Gill Memorial Boys’ Home (Or: Australia Is A Democracy, Not A Nomikocracy)


Image: Dr. Ralph Doughty, 80 – Former Gill boy (Source: Daily Telegraph)

The Salvation Army’s Gill Memorial Boys’ Home will be one of the four Children’s Homes which will be covered by the next hearings of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Home was opened in 1939 by then Australian Prime Minister Lyons, and closed in 1980. It catered for about 90 boys, aged from 3 to 18 years old.

The Salvos are still fighting compensation case from the Home, including in the courts. It clearly is resisting the payment of reasonable compensations. The revelations about the Home will be typical of those at the other three Salvation Army Boys’ Homes which the enquiry will consider – Alkira Indooroopilly Boys’ Home (the author’s old Home), Riverview Training Farm (see previous posting) and Bexley Boys’ Home (see yesterday’s posting).

Ralph Doughty, 80, (pictured above) entered the Home at age seven, when his mother died. His father had been a World War 1 veteran. He was there for 10 years. Recently, he has filed a civil claim against the Salvation Army for $10 million, or as he puts it, $1 million for each year. He claims that the Salvation Army has told him that it will use delaying tactics so that he will die before the case is resolved.

Despite having previously offered Dr. Doughty a $150,000 ex-gratia payment ((plus $3,000 for psychiatrists fees), including a clause saying he will not pursue further civil claims, the Salvos have entered an unusual statement to the courts. It would “not admit” that Mr Doughty ever resided at Gill Memorial Home, that he was abused or that he still suffers psychologically from any alleged abuse.

Given that the Salvation Army has had a bad habit of losing, inadvertently destroying, and simply misplacing files, it may be hard for Doughty to prove he was indeed in the Home. This would apply to most former residents of their 60 Children’s Homes, and may constitute the Salvation Army’s “get out of jail free card”, just as the Catholic Church uses the “Ellis Defence” (which is basically that there is no such thing as the Catholic Church, in the legal sense, so it cannot be sued – see previous posting).

Dr. Doughty says he had witnessed and endured physical, psychological and sexual abuse, even torture. The element of sadism will be sure to be raised many times during the up-coming hearings of the Royal Commission.

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.” This comes from a man who is talking about how he feels more than 60 years after he left the Home.

Like all Salvation Army “Home Boys” he was given a number not a name. He was No. 59. At a recent reunion of Gill old boys, some members had forgotten their numbers, but the event reminded some of them of their number.

Here are some of his claims: He was punched, kicked and repeatedly assaulted with canes, straps and pieces of hose and timber, then denied medical treatment. At night he was sexually assaulted and during shower time boys were poked in the penis and anus with a cane. He was locked in a cupboard without food or water and often told he was “worthless“, “a bastard” and that no one was interested in him.

Other alleged abuses at the Home included: Forcing boys to stand for hours until they urinated or defecated in their clothes, attracting more punishment. Boys were forced to crawl on their hands and knees while licking the timber floors.

Often they had to “run the gauntlet“, which involved the boy running between two lines of other boys who were made to punch and kick them. If a boy failed to do that, he was made to run the gauntlet as well. [The author has witnessed such an event]. Events like this form the main reason why some claim that violence was “institutionalized” in the Salvation Army Homes.

Dr. Doughty also says that “If you stood and you eyeballed an officer – I’m talking about 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 10-year, 12-year-old kids you would get a smash in the face, you know…. Punched in the face and then if you went down they put the boots into you.”

Another Gill boy who has spoken out is Jim Luthy, who was in “The Gill” from 1965-68. It was his letter to the head of the Salvation Army world-wide which resulted in a belated apology a couple of years back. He says that “It’s the very first time a senior ranking Salvation Army officer has ever issued an apology for the endemic and systemic abuses that occurred.”

[He has numerous education qualifications to his name and is completing a Ph.D. on the 2004 Senate inquiry into Children in Institutional Care. It is titled ‘Why Good People do Bad Things,’ based on his own experience.]

Amongst his claims are: “I was abused in every possible way – physically, emotionally and psychologically. I was not sexually abused but I know plenty of boys there who were. People were bashed routinely. It was a case of when, not if you were going to be hit…One boy was hit so badly he couldn’t sit down…. It was a brutal institution that discouraged learning and left children traumatized and with no life skills.”

He recalls a regimented lifestyle of rising at 6am, being made to strip the bed, stand at the end and being thrown to the ground by officers if it wasn’t done. His worst memory was of an officer wrapping a boy’s urine soaked sheets around his neck and swinging him down the stairs.

As elsewhere in Salvation Army Homes, he recalls boys being known by numbers, not names, being marched everywhere, made to take cold showers whatever the time of year and eat substandard food, sometimes filled with weevils that made them vomit. Officers sat on a dais overlooking the boys, but didn’t eat the same food. [Again, the author can confirm such claims].

Ten years ago, a Senate enquiry revealed the abuses at the Salvation Army’s Gill Home, yet things have not changed for the old boys. The Senate enquiry recommended that a formal apology led by the Federal Government is needed; States should amend legislation to increase the statute of limitations for prosecutions, and establish a national reparations fund for victims of abuse funded by the Federal Government, the churches and various institutions. Only the formal apology occurred.

In a clear example of just how long it can take for an idea to take hold, in 2004, one of the report authors, (then) Australian Democrats Senator, Andrew Murray (see previous posting) commenting on the need for the churches to give justice to their victims, said: “Governments have means to make people do what is right.

When asked if this could include a Royal Commission, he said: “Yes, if people won’t come voluntarily and do what’s right.” [Andrew Murray is now one of the six Royal Commissioners, ten years later.] He is on record as saying: “I would expect churches who say they believe in the love of Jesus – they shouldn’t have any difficulty with actually exhibiting that love and giving up some of their money and their assets to make good the harm they did.”

One journalist, in describing the release of the Senate enquiry’s report in 2004, said that the Senators were “wildly applauded” and then the Senators broke down in tears. Normally, wild applause would make any politician smile broadly. It was a case of release for the Senators for the horrendous accounts they had heard. One wonders what the parallel will look like when the Royal Commission releases its report.

At the time, the Salvation Army refused the journalist an interview, saying in a statement they were regretful for any incident of abuse and at the same time refusing to discuss the issue of money. Hopefully, the Royal Commission will finish the job and real change will result.

Fred Walshe gave a quote in his submission to the 2004: “you cannot have a system of justice if there’s no justice in the system.” He added that “What annoys me most is the two faced presentation of the Salvation Army Officers who pride themselves as outstanding members of the community while in Salvation Army uniform, the other face of abuse hidden from the community.”

[Postscript: One former Gill boy, Clem Apted, is gathering material for the book he’s writing – ‘The Salvations Army’s Shame’ – with journalist friend Mike Davis. Its publication is much anticipated.]

Read more here:

Previous postings on the Salvation Army:

TOMORROW: The Salvation Army Kroc Centers

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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