As readers of this blog would know, this blog was started by my father, Lewis Blayse, who was a survivor of the notorious Salvation Army Alkira / Indooroopilly Boys’ Home. Readers would also be aware that I have been battling the Salvation Army regarding compensation for my father’s family, in continuation of my father’s lifelong but failed struggle for justice. Readers would also know that I hope, through achievement of a satisfactory outcome in relation to compensation for my family, to establish a strong precedent for a new, fair approach to compensation that will flow on to other victims of Salvation Army abuses and their families.
After digging in its toes for too long, the Salvation Army has recently contacted me (through its head lawyer, Luke Geary) to indicate that it IS now willing to enter into formal talks about restitution to the family for the damage it inflicted upon my father and his extended family. In so doing, it appears to have reversed its previous decision, communicated to me by ‘commissioner’ James Condon, which was to deny it had any further responsibility to set wrongs right beyond the pathetic and cruel responses of the past. This is a limited but potentially positive development, and I am cautiously optimistic that when presented with even more documentation than has already been provided to it, someone in the Salvation Army will see the grievous errors in its earlier approaches, and finally do the right thing by our family. So that Dad’s wishes are finally met.
It must also be said that it’s a potentially positive development in the sense that the Salvation Army now appears to be acknowledging that families of people hurt by child abusers within its ranks are also people who have to be considered in its responses to its organisational failures. I hope that the Salvation Army is extending the same offer to talk about restitution to affected families. Because it must make amends to everyone it has hurt. So that a foundation stone for real healing among all those the Salvation Army has hurt is laid.
Currently, my family is preparing for our formal talks and collating further documentation in support of our claim. The Salvation Army, including Peter Farthing (Salvation Army Royal Commission Response Coordinator and former Secretary for Personnel), was provided with solid proof from a world expert on PTSD that my father was totally and permanently disabled from his abuses over a decade ago. It has recently been resupplied with the same documentation through my formal statement tendered to the Royal Commission recently and available on the Commission’s website. Now, we are preparing even more documentation outlining the impacts upon Dad’s extended family of the abuse he suffered and the effects on his family. Naturally, given how appallingly the Salvation Army has treated my father and his family in the past, I am extremely reluctant to place any trust in the organisation. I’ll only believe that it has seen the error of its ways when talks are concluded and matters regarding restitution settled to the satisfaction of each member of Dad’s family. But if it does do the right thing, I will be more than happy to publicise the outcomes. The Salvation Army knows that.
But as anyone who knew my father would know, through his lifelong activism, he was fighting for a better Australia. An Australia that didn’t tolerate child abuse or those who allow it to take place. An Australia that didn’t see its trust shattered by organisations such as the Salvation Army.
That the Salvation Army now appears to have reversed its previous decision to simply tell my family to take a flying leap is not an indication that things are all good with the Salvation Army.
Far from it.
I attended the Case Study 10 hearings of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I saw and heard and talked to people whose lives had been shattered by abuses of the worst possible kind. I saw evidence of callous and inadequate responses by the Salvation Army. I saw top brass from the Salvation Army come out with idiotic responses that made my blood boil. I’ve read and re-read the documentation supplied by witnesses at the Case Study 5 and Case Study 5 hearings now available on the Royal Commission’s website. I’ve poured over media reports of earlier instances of the organisation’s failings in relation to child protection. I’ve been in communication with a number of victims and their families through email and phone. I’ve been reading more about earlier reports of abuses within the Salvation Army. And about new people who’ve been coming forward to tell their tragic stories. Just yesterday, I met yet another victim of the Salvation Army.
The more you look, the worse it is.
The bottom line is that things are so far from being right in the Salvation Army it’s ridiculous.
When the Salvation Army announced the launch of its annual Red Shield Appeal a little while ago, I optimistically thought there might be some concrete statements emanating from the organisation about EXACTLY what it would be doing to address the very real problems within the organisation.
That has not happened.
Instead, there have been vague statements about trust, sweeping but meaningless apologies, and trite statements about the organisation having “zero tolerance” for child abuse.
Frankly, it’s all been utter twaddle.
From where I stand, I can’t see any real evidence of the Salvation Army fully appreciating the seriousness of the issues raised in the Royal Commission and before that. From where I stand, it looks to me like business as usual. And that’s not good enough.
If the Salvation Army thinks it can get away with glossing over issues of the most serious magnitude with these kinds of responses, this tells me it still doesn’t ‘get’ the seriousness of the issues.
That’s why I’ve decided to launch the White Shield Appeal (www.whiteshieldappeal.org).
On http://www.whiteshieldappeal.org, there are links to articles about stories that will already be familiar to people who’ve been following the media’s reporting on the issues, and some that may have escaped some readers’ attention. I urge readers of this blog to revisit the issues raised in these articles and see for themselves the full extent of the harm that has been inflicted on so many innocent people through the organisational failings of the Salvation Army. Harrowing and heartbreaking the stories may be, they need to be read.
I am unashamed to be urging Australians to withhold making donations to the Red Shield Appeal 2014 this weekend. Naturally, I will be criticised for taking this stance. Some people will accuse me of inflicting harm upon the people the Salvation Army claims to help through its various “good works” programs. To this, I answer that I am not asking people to turn their backs on people in need.
Far from it.
I hope that this weekend, Australians will demonstrate more than ever before the extent of their kindness and willingness to help out those more disadvantaged people in our society. There are countless charities and organisations that do similar work to the Salvation Army. I hope that this weekend, they are the beneficiaries of an unprecedented demonstration of Australians’ compassion for people doing it tough.
What I am saying is that the Salvation Army is not a worthy beneficiary. I say this because to date, it has not demonstrated that it is actually doing anything concrete to fully address the terrible stories that have been told about it in recent times. Stories about:
- Baby trafficking
- Child abuse apologists
- Child prostitution rings
- Child rape
- Child torture
- Children going missing
- Decades of cover ups
- Disbelief of victims
- Endemic abuse
- Failures to report offenders to police
- Families destroyed
- Inadequate complaints processes
- Lives destroyed
- Missing records
- Moving offenders around
- Paedophile rings
- Pathetic compensation for victims
- Persecution of whistleblowers
- Procedural re-abuse
- Shattered lives
- Trust destroyed
- Victims being forced to sign confidentiality agreements
- Witness intimidation
Put together, it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Please read the material on the White Shield Appeal website (www.whiteshieldappeal.org). Go and have a look at the Salvation Army’s websites (www.salvos.org.au and www.salvationarmy.org.au). See what the Salvation Army has to say about what it’s doing in the face of all this horror.
And then, when you’ve read it all, ask yourself if this is an organisation you really want to support. Or if there is another organisation more deserving of your generosity.
Please, don’t give to the Red Shield Appeal doorknockers this weekend. Instead, please give as generously as you can to an organisation that DESERVES your trust.
Let the Salvation Army know: “I’m disgusted by what I’ve learned about the Salvation Army. I want you to clean up your act and clean it up fast!”
Maybe, if enough of us act, things might start to change for the better in the Salvation Army.
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.