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.