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:
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.
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.
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 …
[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.]