Eden Park Salvation Army Boys’ Home (pictured above) was run in the 1960s by Salvo Officer, William Ellis. He was a large man who beat, raped and otherwise abused boys over a long period of time. This cowardly man showed how he could dish out punishment, but not take it himself. When found guilty and sentenced to 16 years prison for his crimes, Officer Ellis “shrieked hysterically and refused to leave the courtroom.” His appeal against the sentence was rejected unanimously.
The modus operandi of religious child sexual abusers varies according to denomination. Mainstream religious groups often rely on the prestige of the offender to get away with their crimes. The child is unlikely to be believed. Further, the victim feels that God is on the side of the abuser, which is why victims from particularly devout families are targeted. In some cases, the religious community in question treats the victim with rejection and other forms of disdain if they report abuses.
The method of choice for Salvation Army abusers lay in the type of victim. Typically, the Salvation Army relates to people who have been in trouble with the law, or come from very deprived backgrounds. Here, it is not so much the positive reputation of the abuser which gives them protection so much as the low reputation of the victims.
The Eden Park Home had the typical inmates. These were boys who were described as “troubled”, “delinquent”, “offenders”, ”neglected” , “in moral danger”, “homeless,” etc. Some, of course, were Indigenous youth forcibly removed by the authorities (members of the “Stolen Generation”). Either way, their complaints were easily dismissed against the denials of the Salvation Army.
When a former worker at Eden Park informed the Dunstan Government in South Australia, of abuses at the home, the complaints were not acted upon. The whistleblower lost his job.
The South Australian Government has a responsibility to the boys of Eden Park, since it was operated by the Salvation Army under the control of the state government. When asked about the fact that the government had been advised of the problems forty years ago, the responsible minister, Jay Weatherill (now Premier) hid behind the catch-cry of “client confidentiality” to neither confirm nor deny the claim. Dunstan is a political God in the memory of Labor in South Australia, so it is not surprising that many would not like to see his legacy sullied in this way.
When sentencing Ellis, Judge Michael David described the Eden Park Salvation Army boys’ home as a disgrace. “It was a horrific place by any standards, let alone modern standards,” he said.
The Salvation Army continues to block moves for decent compensation through litigation, according to victims’ lawyers. The very valuable Eden Park property was sold into private hands in 1997 for an undisclosed sum. That sum belongs to the victims.
[Postscript: One of the journalists who broke the Eden Park story was Joanne McCarthy, who also broke the Newcastle story (see yesterday’s posting).]
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TOMORROW: Salvation Army Fullerton Girls’ Home
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)