NSW Ombudsman on the advice of his staff member Michelle White, it appears from evidence presented to the Royal Commission that the Salvation Army waged a protracted communications battle with the Ombudsman through Salvos Legal, headed by Luke Geary, about whether it actually had an obligation to make such a report! Again, reputable organisations work hand in hand with governmental child protection agencies, not against them. Not so the Salvation Army, it would seem.

So what does all of this tell us about the Salvation Army? At this stage, nothing good. A high ranking leader of the Salvation Army, James Condon, has demonstrated, through his conduct:

1. A willingness to believe utterly implausible stories told by those accused of abusing children.

2. A tardy approach to reporting suspected child abuse and a belief that it’s okay to act in the Salvation Army’s own sweet time about very serious matters in which children might right now be being abused.

3. A confrontational approach to governmental organisations charged with protecting children rather than an approach predicated upon engagement and full cooperation.

4. A lack of support (to put things mildly) to people within its organisation who are concerned about child abuse and the Salvation Army’s handling of incidents of suspected child abuse.

Quite possibly, depending on further action by the NSW government in addressing the matter of Mr. Condon’s strange and implausible story about how he took Colin Haggar to the police in 1990, it may even be shown that Mr. Condon is a head of an organisation who is prepared to lie under oath, on the Bible, to a Royal Commission. Worse, it may even be shown that Mr. Condon broke the law in covering up child abuse. Hopefully, all will be revealed in this respect on Monday when the Royal Commission resumes the Case Study 10 hearings, or at least very soon afterwards.

As stated at the beginning of this post, organisational members generally take direction from the conduct of their leaders. Mr. Condon, through his conduct, has shown himself to be a leader who does not remotely understand child abuse and is prepared to take the word of accused paedophiles no matter how ridiculous their claims, a leader who does not give the respect that is due to governmental institutions designed to protect children, and a leader who does not support internal critics of the Salvation Army who attempt to get it to lift its game in respect of child protection.

What message does all this send to those who work below Mr. Condon?

Further, what confidence can the Australian public have in the Salvation Army, an organisation intimately involved with young people, when its leader has such serious shortcomings?

Finally, what does it say about the worldwide Salvation Army movement that world Salvation Army head, ‘General’ Andre Cox, rather than sack Mr. Condon, has recently announced that Mr. Condon and his wife, Jan, have had their ‘contracts’ as Territorial Leaders of the Australia Eastern Territory extended until 31 May 2016 rather than ‘retire’ Mr. Condon, as planned, on 30 November 2014?

[Postscript. It has been reported in the media that "The commission was also told on Monday that the Salvation Army had no plans to use the defence of vicarious liability in historical cases of child abuse, unlike the Catholic Church which had argued in another matter that it could not be held vicariously responsible for historical abuse." Will the Salvation Army apply this new decision retrospectively and allow anyone blocked by the defence of vicarious liability in the past to make new claims? Will the Salvation Army also pledge to remove reliance on statute of limitations legislation (retrospectively as well as in the future), vow not to be held to Deeds of Release it made victims sign, and allow the Australian legal system to work so that class actions and other legal actions may now be taken against the Salvation Army for abuses committed by its members?]

Aletha Blayse


Read more here:

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Settlement of Lewis Blayse Matter (OR: An Opportunity for the Salvation Army and a New Beginning)


Image: ‘Major’ Peter Farthing, Salvation Army (Image source: ABC)

From: Aletha Blayse <>
Date: Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 6:57 PM
Subject: Settlement of Lewis Blayse Matter (OR: An Opportunity for the Salvation Army and a New Beginning)
To: “peterfarthing2 .” <>,, General André Cox <>,

Dear Mr. Farthing,

Thank you for your repeated offer at the Royal Commission hearings to meet with me to discuss my complaint with the Salvation Army in relation to its treatment of my father and his family.

While I am concerned about your continued refusal to have a member of the media present at a meeting, I have thought of a way to protect my interests and avoid the problems I am concerned about by conducting our ‘discussions’ via email.

Accordingly, I now state for you what the Salvation Army needs to do in order to settle the matter of compensation to my father’s family in a way that will satisfy me, my family, and other people with an interest in our matter that your organisation has indeed turned over a new leaf in relation to how it treats victims of the Salvation Army and their families.

I have calculated a sum of $600,000 as being suitable to achieve, to a reasonable degree, the objectives I have set out in my petition and elsewhere and the principles I have enunciated for what compensation payments should look like. Needless to say, this is quite different from your ‘Matrix’ system, which is deeply flawed in its failure to examine the actual effects of abuse on individuals and their families and compensate for them. As you know, since you were provided with the documentation from a world expert on PTSD many years ago, my father was totally and permanently disabled. There is nothing in the ‘Matrix’ to account for such situations. Accordingly, it cannot be regarded as an appropriate way to calculate compensation sums.

You should be aware that the amount I have stated is a gross underestimation of the true costs your organisation imposed upon my family, but in the interests of speedy resolution of the matter, you will be pleased to know that I am prepared to compromise to this degree, but to this degree only.

I remind you that you have much to be thankful to my father in bringing to your organisation’s attention what happened in Salvation Army children’s homes, so I imagine your gratitude to him will be a factor in your anticipated decision to act without delay in settling this matter.

I also remind you that the average payout in the United States for such matters is in the order of $1 million, so you might also take heart that I am not asking the Salvation Army to make a payment on par with what is happening in the United States. In the near future, I expect to see that organisations such as the Salvation Army are willing to make payments of this magnitude, as this will be what is demanded by a public becoming increasingly frustrated at treatment of institutional abuse victims and their families. You have an opportunity now to demonstrate that you were one of the first organisations off the starting block in a new, fair approach to compensation amounts.

Finally, I remind you that Mr. Bruce Harmer of your communications team expressed his personal support for advocates for needed change within the Salvation Army when I and others were protesting outside your organisation’s Sydney headquarters on 4 April, 2014. Mr. Harmer gave me great heart that your organisation is indeed attempting to change its approach and make a genuine attempt to do things the right way. I trust the same willingness to accept that mistakes were made in the past will come from you.

Please do not delay in your response. I expect nothing less than immediate agreement to my claim. Given a positive response from you, I am willing to forgive that your organisation has stalled me in this matter for as long as it has. I am even willing to forgive what your organisation did in its treatment of my father and his family in the past. Please be aware, however, that my patience is being depleted rather rapidly.

In the interests of full and frank disclosure, please also be aware that I will not be signing any Deed of Release or similar document that, among other things, would require me to keep silent about what has happened. This should be of no concern to you, as you will be able to demonstrate that you and your organisation have, as I say, turned over a new leaf by showing what it is doing for my father’s family. This is an opportunity any rational person would embrace. You can and should regard what you do for my father’s family is a first step in a process of revisiting what has been done to other victims and an opportunity to demonstrate to others that you accept that what you have done is wrong. Far from feeling concerned, you should be feeling quite positive and optimistic about what will flow on from this.

Nor should it be of concern to you that I will continue to advocate for similarly positive treatment of victims and their families who have had their lives badly affected by the Salvation Army. Again, I’m sure you’ll embrace the opportunity to do things right this time when you have done things wrong for so long. Organisations that engage in full and genuine discussions with victims and their families will ultimately find that the good they do will be returned to them in kind. Organisations that persist in being insular in their outlook and that refuse to acknowledge in a meaningful way the harm they have done and the need to undo it will go the way of the dinosaurs.

I stated in my interview with a media representative recently, I believe I can assist the Salvation Army in showing it the right way forward in treatment of victims and their families. This is a standing offer to you and your colleagues. I hope you’ll take me up on it. I’d really love to help. There are many, many others who’d be able to provide the same assistance, and to a better extent than I can. I do hope you’ll listen to what they have to say. Putting your heads in the sand and continuing to ignore those who have valid and well-reasoned criticisms and solutions to the problems your organisation faces will not serve you well. Scapegoating and persecuting whistleblowers will lead to ruination. Continuing to treat victims and their families with contempt will not assist you in the long-run either.

I have recently had it drawn to my attention that my father’s mother was a Salvationist. My father never told her of what happened to him at Alkira as to do so would have broken her heart. I, however, take something positive away from the fact that my grandmother, a very good and kind person, saw enough potential in the Salvation Army when she was a young woman to support it. Despite the appalling revelations about your organisation’s conduct in relation to child protection, redemption, even deathbed redemption, is always an option. If you like, you may like to consider a positive response to me as the first step in the process of necessary “corporate redemption” that Mr. James Condon spoke about recently. As I say, I am happy to assist your organisation again by sharing with it my insights into what it is doing wrong and how it needs to change.

Following on from your positive reply indicating agreement to my terms, I will be happy to discuss with a person you appoint to handle aspects such as how the compensation payment needs to be made in terms of practical issues such as where the funds are to be sent, etc. Again, as I say, I am also happy to assist you in learning more about why what you did was wrong and what needs to change in the future.

I do not need to elaborate my or my family’s needs and problems, as they are none of your business. We have many, and our personal situations are, for the most part, quite bad. I refrain, however, from outlining these because I do not wish you to think that I am asking for ‘help’ from the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army did harm. The Salvation Army must undo that harm. It’s really quite simple. Any language from you indicating that you are agreeing to my request as an incident to ‘helping’ us would be quite inappropriate and I do hope you will not do me the insult of using such language. I also do not wish to elaborate upon our current problems as those who will read this email may become distressed and try to help us themselves, and this is not something I want to happen. It is the Salvation Army that must do the right thing.

You’ve had a very long time to consider matters and I have been completely open about what I expect to see and why I am critical of how your organisation has conducted itself. By now, your organisation has had a long time to read and digest all that I have written about the matter. You don’t need any more time.

I am not prepared to wait much longer. I appreciate, however, that you have your hands full with the ongoing Case Study 10 hearings, but these will soon draw to a close, so you have no reason to delay any further after this. Accordingly, I see no reason for you to be unable to respond positively and in full agreement with my claim by close of business 18 April, 2014.

Following on from that, I look forward to many fruitful discussions with you about the flaws in your systems of justice and other matters that I have direct, personal experience with.

I await your email reply.

Aletha Blayse


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Salvos and Child Slave Labour (Or: Why Child Protection Advocates Should Worry about Work for the Dole)


In the UK, there is a currently a vigorous and growing protest movement against the Workfare program. It’s been led by the Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty. The name of the campaign is Boycott Workfare ( Australians would use the phrase “Work for the Dole” to describe Workfare. Many would use the expression “slave labour.”

Boycott Workfare describes its mission as follows:

“Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.”

Boycott Workfare names some of the failings of the Workfare program as including that it replaces jobs and undermines wages, which gives the campaign great relevance not just to those who are caught up in the scheme, but all people in the UK. Other problems include that the program does not include only those people classed as unemployed, but sick and disabled people too.

The UK government loves Workfare, because anyone participating in the scheme is no longer classified as unemployed, which makes the government look good and gives the appearance of the unemployment problem being tackled. Morally, though, Workfare is pretty hard to defend. As said by Richard Godwin, writing for the London Evening Standard:

“Workfare is fine in principle — people want to work — but so corrosive in practice. Previous schemes have proved illogical (you cannot make volunteering compulsory), ineffective (they don’t help people find work) and unethical (slavery was abolished in 1833).”

A particular concern of Boycott Workfare is that the scheme deepens poverty through a system of sanctions (cuts to benefits) that apply to people who do not conform to the expectations of those organisations that rely upon them for unpaid labour. It is reported that:

“Boycott Workfare says that at least 10 per cent of participants are sanctioned under workfare schemes.”

“The organisation published research in March showing that benefit sanctions are forcing young people to cut back on essential items including food, housing costs and toiletries.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is currently considering resurrecting a Work for the Dole scheme in Australia. Any reputable organisation will shy away completely from participation in Work for the Dole, just as many organisations, such as Oxfam and the Red Cross, in the UK have refused to participate in Workfare (these organisations are listed on

In the UK, the Salvation Army is a leading participant in and beneficiary of Workfare (the YMCA is also heavily involved – see previous postings about the YMCA and the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse). This involvement by the Salvation Army is not particularly surprising, even if disappointing. The organisation has a long history of exploiting unpaid labour, including child labour. The latter was common practice in the children’s homes it ran in Australia, where children in Salvation Army children’s homes report being sent out to work to private individuals and some businesses as unpaid (well, it was the children who were unpaid, anyway) domestics and farm workers, amongst other things. Molestation by people who received child workers into their homes and properties was not uncommon. The author does not know whether money changed hands when adults were allowed to enter some children’s homes and rape children in Salvation Army children’s homes. Media reports, however, have used the phrase “rented out” to describe the practice occurring in the Salvation Army Bexley Boys’ Home in Sydney.

Should Work for the Dole come back, the first question that must be asked is whether the Salvation Army will jump at the chance to increase its vast riches with a new army of unpaid workers who must do exactly what the Salvation Army tells them to do or lose their benefits? Or whether it will do the right thing and refuse to participate in the scheme, as other Australian organisations with greater social consciences will do. This is a pressing moral issue for the Salvation Army. It will have an opportunity to resist the temptation to get in on the action and make some more profits from disadvantaged people in our society and demonstrate to Australian society that it puts people and principles above profits. It deserves to be judged harshly if it does not.

But there is another question that is of direct and pressing relevance to anyone interested in child protection. Because should Work for the Dole come back, Abbott’s proposed scheme looks set to cover unemployed people as young as 15 years of age. And the Salvation Army, should it succumb to the lure of making even more money than it already does, could be a key player in the scheme. This is worrisome.

To say that the Salvation Army has been found wanting in its treatment of children, for failure to protect children, and in relation to protection of child abusers within its membership is to put things mildly. The Case Study 5 and Case Study 10 hearings of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have demonstrated this.

The author’s first point is that Work for the Dole should not be implemented at all. But if it is implemented, she has another wish. And that is that Tony Abbott will at least ban the Salvation Army (and any other organisation that has not yet cleaned up its act in relation to child abuse) from participating in the scheme.

As a final note, the author leaves the reader to think about this scenario:

  • A 15-year-old unemployed girl is forced through Work for the Dole to work in a Salvation Army thrift shop. If she refuses, she loses her benefits. She’s then sexually abused by a Salvation Army officer or employee. How likely is it that this girl will risk that her abusers or one of his friends in the Salvation Army will not take revenge upon her by reporting her as non-compliant to the government so she loses her benefits?
  • But let’s assume for the moment, for the sake of argument, that she takes this risk and goes to the Salvation Army. [NB: In this scenario, she doesn’t go to the police because she reads the Salvation Army webpage entitled, “Making a report of sexual abuse,” which says, “Anyone reporting instances of abuse is encouraged to contact our Professional Standards Office” (] Given what we’ve learned about the Salvation Army in recent times, do you think that the Salvation Army would even believe her when she came to them for help? You’re invited at this point to recall recent reports of the Salvation Army’s response to parents of an alleged victim of Salvation Army officer Colin Haggar, in which the Salvation Army officers who spoke with the parents said:Captain Haggar is in uniform and a soldier of the Army, so I ask you: who do we believe? A man in uniform or just adherents? You are  just workers of the Church.”
  • But even if you think the Salvation Army would believe her, what do you think they’d do about it? Here, the reader is invited to think about the evidence of Salvo officer Captain Michelle White, who recently blew the whistle on the Salvation Army and its reporting of child sexual abuse to the authorities. She told the Royal Commission that she told ‘Commissioner’ James Condon, Salvation Army Eastern Territorial Head, that “’I have a legal, ethical and moral obligation to report [an instance of a report of child abuse] to … the Ombudsman”. She said when she met with Mr Condon and pointed out a key aspect of child protection laws, he said he did not realise they had the types of reporting obligations she was outlining.

As the author says, the Salvation Army has a moral duty to refuse to participate in Work for the Dole if it eventuates. But even if you think Workfare’s a really great idea, you have to think seriously about which organisations are allowed to participate in it. The Salvation Army might not be such a great choice, but if the UK’s experience with Workfare is any indication, the Salvation Army will probably be one of the key players.

[Postscript: The author met the Salvation Army’s PR head, ‘Major’ Bruce Harmer, on Friday at a protest outside Sydney Salvo headquarters. She forgot to ask him if the page on the Salvation Army webpage entitled, “Making a report of sexual abuse,” which says, “Anyone reporting instances of abuse is encouraged to contact our Professional Standards Office” ( just hasn’t been updated by the army’s web developers because they’re all just so awfully busy with the upcoming Red Shield Appeal in May, or if it’s still the official Salvation Army stance to direct people away from reporting abuse to the police].


Read more here:

See more here (pictures of protests against the Salvation Army and its involvement in Workfare in the UK – for sources, see ‘Read more here’ above):


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Salvos’ Treatment of Victim Ralph Doughty (Or: Cow Shit)


Yesterday, spry octogenarian Ralph Doughty (pictured above) gave evidence at the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Dr Doughty, a solicitor and barrister of the Supreme Court NSW and High Court of Australia, suffered unimaginable abuses during the ten years he spent at the Nazi concentration camp environment that was the Salvation Army Gill Memorial Boys’ Home in Goulburn, in New South Wales, Australia. Dr Doughty spent 10 years of his childhood in the home, experiencing multiple forms of abuse, of the most extreme nature.

The atrocities committed against innocent young boys committed at ‘The Gill’ have been documented well in various enquiries and media accounts, so the author will not recount these in this post, leaving the interested reader to instead learn more by reading the ‘Read more here’ links at the end of this post.

This post is to give something of an overview of Dr Doughty’s appearance, with a focus on how Dr Doughty appears to have been treated by the Salvation Army, and how he resisted the ‘authoritah’ of the Salvation Army.

Dr Doughty, a man of great courage, mounted, over the years, a fierce resistance to the Salvation Army’s fairly standard modus operandi in dealing with victims of its many, many children’s homes in Australia. While there are some variations, from media and enquiry reports to date, these might broadly be summarised as including the elements of the Salvation Army:

  • Apologising to the victim.
  • Offering a ludicrously low “ex-gratia” sum of money to the victim.
  • Calling the payment offered “a tangible expression of our regret.”
  • Denying liability to the victim “as alleged or at all.”
  • Withholding payment of said “ex-gratia” payment until the victim signs a Deed of Settlement and Release that, broadly, sees the victim agree not to pursue the Salvation Army in legal actions and also often agree to not speak to anyone about the ‘settlement’ made unless the Salvation Army allows them to.

Controversial aspects of such processes include:

  • The appropriateness of processes when involving illiterate victims (Note: many care-leavers were denied any education at all by their captors).
  • The appropriateness of processes when involving victims too poor to afford legal advice and representation.
  • The appropriateness of processes when involving victims in a desperate financial position and whether true consent can be given by a person not in any position to say no to a pitiful sum that might solve an immediate and pressing problem, regardless of how dire their futures might be.
  • And more.

This post does not attempt to explore these issues. Its focus is on how Dr Doughty was treated, starting from the first mention of an “ex-gratia” payment.

In 2007, it appears Dr Doughty was offered $20,000 (later raised to $60,000). A justly outraged Dr Doughty said:

“It was like he [the person offering the money] had scooped up a pile of cow shit and thrown it in my face.”

[Dr Doughty’s use of the expression “cow shit” was also an oblique reference to the practice of the boys at The Gill, who were not provided with footwear by their Salvation Army overlords, even in the depths of winter, to warm their poor little feet by standing in piles of cow manure].

The story of Dr Doughty’s subsequent treatment is a complex one, but some of the key aspects include:

  • A raising of the initial offer by the Salvation Army, as Dr Doughty became increasingly angry at how he was being treated, until Dr Doughty had the temerity to push the Salvation Army a little further than victims are apparently allowed to do.
  • The Salvation Army indicating it would rely on statute of limitations legislation to block any civil claim Dr Doughty might make in the courts when Dr Doughty, having had the jack of how he was being treated, started down the litigation road.
  • The Salvation Army indicating that it would not accept vicarious liability as an “unincorporated association” (Q: Are Salvation Army victims to having to contend with a ‘Doughty Defence’ just as Catholic Church victims are blocked in their quests for justice by the ‘Ellis Defence’?).
  • The Salvation Army attempting to assert that Dr Doughty was actually never in ‘The Gill’! (Q: How might the Salvation Army expect Dr Doughty to have been in possession of any documentation that might have been able to disprove this assertion? The author is not aware of it being standard Salvation Army practice to helpfully issue children it released from ‘care’ with such documentation (including a detailed, dated and signed dossier of the abuses they endured) so that many years later, when their lives had been devastated by the abuses they suffered and they’ve finally come to understand themselves, they could easily sue the Salvation Army for economic and other losses experienced as a result of abuses. She is willing to stand corrected should the Salvation Army prove this was standard practice. The author is also not able to comment on how much documentation relating to records of children in Salvation Army ‘care’ have been fortuitously lost through mishaps such as fires and floods sweeping through records departments in areas not normally known for bushfires and flooding.)

[As an aside, the reader might be interested to know that in 2007, the law firm representing the Salvation Army in dealings with Dr Doughty was none other than Corrs Chambers Westgarth. The very same firm that acted for the Catholic Church against John Ellis in the famous ‘Ellis Defence’ matter, and which has been said to the author to be the preferred firm of Cardinal George Pell].

To cut a long story short, Dr Doughty didn’t go along with how the Salvation Army wanted him to behave. A rebellious Dr Doughty decided to go his own way. He somehow found the strength to overcome the sorts of low expectations that would have been instilled in him at ‘The Gill’. He somehow found the courage to stand up to the Salvation Army when it would have been perfectly understandable for him to cow in the face of people from a scarily authoritarian organisation so many have said have treated them with brutality and repression.

Dr Doughty wasn’t going to take things lying down.

And the Salvation Army didn’t seem to like that at all. Dr Doughty, seen through Salvation Army eyes, was probably viewed as something of a ‘naughty victim’. And, as subsequent events revealed, he was shown what happens to naughty victims who don’t do things the Salvo way. These events may have reminded Dr Doughty of what happened to young children in Salvation Army homes who stood up to their abusers or may have had thoughts about telling someone about what was happening to them, and may have threatened to destabilise him to the point he gave up in despair. They probably did. Whether the Salvation Army knows that this is the ‘place’ to which it sends victims when it fights anyone who tries to stand up to them is not known.

But Dr Doughty continued undeterred by his early childhood conditioning. And the Salvation Army fought Dr Doughty every step of the way. He endured years of psychological torture as his various claims were blocked at every step, and he was, to use the Australian vernacular, ‘stuffed around’ by the Salvation Army in a myriad of ways. Readers must remember that this came on top of the suffering he was already enduring because of his time in ‘The Gill’. As Dr Doughty has said:

“The pain from these events haunts me seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The pain builds up, like rust in a metal water pipe. Its first trickle is about being alone and helpless…Just look around. I’ve got a good family, I’ve got good friends, but the pain stays in you.”

Dr Doughty even received dire warnings about “the likely costs of a trial” should he persist in the rightful pursuit of his claims – a clear indication in this author’s eyes that the Salvation Army was prepared to spend millions, if necessary, to fight Dr Doughty. After all, it would be perilous to the comfort of Salvation Army officers were the dreaded litigation floodgate be opened, and Dr Doughty succeed in his claim for a reasonable sum of money to compensate him. It’s estimated that there are at least 30,000 victims of Salvation Army children’s homes in Australia alone, although the figure may be much, much higher than that – only the Salvation Army knows the truth. The true economic and other costs to victims and their families are far, far, far higher than the paltry “ex-gratia” payments offered to them. Of course, the vast global riches of the Salvation Army in the form of its expensive property holdings and for-profit corporate entities would be more than sufficient to properly compensate all victims, but that’s beside the point, apparently.

Sadly, but perfectly understandably, poor Dr Doughty, despite his extraordinary courage and tenacity in the face of bullies, eventually cracked. Dr Doughty, after more years of procedural re-abuse than any of us could honestly say we could endure, eventually “gave in” and signed the damned Salvation Army Deed of Settlement and Release. Just in case, though, that Dr Doughty had not endured enough suffering to make sure he was truly beaten down and never again re-emerged to be a thorn in the side of the Salvation Army, there was one more, cruel twist of the knife. When Dr Doughty turned up on the designated date and at the designated place to pick up his cheque, he was told that no cheque was available. The Salvo lawyer, Luke Geary, who was to give Dr Doughty his cheque, informed an understandably incredibly distressed Dr Doughty that “I will determine what happens” (Sieg Heil, Luke Geary!). Subsequently, though, Dr Doughty got his cheque and banked it.

This post might have ended at this point on a terribly sad note, in which the only conclusion could be that bullies always win in the end, were it not for two things:

  • Dr Doughty did manage to get away with one act of resistance that even the Salvation Army couldn’t stop. Dr Doughty, who no-one should expect to trust the Salvation Army to follow up on promises after the shabby incident with the absent cheque, only signed the Deed of Release and Settlement after he got his cheque.
  • Dr Doughty re-emerged today, like a phoenix from the ashes, to sock it to the Salvation Army and expose to the world its disgraceful practices with courage. As Dr Doughty said some years ago, “I have walked the walk, now I can talk the talk.” And we are grateful to Dr Doughty for talking at the Royal Commission.

Aletha Blayse

Read more here:

[Postscript 1: As she was inside the hearing room at the time, the author cannot confirm or deny a report made to her that when dear Dr Doughty, distraught at being in such close proximity to what he referred to as his “captors” (the Salvation Army) and needing to relive his traumatic experiences to give his evidence, some Salvation Army officers watching proceedings on a television screen outside the hearing rooms were overheard to cheer loudly on occasions in which Dr Doughty stumbled in the giving of his complex story].

[Postscript 2: Salvation Army representatives continue to wear Gestapo-style uniforms in commission hearings in the possible presence of traumatised Salvation Army children’s homes victims attending proceedings].

[Postscript 3: ‘Major’ Peter Farthing from the Salvation Army approached the author today indicating he was still willing to meet with her after the end of the Case Study 10 hearings. She again said she wanted a representative from the media present at the meeting. Farthing refused, but didn’t reveal what he was so frightened about that she might say that he feared being overheard by the media. She said she’d think about it and get back to him. She’s thought a little about the matter tonight, and is now contemplating asking for the meeting to be held in the unisex toilets in Governor Macquarie Tower. She suspects she’ll probably (overseas readers are asked to forgive the scatological references in this post – it’s an Australian thing) “get the shits” with Farthing and possibly “piss herself” laughing at the shabbiness of any offer of compensation he may make to her. Accordingly, she may need to be in close proximity to a toilet bowl. She continues to ponder the issue …]


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