Sydney Salvos Protest Resumes: 8-15 August, 2014

Hi there, 

She’s back! 

Stephanie Calabornes has made a good recovery, and is coming back for another round with the Salvos, again in Sydney, outside their headquarters at 140 Elizabeth Street, Sydney. 

This time, Stephanie’s protest will go for a week. 

As always, if you’re inspired by protests such as this, and want to mount your own, please get in touch via this site or http://www.whiteshieldappeal.org for assistance promoting your protest. 

And of course if you’d like to join Stephanie, even if just for an hour or so, please do. 

As before, I’ll be Tweeting images from Stephanie’s protest throughout the duration of the protest, as well as placing them on the White Shield Appeal Protests page on the White Shield Appeal website.

Good wishes, Stephanie!

Kind regards,

Aletha

Aletha Blayse

http://www.lewisblayse.net

http://www.whiteshieldappeal.org

Twitter: @alethab

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Sydney Salvos Protest: It’s the Beginning, Not the End

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Dear readers,

This post is to announce that unfortunately Stephanie Calabornes will not be able to continue her Protests due to ill health brought on in part by the intensity of her activities and in part by the additional level of stress induced by the Salvation Army’s heavy-handed behaviour that has had a detrimental effect on her stress levels (and therefore health) as well.

Stephanie withstood several attempts to stray her from her course, including threats of being sued, personal slurs on her name, and the police being called on two occasions, which, although patently ridiculous, were nevertheless highly stressful. She took these in her stride, and saw these efforts for what they were – attempts to muzzle her voice and stop her speaking out about problems in the Salvation Army. When the police were unnecessarily called because the Salvation Army didn’t like one of her placards (see previous posting: Sydney Salvos Protest: Salvos Object to Protest Placard, Call Police), she even resolved to protest longer than originally planned, because she wanted to show the Salvation Army that this sort of tactic simply wasn’t going to work.

When I called Stephanie the other night, however, the strain and exhaustion in her voice were evident. Stephanie is one of the proudest people I know, and she is, from what I’ve learned in the short time I’ve known her, not the sort of person who feels comfortable talking about things that are causing her problems in her own life. She spends most of her time standing up for other people or speaking out about injustice, and tends to minimise her own difficulties. It was only the other night that I learned that Stephanie has chronic lymphatic leukaemia, amongst other health complaints. I’d known she had a difficult childhood, including time in an orphanage, and that she had been assaulted at a Salvation Army centre as an adult, but not the full extent of the traumas she’s endured throughout her life, or her health issues. I had enormous respect for Stephanie already, but now have an even greater level of respect for her in pushing on for as long as she did, and for speaking out on the issues that matter despite it all.

Naturally, Stephanie was incredibly disappointed about not being in a position to continue with her protest (it took a good couple of hours to convince her it was okay to stop and that she wasn’t letting anyone down if she did!!), but I’m grateful that she put herself first in this case. I’m not sure she believed me when I said that she’d already achieved an incredible amount in the time she was protesting, but I hope she will, in time, come to see just how much she achieved in the 12 days she was able to maintain her protest.

Here are just some of the things that Stephanie achieved:

  • Stephanie (and the wonderful people who came to join her on various days) handed out an estimated 3,500 leaflets, thus expanding dramatically the number of people who will now hopefully go to the White Shield Appeal campaign (whiteshieldappeal.org) website to learn more about aspects of the Salvation Army that the organisation would prefer that people not think about.
  • Even people who did not take a leaflet saw the protest signs and came away with an understanding that there are people who have serious issues with the Salvation Army and these people will hopefully do some research of their own to learn more about problems in the Salvation Army.
  • Several members of the public who were not at all familiar with problems within the Salvation Army stopped to talk to Stephanie to find out more about why she was protesting, and will now hopefully go away and talk to friends, family, and work colleagues, etc., about what they were told and thus spread the message that all is not good with the Salvation Army.
  • Several people stopped to talk to Stephanie to tell her about problems they too had experienced in their dealings with the Salvation Army (including several who provided further confirmation of the things Stephanie was saying), and many of these people have now gotten in touch asking what they can do to assist with future protests or actions or simply to speak about other problems of which I was not aware.
  • The Salvation Army conceded part-way through the protest that it needed to look into the matters raised in two new petitions on the White Shield Appeal campaign website (whiteshieldappeal.org) – plaques on girls’ homes and not wearing triggering uniforms near people abused by Salvation Army members (including at the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse). I very much doubt that without the high level of attention on the organisation during Stephanie’s protest there would have been even the small concessions that have occurred (please check back on this petitions for updates on these petitions).
  • Stephanie engaged in conversations with a few members of the Salvation Army who, it is hoped, have come away with a greater appreciation of the concerns of the community and (hopefully) attempt to get others in the organisation to see that things need to be done differently.
  • Stephanie engaged in conversations with several people who, although not members of the Salvation Army, support it, but need to know that there are people the Salvation Army has harmed and who are still being treated badly. Again, it is hoped that these people will also do something to attempt to bring about change within the Salvation Army, perhaps by Tell the Salvation Army senior members and expressing themselves.

This post is to thank Stephanie for the incredible work that she has done over the last fortnight, under extremely taxing conditions. It is also to thank the wonderful people who joined Stephanie at various times throughout her protest and to all of the people who promoted or talked about the protest on Twitter and facebook and through emails. It is also to thank the wonderful people who emailed or phoned through to say how much they appreciated what Stephanie was doing. 

The job for now is to build on Stephanie’s efforts to keep the ball rolling. I and others who have offered to help will now turn our attention to this. The White Shield Appeal campaign website is now reasonably sufficiently established to provide a platform for people who have concerns about the Salvation Army to do things such as:

  • Have a central platform to promote petitions demanding changes (we will help you by promoting your petition as widely as we can);
  • Have a central platform to promote future protests against the Salvation Army (we will help you by promoting your planned protests to the media and on social media); and
  • Have a way of showing others how even relatively low-involvement actions (‘acts of resistance’) such as (e.g.) sticking up posters on community noticeboards asking people to (e.g.) go and look at the White Shield Appeal campaign website can be powerful tools for raising awareness in the community of problems with the Salvation Army.

Over coming weeks, I’ll be getting in touch with all who have contacted me throughout Stephanie’s protest and seeing what we can do to help in various ways, and not just in the ways listed above. If you haven’t already contacted me and want to be kept updated by email about things like planned protests, new petitions, etc., please get in touch via the Contact page on this site to let me know you want to be kept in the loop, and I’ll add you to my mailing list. More importantly, if you have been inspired by Stephanie’s protest, and want to take some form of action of your own (e.g., start a petition, mount a protest, etc.), and want a hand with ideas or anything else, please also get in touch. 

As I said to Stephanie last night when she was expressing her distress that this would be the end of things, “Don’t think of this as the end; it’s only the beginning.”

Aletha

Aletha Blayse

http://www.lewisblayse.net

http://www.whiteshieldappeal.org

Twitter: @alethab

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Sydney Salvos Protest: Salvos Object to Protest Placard, Call Police

As readers of this blog would know (see previous posting), there is currently a protest underway by social justice campaigner, Stephanie Calabornes. Until yesterday, things were going very well, with a commendable level of cooperation from the Salvation Army, and ‘Major’ Bruce Harmer, Eastern Territorial PR head, pictured below.

bruce harmer

Image: ‘Major’ Bruce Harmer

Ms Calabornes, pictured below, has been protesting day and night since the 17th of July against the Salvation Army. She has cooperated at every turn with the wishes of the Salvation Army in relation to matters of contention such as: (a) where to store her sleeping bag and blankets; (b) the location of placards leaning against the Salvation Army’s building; and (c) not using sticky tape to put up protest signs on the Salvation Army building. Ms Calabornes even kept her cool when a Salvation Army staffer took away one a protest sign brought along by another protester (see below).

frank sign

Image: Protest sign placed by another protester and confiscated by Salvation Army staff

 

Despite the Salvation Army unnecessarily calling the police on Tuesday because of the sticky tape incident (the police left without charging Ms Calabornes), Ms Calabornes remained calm and determined to see out her protest.

 

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Image: Stephanie Calabornes holds up a protest sign

Yesterday, around 1.30 pm, Ms Calabornes was confronted again by Mr Harmer who voiced objection to a new placard Ms Calabornes brought along, shown below being held up by another protester, who joined Ms Calabornes for a time, and in closer detail. This placard called for ‘Major’ Peter Farthing to stand down from the Salvation Army. 

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Image: Protest supporter holds up the placard that upset ‘Major’ Bruce Harmer

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Image: Close-up of the placard that upsetMajor’ Bruce Harmer

Ms Calabornes explained to Mr Harmer that the sign was a reasonable one and was intended to draw attention to the following matters (which she hoped to discuss in more detail with any member of the public who might have walked past and viewed the placard):

  • That Mr Farthing was involved in counselling, for 18 months, self-confessed child abuser, Mr Colin Haggar (Mr Farthing, pictured below, is not reported as having made any attempt to bring Mr Haggar to the police at any stage during this period);
  • That Mr Farthing personally recommended that Mr Haggar be re-accepted for officership within the Salvation Army after this period of counselling; and
  • That the Salvation Army helped Colin Haggar in 2002 apply for a Working With Children Check, without disclosing his previous confession of abuse, and that Mr Farthing knew that Mr Haggar had obtained clearance but did nothing at the time.

PETER farthing

Image: ‘Major’ Peter Farthing, who counselled self-confessed child abuser, Colin Haggar and personally recommended his re-acceptance to the Salvation Army

These matters have been widely reported in the media (see the Articles page on http://www.whiteshieldappeal.org), as Mr Harmer would know.

According to Ms Calabornes, Mr Harmer then rejoined, indicating that the placard needed to be changed to be more specific. In the spirit of cooperation, Ms Calabornes then altered the placard to be more specific to refer to the Colin Haggar matter – see below.

amended farthing sign

Image: Amended protest sign, changed at request of ‘Major’ Bruce Harmer

Mr Harmer came back outside to check the new placard and again disputed its accuracy. Ms Calabornes insisted that it was appropriate, and refused to change or remove it. Mr Harmer then informed her that he was going to call the police.

Mr Harmer then called the police, who arrived approximately one hour later. Ms Calabornes provided her details to the police, who spent approximately 20 minutes inside the Salvation Army building. When the police came back outside, Ms Calabornes talked to the police about Mr Farthing and invited them to read the transcripts and statements on the website of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, particularly those from the Case Study 10 hearings.

The police again left without charging Ms Calabornes (although Ms Calabornes reports that she was warned that she was in danger of being sued by the Salvation Army, something that does not concern her at all).

police

After today’s events, Ms Calabornes is now even more determined to see out her protest until the 31st of July. This is because there is now a new issue that needs to be talked about, and that is the heavy-handed way in which the Salvation Army now appears to be dealing with those who express views that the Army is not comfortable hearing (or seeing).  

The gross overreaction of Mr Harmer and the Salvation Army to Ms Calabornes’ protest is disappointing. The slogan of the Salvation Army in Australia is, “We’re about people finding freedom.” After what happened yesterday, however, it is clear that this does not extend to freedom of speech.

people finding freedom

Image: The Salvation Army’s Australian slogan (NB: exceptions now apply)

It is hoped that Mr Harmer will not waste police time for a third time by calling them again today if he sees a sign that he (or anyone else in the organisation) simply doesn’t like.

Aletha Blayse

http://www.lewisblayse.net
http://www.whiteshieldappeal.org
Twitter: @alethab

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Protest Against the Salvation Army: 17-31 July, 2014, Sydney

Hi there,

In my last post, I talked about a couple of things that I’m yet to follow through on by writing on this blog. One was the quest for the Salvation Army’s new restorative justice principles, and the other was the matter of my meeting with the Salvation Army’s handling of the Blayse family in a meeting I had in Sydney a little while back with several people from the Salvation Army. Work continues on both fronts, and I’ll provide updates on this site as soon as I can. For those curious to know what’s happening now, though, the short answers are:

(a) Restorative justice: the Salvation Army has provided quite a lot of information, but I am still trying to make sense of it in such a way as to be able to write intelligently about it.

(b) Justice for Lewis Blayse: In the air, but the Salvation Army are at least ‘at the table’. I can’t really say more than that at this stage, other than that I am now cautiously optimistic that there will be a better outcome than the disgusting way my Dad’s family has been treated to date.

For now though, there’s something slightly more important / pressing that I’d like to get out to readers. And this is an upcoming protest that commences today at 4 pm in Sydney and will run right through until the end of the month.

The protest is being conducted by prominent social justice campaigner and homelessness rights activist, Stephanie Calabornes. She’ll be protesting right outside Sydney Salvation Army headquarters.

Stephanie is an incredible woman who has deep compassion for those who’ve been harmed by organisations vested with responsibility for care of the most vulnerable people in our society, an extraordinary knowledge of social justice issues, and a level of strength and determination to fight injustice that puts me to shame. She’s known to many who take a keen interest in the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, but has been active on social justice issues for a very long time.

Stephanie will be doing something that I doubt I’d be able to do. She’ll be mounting a DAY and NIGHT protest for two weeks in Sydney outside Sydney Salvation Army headquarters at 140 Elizabeth Street. Which is going to be no mean feat, as it’s freezing in Sydney at the moment!

Stephanie has the wholehearted endorsement of the White Shield Appeal campaign (www.whiteshieldappeal.org), which originated as a protest against the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal in May this year, but will soon be developed into an ongoing protest site for those with concerns about the Salvation Army in a very wide range of areas (please check the White Shield Appeal campaign site regularly over coming weeks for changes).

Stephanie’s 2-week protest against the Salvation Army in Sydney is a protest primarily against:

  • The Salvation Army’s treatment of homeless people;
  • How the Salvation Army allowed confessed child sex abuser Colin Haggar to work at women’s and children’s refuge, Samaritan House Shelter;
  • The Salvation Army’s treatment of victims of its children’s homes and their families; and
  • The Salvation Army’s delivery of services to homeless youth.

Stephanie is extremely knowledgeable, however, about the Salvation Army and its many failings in the areas listed on the White Shield Appeal campaign website, and will be speaking to Salvation Army representatives who come down to chat with her about her and others’ concerns in other areas as well.

It’s hoped that anyone in the Sydney area who supports the White Shield Appeal campaign, or otherwise has concerns with the Salvation Army, will come along and shake Stephanie’s hand and get to know her. Please also feel free to pass on your contact details to Stephanie if you want to be provided with updates about what’s happening during her protest or if you want to start receiving updates about the White Shield Appeal campaign in the future.

Most importantly, if you want to just have a quiet word to Stephanie and stay anonymous but nevertheless get your concerns about the Salvation Army noted and fed into the work that will be being done with the White Shield Appeal campaign in the future, please do that too.

Here’s just some of the things Stephanie will be protesting:

Homelessness Services:

Stephanie has long and direct personal experience that makes her very qualified to speak about homelessness services in Australia, and is well-known as a powerful and articulate advocate for the rights of homeless people. According to Stephanie, “The Salvation Army is using homeless people for free labour instead of directing them to meaningful employment via the Salvation Army’s Employment Plus Service.” She says this practice is appalling, and that the public should know about it. I couldn’t agree more, and I am looking forward to developing a deeper understanding of what is happening here by talking more to Stephanie in coming months and hearing what she has to say during her protest.

Stephanie also alleges that, “The Salvation Army is imposing conditions on some homeless people who are offered accommodation in Salvation Army shelters that they attend Salvation Army religious services.” Stephanie says, “This is disgusting. The Salvation Army is imposing its religious beliefs upon people as a condition of provision of basic services. All people, including homeless people, have the right to freedom of religious expression, which includes not attending Salvation Army church services.”

These are important issues that touch on problems such as separation of church and state, treatment of people who are homeless, and others. Again, I hope people will come along and have a chat with Stephanie and listen to what she has to say.

Colin Haggar:

Stephanie also wants to remind the public about the decision of the Salvation Army to allow confessed child sex abuser, Colin Haggar, to work at the Samaritan House Shelter, a refuge for women and children. Stephanie says, “What confidence can the public have in the Salvation Army to care for vulnerable young people if it allowed a person like Colin Haggar to be placed in this position?” Stephanie says she would like to see all governments review current funding to the Salvation Army following a thorough investigation of all Salvation Army refuge centres. Hear hear.

Children’s Homes’ Victims & Families:

Although not a survivor of a Salvation Army children’s home, Stephanie also spent time in an orphanage, and is acutely aware of the issues surrounding treatment of victims and families, and other problems associated with children’s homes. Stephanie says, “The Salvation Army’s dealings with victims of its homes has been callous.” She says she would like to see all levels of government force the Salvation Army to deliver true restorative justice to victims and families and says, “The Salvation Army is misleading the public that it is delivering justice to its victims; it is not.” Stephanie also wants the Salvation Army to tell the Australian public how many Salvation Army children’s homes victims are currently homeless.

In protesting on this issue, Stephanie is doing important work in bringing greater attention to the plight of survivors of children’s homes, both Salvation Army and, indirectly, others. I really hope that any survivors of Salvation Army children’s homes who are in the Sydney area drop around for a quick chat (and maybe a coffee, eh Steph :) ) and share their stories about where things are at. I’ve been in touch now with many survivors who’ve been treated appallingly by the Salvation Army and continue to be treated appallingly, and Stephanie is as concerned as I am about the picture that’s developing about what’s really going on, despite all the positive messages being put out by the Salvation Army about it accepting responsibility for what it’s done. Stephanie is keen to do what she can to draw attention to what the Salvation Army is really doing, and deserves as much support as possible in this regard.

Homeless Youth:

Stephanie also alleges that the Salvation Army is, “Not doing the job it claims to do in provision of services to homeless youth.” According to Stephanie, “I have repeatedly told the Salvation Army that it needs to send its Oasis homeless youth vans to specific locations in order to reach homeless youth. It has not done so, leaving many young people without the support the Salvation Army claims to offer.” Stephanie has spent many a night out and about talking to people living on the streets of Sydney, and is very qualified to speak about what she has observed. I hope people will be listening.

I and others associated with the White Shield Appeal campaign hope anyone with an interest in these important issues will come along and support Stephanie Calabornes in her protest at 140 Elizabeth Street, Sydney.

While Stephanie is protesting, I’ll be busy on Twitter and on the White Shield Appeal campaign website (www.whiteshieldappeal.org) talking about what Stephanie is doing and what she finds out from her talks with Salvation Army officers and others who will hopefully come and talk to her about the issues she’s protesting about. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow developments by following me at @alethab, where I’ll be Tweeting regularly about what Stephanie is doing. If you’re interested in following Stephanie on Twitter in future (and I suggest that she’s a great person to follow), her Twitter account is @outandabout12. If you can’t make it to the protest, please send her a message of support and encouragement. Please use the hashtag #WhiteShieldAppeal when you do so.

Hats off to Stephanie for her determination to speak out against the Salvation Army and expose injustice and cruelty wherever she sees it.

If you’re inspired by what Stephanie is doing, and want to mount a protest of your own on any issue surrounding the Salvation Army, even if it’s just for a day or even for a few hours, please get in touch with me. I’d be glad to help you get your protest publicised through the White Shield Appeal campaign website or in any other way you see fit. Please do get in touch by using the contact page on this site (www.lewisblayse.net), or the White Shield Appeal campaign website (www.whiteshieldappeal.org) and I’ll lend a hand. Alternatively, if public protests aren’t your thing, but you would like to get a petition going about your issue to raise awareness and bring about change within the Salvation Army, please also get in touch and I’ll do everything I can to assist you in your endeavours.

Best wishes, Stephanie, and I hope you’re joined by many other people (whether in Sydney or in spirit) who will listen to what you have to say. Let’s hope at least a few senior people from the Salvation Army come down to the street and have a chat and start to listen harder to what people have been being saying to them for years, but they have yet to really absorb …

Aletha Blayse

Web: http://www.lewisblayse.net

Web: http://www.whiteshieldappeal.org

Twitter: @alethab

[Postscript: Just recently, Salvation Army Eden Park Boys Home children's home survivor, Graham Rundle, had his book, Forty-Four: A Tale of Survival, published. I've ordered a copy of Graham's book and eagerly await its arrival in the mail. For a list of stockists so you can order a copy of Graham's book too, just Google Forty-Four: A Tale of Survival. It's available in most good bookshops and through Amazon. If you can't afford to purchase a copy, please ask your library to order in a copy. This book is essential reading for a deeper understanding of the reality of the Salvation Army, past and present, and of the incredible life of Graham Rundle. Graham, like Stephanie, is a person of great compassion, and I hope his story of courage and determination in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds gets read by everyone.]

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Forcing Transparency (& Maybe Even Accountability) from the Salvos (Or: One Small Step …)

Something of a hastily written post today due to time limitations, sheer exhaustion, and the need to grab some sleep before an important meeting again with the Salvos tomorrow, for which I have to get up early. 

This follows on from my post from yesterday.

I talked with Bruce Harmer today about my concerns on both fronts – both related to transparency, but also involving more fundamental issues. It took a lot of persistence, a certain amount of very frank talk on the theme of consequences, and not a small degree of frustration to cross the finishing line of this part of a very, very long journey that lies ahead, but there’s been a small positive development. One in the direction of getting the Salvation Army to understand that it MUST embrace transparency and reform in a genuine manner or face the consequences. The weight of people’s petition signatures (http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/bruce-harmer-answer-sarah-dingle-s-questions-about-the-paedophilia-scandal-in-the-salvation-army-bruce-harmer#news), other activity such as Twittering, and strong feeling did it. 

I’d given up earlier tonight, and was about to have to say that the Salvation Army had completely failed, but a few hours ago, Mr Harmer sent me a text message that read:

“Hi Aletha, sorry I just got your three messages now as I leave work. I will have the responses we discussed to Sarah within a week. Thank you for the coffee and chat today.”

This finally clear answer in response to the simple question: “When will you issue full and detailed response to the questions posed by Sarah Dingle and where will you publish them?”

The questions Sarah Dingle posed are here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/linkableblob/5471146/data/questions-put-to-the-salvation-army-data.pdf

I won’t go into the ins and outs of what happened, and what it took to get this simple but important answer, as it would take too long. It literally took a day to get this outcome. The point is that there’s been an outcome in regards to the first of my questions. 

It’s sad that it took so ridiculously long for the Salvation Army to make a very simple decision to engage with the media, even when it’s facing hard and confronting questions. Sure, it’s so much harder to deal with than paying for big press ads soliciting money, but it’s not that hard. It’s sad it took public pressure to get the Salvation Army to even see that this had to be done. It’s sad that there had to even be any MENTION of consequences, when openness and transparency from an organisation that currently enjoys extraordinary public trust and taxpayer support should be expected. Answers to important questions about the protection of children shouldn’t have to be demanded. But that’s how things have been.

Obviously, there’s always the possibility of the Salvation Army reneging on this commitment or, perhaps worse, coming back with answers that aren’t answers at all, but more spin. I hope not, because people will get hurt. Again.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t much. The mountain of suffering caused by the Salvation Army, then and now, lies ahead of this all, and still must be addressed.

But for now, it’s something, and something a little bit positive. The something small but good in what has just happened is this: There is a clearly a profound depth of community feeling that the days of organisations ignoring the legitimate concerns of the public about protection of children and treatment of victims are OVER. People are standing up for what’s right and are willing to pressure organisations through things like signing petitions or approaching organisations directly to do the right thing when these organisations are unable, for whatever reason, to see what’s right themselves.

When I protested today, I had a second agenda, although I wanted first to get the response about answering Sarah Dingle’s questions. That second agenda was to be told when the Salvation Army will publish the new, detailed principles of “restorative justice” it applies to victims and their families and when will it state which victims / family members or other people were consulted in their preparation. I didn’t get that answer, and perhaps it was a little ambitious to expect two clear answers from the Salvation Army in one day. So that’s tomorrow’s task: to get that second answer.

Of course, tomorrow is also the Blayse family restorative justice meeting itself. I should have had the restorative justice principles a long time ago, so have to go in to the meeting with the knowledge that there are probably going to have to be quite a few more meetings. Because tomorrow’s meeting looks set to be dominated by another battle – a battle to be given these principles and to ascertain whether there is any understanding of consequences – this time, the consequences for victims and families of the Salvation Army. This engagement might take a while. But it’s a critical engagement to have, because until I know whether these principles even exist (as I’ve been informed they do), I can’t assess whether the Salvation Army’s assertion that it now is going to “accept responsibility” for harm done is yet more spin or the beginning of a new direction, whatever may have triggered the turnaround. Until I know who was involved in the principles’ development, assuming they exist, I can’t even begin to know if I have to start from first base and go through an incredibly long process of getting what is simple and clear to me communicated simply and clearly to the Salvation Army such that there is a true “meeting of the minds” about damage inflicted and what it takes to undo that damage.

Until I know more, sadly, I have to assume that there was actually no oversight when the Salvation Army sent through a copy of the Matrix in response to my demand for the restorative justice principles. I have to assume that the Salvation Army still doesn’t ‘get it’ in a very core respect and honestly thinks the Matrix is acceptable. It’s a job for another day to comprehensively explain why the Matrix is, to put it baldly, utter rubbish. I’ll get to that. Suffice to say, it is, and I will do a better job later of explaining why. The central argument, though, is that the Matrix has nothing to do with undoing harm and is inconsistent with the Salvation Army’s assertion that it is now going to “accept responsibility,” as Kate Eastman said recently. So if you ‘get’ that, you’ll see why there’s a puzzle to be solved. By being given the Matrix when I asked for the new restorative justice principles, it may well be that the Salvation Army ISN’T accepting responsibility. Even though it said it is. And I have to figure out why this is happening. And what to do about it.

Anyway, stay tuned for an update about what happens in regards to the Salvation Army’s response to Sarah Dingle’s questions. I can’t declare victory on this yet because the answers still have to arrive within a week, and they still have to be full and detailed … and they might not be.

Stay tuned too for more information and analysis of the Salvation Army and whether it is truly accepting responsibility. 

Aletha Blayse
Web: http://www.lewisblayse.net
Web: http://www.whiteshieldappeal.org
Twitter: @alethab

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The Salvos and Moving On (Or: Nothing to See Here, Folks)

nothing to see here picture

I don’t know about you, but when someone who’s hurt me or a loved one tells me to “move on,” or “move forward,” and hasn’t made amends, I get a little tetchy. But I get a little curious too, the way one does when one is told not to look at something.

Recently, a friend sent me a link to a beautifully scripted and filmed video featuring Australian Salvation Army Eastern Territorial Head, James Condon, called “Dealing with Regret.” Jimmy’s video was a warm, intimate ramble in the style of FD Roosevelt’s fireside chats. Jimmy says he has no regrets in life. I’m sure we’re all happy for him (with the possible exception of anyone who may have been harmed by Colin Haggar, perhaps).

At the end of the video, though, Jimmy explains that he’s often had to tell people: “You need to let go of that and move on.” He admits moving on isn’t easy (he’s only human), but reassures us that God is there to help us. This riled me, because if you’re a victim of the Salvation Army, or love someone who is, you can be pretty damn sure the Salvation Army isn’t there to help you. Not properly.

Anyway, I was a little angry by the end of this video, but curious too. What’s this “moving on” business and why did Jimmy place such heavy emphasis on it?

So I had a look at a couple more videos, and found another, related, one, this time from Lt. Col. David Godkin, dated 18 June, 2014. Dave is the Salvation Army’s new Secretary for Personnel, a post held earlier by Major Peter Farthing of ‘someone’s not a paedophile if they do it once’ infamy, the genius behind the now discredited ‘matrix’ model of financial restitution to Salvation Army children’s homes victims, and counsellor for 18 months to Colin Haggar. Farthing is now effectively Australia’s Salvation Army child protection spokesperson, in his official capacity as Royal Commission [into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse] Response Coordinator.

Dave’s video was called “Don’t Look Back.”

Dave’s own touchingly honest personal revelation was that he sometimes struggles with letting go of the past. Fortunately, Dave also finds solace in his religion, for which we are all just delighted. Like Jimmy, though, he was emphatic in his advice to others. Dave says Christ wants us to “move forward” and “let go of the past.”

I don’t know who these videos are aimed at, but can take a wild guess.

The Salvation Army in Australia would like it if everyone it’s harmed “moved on” (read: “shut up”).

It’s not too comfortable with people who don’t just shuffle off and who stand their ground in the face of the organisation’s cruelty and negligence towards them. The courageous Ralph Doughty, who’s an inspiration to me, is a case in point. There’s been quite a bit of people standing up and refusing to shut up lately, what with

  • The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse;
  • A pesky media presence asking hard questions of an organisation accustomed to the blind faith of everyone but those who know the truth behind the brand;
  • And now (horror of horrors), the attention of the NSW police squarely focussed on people at the very highest levels of the Salvation Army in Australia.

The Salvation Army is feeling a little besieged, it’s clear. I’m sure the Salvation Army is really fed up with all the wrong kind of attention. I recall poor Jimmy whining earlier this year that he’s feeling a bit “aggrieved”. But I have absolutely no sympathy for him, the Salvation Army, or for his and the organisation’s attempts to deflect detractors by asking them to “move on.”

What the Salvation Army needs to understand is that people it’s hurt are fed up with it.

  • Fed up with vaguely worded press releases that assure us that everything is just fine when it isn’t.
  • Fed up with reading lies and being upset wondering if the general public is actually buying what’s being said.
  • Fed up with reading meaningless statements issued from on high that are heavy on platitudes but light on detail.

People who’ve been hurt by the Salvation Army want REAL and detailed answers, and they deserve them.

And so does the Australian taxpayer who contributes to about half of the organisation’s income. And who trusts the Salvation Army with the care of the most vulnerable people in our society, including children and adolescents.

Recently, ABC Radio investigative journalist, Sarah Dingle, on the Background Briefing program, asked for specific answers to extremely relevant questions. She was ignored. Many people want to know the Salvation Army’s answers to her probing questions (see the petition. I wanted to know the answers: I’ve been going back and forth with emails to the Salvos’ PR head, Major Bruce Harmer, for some time now, and nothing’s come of it. Not good enough.

I’ve also been on a personal quest to find out exactly what’s behind the Salvos’ apparently new approach to “restorative justice,” hastily announced on the 23rd of June following the Salvation Army’s latest appearance at the Royal Commission. I have some very detailed questions about this too, and Salvos’ lawyer Kate Eastman’s assurance that the Salvation Army is now going to “accept responsibility” for what it’s done is not enough. At the minimum, I want to know what these principles are. Some time ago, I asked for a copy of these principles via my family’s solicitor, John Ellis. There was no response. Five days later, I emailed Peter Farthing directly, demanding a copy of the principles by 5 pm tomorrow. I will be lucky to get an answer.

On Thursday this week, I meet with Peter Farthing, David Godkin, Salvos Legal lawyer Luke Geary, and possibly others from the Salvation Army to obtain justice for my father’s, Lewis Blayse’s, family. We’re having a “restorative justice” conference at John Ellis’s offices. But I don’t know what the “restorative justice” principles are. How then can I speak to the principles? How can anyone who’s going through this process? I should have been given these principles a long time ago, and I’m very angry that I haven’t. I told Peter Farthing that this is a matter of procedural fairness. But it’s a matter of broader importance too: there are others going through the Salvos’ “restorative justice” mechanism now too. Do they have copies of the principles? I’ve asked around, and can’t find anyone who does.

I’m not ready to “move on.” My father entered the notorious Salvation Army Alkira / Indooroopilly Boys’ Home in the late 1950s a sensitive, gentle, and already traumatised little boy. The horrors he witnessed and experienced at the hands of monsters like Lawrence Wilson and Victor Bennett left him totally and permanently disabled as an adult. He woke every day of his life in horror thinking he was still in Alkira. He never received adequate compensation, and the impacts on his family were never properly acknowledged by the Salvation Army. His clearly expressed wish for compensation for his family for his “psychological death,” expressed in the 2004 ABC Four Corners program “The Homies,” was never met.

Unlike Jimmy, I have a profound regret, and I struggle to sleep for the pain of it. I regret that I never went in swinging at the Salvation Army while my father was still alive. Dad said there was no point, and I regret believing him. Perhaps if I’d been stronger and braver, I could have helped him get the justice he and his family deserved? Perhaps we could have had a better life together if I had? Perhaps I wouldn’t have had to see him live out the last years of his life in poverty and desperation. I couldn’t do anything as a child, but there were 21 years of adulthood when I could have fought for him, but didn’t.

It’s too late for me to do what I should have done for my father, but not too late to do something to fulfill his wishes for his family. It’s not too late for me to try to do something that might help people who’ve been harmed the way my father was and are still alive, and their families. The Salvos’ compensation to victims in Australia, for abuses of the most horrendous type, averages around the $30,000 to $40,000 mark. The Salvos’ treatment of victims and their families has been callous. And it’s not changing its ways.

Enough’s enough. Victims of the Salvation Army and their family members need to be given specific details of the new “restorative justice” principles. How can there be public debate about whether they are appropriate if no-one knows what they are? How can we assess their validity if we don’t know who was consulted in their preparation? Were victims and families consulted? If so, how many? Which people? Exactly what harms are being addressed and how? Are the Salvos going to pay lost wages to kids used as slave labour? Will they be covering all medical costs required to people entering their senior years who suffer increasingly from injuries inflicted upon them in childhood by monsters shielded by the Salvation Army? How much will the Salvation Army pay for tuition to children denied educations in Salvo homes? There are dozens of related questions that I and others have, but the Salvation Army doesn’t seem to think the public has a right to know the answers.

The people who were horrified to learn that abuses by Salvation Army personnel of children are not “historical” but still occurring also deserve answers to the questions put by Sarah Dingle to the Salvation Army, and more. Victims whose perpetrators are still alive and continue to escape punishment deserve real answers. People who know that the Salvation Army is still intimately involved with children and young people through its youth programs and are worried about that deserve real answers too.

Enough’s enough:

  • I’ve had enough of stupid, meaningless emails and press releases from the Salvation Army.
  • I’ve had enough of watching insulting videos that imply that there’s something dysfunctional about demanding justice and accountability.
  • I’ve had enough of the Salvation Army failing to answer important questions put to it.

Victims and their families, and the Australian public, deserve better.

On Wednesday 2 July, I’ll be standing outside 140 Elizabeth Street, Sydney (Salvo HQ), from 9 am onwards. Waiting. Waiting for James Condon, Bruce Harmer, Peter Farthing, David Godkin, or anyone senior in the organisation to stop hiding behind press releases, brick walls, and lawyers, and start exhibiting the transparency they claim to embrace.

I will be demanding that one of these people, preferably James Condon, come down to the front of the building to answer, in full view of any media representatives who might be present, these questions:

  1. When will you issue full and detailed responses to the questions posed by Sarah Dingle and where will you publish them?
  2. When will you publish the new detailed principles of “restorative justice” you apply to victims and their families and when will you state which victims / family members or other people were consulted in their preparation?
  3. When you will admit, if you can’t answer these important questions, that the Salvation Army no longer deserves the trust of the Australian public?

If there are no good answers provided, I’ll be asking one more question:

“When will all Australian governments, federal and state, cease funding this massively taxpayer-funded organisation and do whatever it takes to keep the Salvation Army 1000 miles from any young person until it proves itself worthy of our trust?”

Read more here:

Aletha Blayse

www.whiteshieldappeal.org

www.lewisblayse.net

Twitter: @alethab

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Royal Commission Must Urgently Investigate a Potential “Catholic Mafia” Within Australian Law Enforcement (Or: Peter Fox is no Liar and We Know It)

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Yesterday, the NSW Special Commission of Enquiry handed down its final report. The commission of enquiry was established by former NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, soon after Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox came forward in late 2012 expressing concern about how he’d been asked to stand down from an investigation of a possible cover-up of a child abuse case implicating the Catholic Church in the NSW Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. DCI Fox was concerned about the startlingly high number of child abuse allegations against the Catholic Church in such a small geographical area as the diocese.

DCI Fox first become concerned about possible collusion between some police officers and the Catholic Church as a possible explanation for the problem in 2002. Eventually, after years of behind-the-scenes activity, in frustration at lack of action in dealing with the problems he observed, he took the only recourse available to him: speaking to the media.

He did so out of concern for victims and their families, and for protection of children in the future. Speaking on ABC’s Lateline program in late 2012, DCI Fox said:

“There’s something very wrong when you have so many paedophile priests operating in such a small area for such an extended period of time with immunity.”

During the special commission of enquiry, DCI Fox expressed his lack of trust in some of his police colleagues in handling of abuse cases and claimed that a colleague told him about a “Catholic mafia” operating within the ranks of the Newcastle police.

Concerns about the existence of unhealthily close relationships between some members of the police and the Catholic Church in Australia at times is nothing new. In the book “Unholy Trinity: the Hunt for the Paedophile Priest Monsignor John Day”, former Victorian police officer, Denis (‘Dinny’) Ryan also talked about the existence of a “Catholic mafia” within the Victorian police force decades ago, which he alleges actively protected paedophile priests such as Monsignor John Day, with collusion from the highest levels of the Catholic Church in Victoria.

So when DCI Fox came forward talking about the possible existence of similar problems within parts of the NSW police force, it came as little surprise to those who know of the history of the Catholic Church in actively working to shield abusers within their ranks from exposure and prosecution. And who know that the church is willing to use underhand tactics wherever necessary.

What DCI Fox had to say, however, did shock the majority of Australian society. And rightfully so. The integrity of the police is integral to operation of the justice system. Any whiff of impropriety or undue influence being exerted by organisations such as the Catholic Church is a cause for enormous concern.

DCI Fox did not allege that corruption was endemic within the NSW police force. His concerns related to some high-ranking officers and their failure, in his view, to adequately pursue those who had covered up child abuse within the Catholic Church. He said:

“My criticism was aimed at the failure of senior police to target, investigate and take action against those covering up child abuse.”

No right-thinking person could fail to share DCI Fox’s concerns. Even if only a handful of police officers had improper relationships with the Catholic Church, this needs to be investigated fully.

It was disheartening to read, therefore, that the special commission yesterday has largely rejected DCI Fox’s evidence. Worse, DCI Fox has been painted as a liar. Media reports on the special commission today lead with bald headlines slamming DCI Fox and his credibility:

“Church abuse inquiry rejects claims of ‘obsessed’ detective Peter Fox”

“Special Commission of Inquiry clears police, finds whistleblower Peter Fox ‘not credible’ over child abuse cover-up claims”

The danger now is that the Australian public will form the impression that there is no substance to DCI Fox’s allegations. The danger is that they will think that everything is hunky dory and that there are no problems of improper relationships between elements of the police and the Catholic Church in Australia.

This is cause for great concern. Because despite the findings of the special commission, the jury is still very much out on the issue of improper relationships between some law enforcement officers and parts of the Catholic Church. There are several reasons to claim this:

Firstly, it needs to be understood that he special commission was established with incredibly narrow terms of reference. This ensured that considerable amounts of evidence that DCI Fox wanted to provide to the special commission could not be supplied. It should also be understood that DCI Fox was also precluded from speaking on matters that would have helped us to know the extent of problems of too-close relationships between law enforcement and the Catholic Church. Put simply, we have not been presented with all the evidence.

Secondly, it does not appear from its reports that the special commission has looked very closely at material identified by other people concerned about the issues. For example, in late 2013, Greens MP David Shoebridge obtained, through Freedom of Information (FOI), astonishing evidence that two attempts were made to finalise memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between NSW police and the Catholic Church over how to deal with complaints of sexual and physical abuse by Catholic Church personnel.

A clause in one MOU says:

“Church authorities shall make available the report of an assessment and any other matter relevant to the accused’s account of events only if required to do so by court order.”

Barrister Geoffrey Watson SC is reported as saying that:

“When I looked at the MOUs they were really in effect trying to get the police to condone the failure to comply with that law, or even perhaps worse, get the police to participate in that.”

The NSW police deny that either MOU was ever signed, or in force, a claim that is refuted by the Catholic Church itself. According to Michael Salmon, director of the Professional Standards Resource Group of the Catholic Church in NSW in relation to one of the MOUs:

“We were practising the provisions of the MOU and dealing with the police under those provisions.”

“We had an understanding from police it was approved.”

“We had a line of communications with the police and all indications from the police were that the MOU was approved from their end.”

There is only a cursory reference to an MOU in the second volume of the special commission’s report.

Thirdly, there is reason for concern that premature reporting of the special commission’s findings by The Australian may have actually influenced the final outcome of the special commission by painting (see Read more here below for more information) its conclusions as foregone, and possibly dissuading other witnesses who may have been able to back up Peter Fox’s evidence from coming forward at the 11th hour. Even if this is a slim possibility, it needs to be considered.

Finally, it beggars belief that anyone could suggest that DCI Fox would not have done what he did and said what he did if he did not have extremely good evidence in support of his allegations. DCI Fox and his family have been put through an ordeal few of us would have the strength to endure. He has been subjected to threats, intimidation, and gruelling cross-examinations for over a year now. DCI Fox’s brave stance has led to absolutely no personal benefit to himself or his family. Quite the opposite. Intuitively, even without the benefit of being able to see the evidence that DCI Fox was precluded from providing to the special commission, we all know instinctively that there is much more to this matter that we are not being told. DCI Fox still stands by his allegations, despite the special commission’s findings. We need to be asking why.

In short, despite the special commission’s findings, there is still reason to push, and push hard, to see DCI Fox’s allegations re-investigated, and re-investigated in full.

It is now incumbent upon the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to announce that it will undertake its own investigation of the matters raised by DCI Fox and MLP David Shoebridge. Without the fetters of the limited terms of reference of the special commission, it can and should be able to get to the bottom of a potentially serious problem in the Australian system of justice.

And it should not confine itself to the NSW police. As one commentator said:

“We should also be asking about the existence of similar illegal arrangements in other Australian states, especially those states whose police forces have been most tightly controlled by the catholic mafia.

Readers of this blog are therefore urged to write to or phone the Royal Commission asking it to initiate a full investigation of potentially improper relationships between law enforcement officers and the Catholic Church. For contact details, go here: www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au Alternatively, you can Tweet at it: @CARoyalComm

But there is more we need to do. It’s all too easy to look at DCI Fox, who, despite the ordeals he’s endured, appears to stand strong and resolute in his stance, and say: “He’s obviously a tough bloke. He’ll be okay.” Yes, DCI Fox knew the path he was walking when he came forward, but we must acknowledge and pay respect to him for the ordeals he and his family have endured in his quest to protect Australian children from abuse. Despite all DCI Fox has endured, he still said today that if he had to go through it all again: “I would not hesitate to walk the same path.” How many of us could say the same?

As David Shoebridge said today:

“Survivors and ordinary Australians around the country reacted spontaneously and enthusiastically to the bravery of DCI Fox who put his career on the line for the sake of victims.

When DCI Fox first stepped forward, Australians were prolific in their expressions of support for this brave man. It’s time to show this support once more at this critical juncture in DCI Fox’s path in life.

But let’s also think about all the other people who will in the future stand in their truth in the interests of justice. Again, to quote David Shoebridge:

“It is an all too common outcome that the bravery of a whistleblower is lost when the institutions that are threatened turn their full resources on attacking their credibility.”

DCI Fox may stand strong in his truth, but others in the future may not have the full extent of his resilience and may crack under the pressure brought to bear on him and his family throughout the course of the special commission. For the sake of justice and truth, we must actively show not just DCI Fox but all future whistleblowers that we will applaud their courage, and will get behind them when the going gets tough, as it now has.

We therefore urge anyone in Sydney to come along and attend a rally being held today, the 31st of May, at 10.30am outside the NSW Parliament (Martin Place, near Macquarie Street) in support of DCI Fox and calling for the Royal Commission to take up where the NSW special commission left off and finally get to the bottom of the very serious issue of potential collusion between law enforcement officers and the Catholic Church in shielding child abusers.

We also ask you to jump on social media (Twitter, facebook, etc.) and express your support for DCI Fox and your support for the Royal Commission to now get involved in uncovering the truth. If you’re using Twitter, please use the hashtags #foxhero and direct your message to @CARoyalComm.

DCI Fox stood up for the protection of Australian children. Let’s now stand up for DCI Fox and the truth.

Read more here:

Nicky Davis and Aletha Blayse

[Postscript: Well done to Nicky and all the other wonderful Peter Fox supporters in Sydney for organising this rally].

THE AUSTRALIAN ROYAL COMMISSION INTO INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSES TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE NEEDS MORE TIME TO DO ITS WORK: PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION.

NO MORE SPIN, SALVOS: GIVE US REAL ANSWERS!!! PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION DEMANDING ANSWERS TO SARAH DINGLE’S QUESTIONS ABOUT PAEDOPHILIA IN THE SALVATION ARMY.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.

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