Forcing Transparency (& Maybe Even Accountability) from the Salvos (Or: One Small Step …)

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. 

Aletha Blayse
Web: http://www.lewisblayse.net
Web: http://www.whiteshieldappeal.org
Twitter: @alethab

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The Salvos and Moving On (Or: Nothing to See Here, Folks)

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I don’t know about you, but when someone who’s hurt me or a loved one tells me to “move on,” or “move forward,” and hasn’t made amends, I get a little tetchy. But I get a little curious too, the way one does when one is told not to look at something.

Recently, a friend sent me a link to a beautifully scripted and filmed video featuring Australian Salvation Army Eastern Territorial Head, James Condon, called “Dealing with Regret.” Jimmy’s video was a warm, intimate ramble in the style of FD Roosevelt’s fireside chats. Jimmy says he has no regrets in life. I’m sure we’re all happy for him (with the possible exception of anyone who may have been harmed by Colin Haggar, perhaps).

At the end of the video, though, Jimmy explains that he’s often had to tell people: “You need to let go of that and move on.” He admits moving on isn’t easy (he’s only human), but reassures us that God is there to help us. This riled me, because if you’re a victim of the Salvation Army, or love someone who is, you can be pretty damn sure the Salvation Army isn’t there to help you. Not properly.

Anyway, I was a little angry by the end of this video, but curious too. What’s this “moving on” business and why did Jimmy place such heavy emphasis on it?

So I had a look at a couple more videos, and found another, related, one, this time from Lt. Col. David Godkin, dated 18 June, 2014. Dave is the Salvation Army’s new Secretary for Personnel, a post held earlier by Major Peter Farthing of ‘someone’s not a paedophile if they do it once’ infamy, the genius behind the now discredited ‘matrix’ model of financial restitution to Salvation Army children’s homes victims, and counsellor for 18 months to Colin Haggar. Farthing is now effectively Australia’s Salvation Army child protection spokesperson, in his official capacity as Royal Commission [into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse] Response Coordinator.

Dave’s video was called “Don’t Look Back.”

Dave’s own touchingly honest personal revelation was that he sometimes struggles with letting go of the past. Fortunately, Dave also finds solace in his religion, for which we are all just delighted. Like Jimmy, though, he was emphatic in his advice to others. Dave says Christ wants us to “move forward” and “let go of the past.”

I don’t know who these videos are aimed at, but can take a wild guess.

The Salvation Army in Australia would like it if everyone it’s harmed “moved on” (read: “shut up”).

It’s not too comfortable with people who don’t just shuffle off and who stand their ground in the face of the organisation’s cruelty and negligence towards them. The courageous Ralph Doughty, who’s an inspiration to me, is a case in point. There’s been quite a bit of people standing up and refusing to shut up lately, what with

  • The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse;
  • A pesky media presence asking hard questions of an organisation accustomed to the blind faith of everyone but those who know the truth behind the brand;
  • And now (horror of horrors), the attention of the NSW police squarely focussed on people at the very highest levels of the Salvation Army in Australia.

The Salvation Army is feeling a little besieged, it’s clear. I’m sure the Salvation Army is really fed up with all the wrong kind of attention. I recall poor Jimmy whining earlier this year that he’s feeling a bit “aggrieved”. But I have absolutely no sympathy for him, the Salvation Army, or for his and the organisation’s attempts to deflect detractors by asking them to “move on.”

What the Salvation Army needs to understand is that people it’s hurt are fed up with it.

  • Fed up with vaguely worded press releases that assure us that everything is just fine when it isn’t.
  • Fed up with reading lies and being upset wondering if the general public is actually buying what’s being said.
  • Fed up with reading meaningless statements issued from on high that are heavy on platitudes but light on detail.

People who’ve been hurt by the Salvation Army want REAL and detailed answers, and they deserve them.

And so does the Australian taxpayer who contributes to about half of the organisation’s income. And who trusts the Salvation Army with the care of the most vulnerable people in our society, including children and adolescents.

Recently, ABC Radio investigative journalist, Sarah Dingle, on the Background Briefing program, asked for specific answers to extremely relevant questions. She was ignored. Many people want to know the Salvation Army’s answers to her probing questions (see the petition. I wanted to know the answers: I’ve been going back and forth with emails to the Salvos’ PR head, Major Bruce Harmer, for some time now, and nothing’s come of it. Not good enough.

I’ve also been on a personal quest to find out exactly what’s behind the Salvos’ apparently new approach to “restorative justice,” hastily announced on the 23rd of June following the Salvation Army’s latest appearance at the Royal Commission. I have some very detailed questions about this too, and Salvos’ lawyer Kate Eastman’s assurance that the Salvation Army is now going to “accept responsibility” for what it’s done is not enough. At the minimum, I want to know what these principles are. Some time ago, I asked for a copy of these principles via my family’s solicitor, John Ellis. There was no response. Five days later, I emailed Peter Farthing directly, demanding a copy of the principles by 5 pm tomorrow. I will be lucky to get an answer.

On Thursday this week, I meet with Peter Farthing, David Godkin, Salvos Legal lawyer Luke Geary, and possibly others from the Salvation Army to obtain justice for my father’s, Lewis Blayse’s, family. We’re having a “restorative justice” conference at John Ellis’s offices. But I don’t know what the “restorative justice” principles are. How then can I speak to the principles? How can anyone who’s going through this process? I should have been given these principles a long time ago, and I’m very angry that I haven’t. I told Peter Farthing that this is a matter of procedural fairness. But it’s a matter of broader importance too: there are others going through the Salvos’ “restorative justice” mechanism now too. Do they have copies of the principles? I’ve asked around, and can’t find anyone who does.

I’m not ready to “move on.” My father entered the notorious Salvation Army Alkira / Indooroopilly Boys’ Home in the late 1950s a sensitive, gentle, and already traumatised little boy. The horrors he witnessed and experienced at the hands of monsters like Lawrence Wilson and Victor Bennett left him totally and permanently disabled as an adult. He woke every day of his life in horror thinking he was still in Alkira. He never received adequate compensation, and the impacts on his family were never properly acknowledged by the Salvation Army. His clearly expressed wish for compensation for his family for his “psychological death,” expressed in the 2004 ABC Four Corners program “The Homies,” was never met.

Unlike Jimmy, I have a profound regret, and I struggle to sleep for the pain of it. I regret that I never went in swinging at the Salvation Army while my father was still alive. Dad said there was no point, and I regret believing him. Perhaps if I’d been stronger and braver, I could have helped him get the justice he and his family deserved? Perhaps we could have had a better life together if I had? Perhaps I wouldn’t have had to see him live out the last years of his life in poverty and desperation. I couldn’t do anything as a child, but there were 21 years of adulthood when I could have fought for him, but didn’t.

It’s too late for me to do what I should have done for my father, but not too late to do something to fulfill his wishes for his family. It’s not too late for me to try to do something that might help people who’ve been harmed the way my father was and are still alive, and their families. The Salvos’ compensation to victims in Australia, for abuses of the most horrendous type, averages around the $30,000 to $40,000 mark. The Salvos’ treatment of victims and their families has been callous. And it’s not changing its ways.

Enough’s enough. Victims of the Salvation Army and their family members need to be given specific details of the new “restorative justice” principles. How can there be public debate about whether they are appropriate if no-one knows what they are? How can we assess their validity if we don’t know who was consulted in their preparation? Were victims and families consulted? If so, how many? Which people? Exactly what harms are being addressed and how? Are the Salvos going to pay lost wages to kids used as slave labour? Will they be covering all medical costs required to people entering their senior years who suffer increasingly from injuries inflicted upon them in childhood by monsters shielded by the Salvation Army? How much will the Salvation Army pay for tuition to children denied educations in Salvo homes? There are dozens of related questions that I and others have, but the Salvation Army doesn’t seem to think the public has a right to know the answers.

The people who were horrified to learn that abuses by Salvation Army personnel of children are not “historical” but still occurring also deserve answers to the questions put by Sarah Dingle to the Salvation Army, and more. Victims whose perpetrators are still alive and continue to escape punishment deserve real answers. People who know that the Salvation Army is still intimately involved with children and young people through its youth programs and are worried about that deserve real answers too.

Enough’s enough:

  • I’ve had enough of stupid, meaningless emails and press releases from the Salvation Army.
  • I’ve had enough of watching insulting videos that imply that there’s something dysfunctional about demanding justice and accountability.
  • I’ve had enough of the Salvation Army failing to answer important questions put to it.

Victims and their families, and the Australian public, deserve better.

On Wednesday 2 July, I’ll be standing outside 140 Elizabeth Street, Sydney (Salvo HQ), from 9 am onwards. Waiting. Waiting for James Condon, Bruce Harmer, Peter Farthing, David Godkin, or anyone senior in the organisation to stop hiding behind press releases, brick walls, and lawyers, and start exhibiting the transparency they claim to embrace.

I will be demanding that one of these people, preferably James Condon, come down to the front of the building to answer, in full view of any media representatives who might be present, these questions:

  1. When will you issue full and detailed responses to the questions posed by Sarah Dingle and where will you publish them?
  2. When will you publish the new detailed principles of “restorative justice” you apply to victims and their families and when will you state which victims / family members or other people were consulted in their preparation?
  3. When you will admit, if you can’t answer these important questions, that the Salvation Army no longer deserves the trust of the Australian public?

If there are no good answers provided, I’ll be asking one more question:

“When will all Australian governments, federal and state, cease funding this massively taxpayer-funded organisation and do whatever it takes to keep the Salvation Army 1000 miles from any young person until it proves itself worthy of our trust?”

Read more here:

Aletha Blayse

www.whiteshieldappeal.org

www.lewisblayse.net

Twitter: @alethab

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Royal Commission Must Urgently Investigate a Potential “Catholic Mafia” Within Australian Law Enforcement (Or: Peter Fox is no Liar and We Know It)

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Yesterday, the NSW Special Commission of Enquiry handed down its final report. The commission of enquiry was established by former NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, soon after Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox came forward in late 2012 expressing concern about how he’d been asked to stand down from an investigation of a possible cover-up of a child abuse case implicating the Catholic Church in the NSW Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. DCI Fox was concerned about the startlingly high number of child abuse allegations against the Catholic Church in such a small geographical area as the diocese.

DCI Fox first become concerned about possible collusion between some police officers and the Catholic Church as a possible explanation for the problem in 2002. Eventually, after years of behind-the-scenes activity, in frustration at lack of action in dealing with the problems he observed, he took the only recourse available to him: speaking to the media.

He did so out of concern for victims and their families, and for protection of children in the future. Speaking on ABC’s Lateline program in late 2012, DCI Fox said:

“There’s something very wrong when you have so many paedophile priests operating in such a small area for such an extended period of time with immunity.”

During the special commission of enquiry, DCI Fox expressed his lack of trust in some of his police colleagues in handling of abuse cases and claimed that a colleague told him about a “Catholic mafia” operating within the ranks of the Newcastle police.

Concerns about the existence of unhealthily close relationships between some members of the police and the Catholic Church in Australia at times is nothing new. In the book “Unholy Trinity: the Hunt for the Paedophile Priest Monsignor John Day”, former Victorian police officer, Denis (‘Dinny’) Ryan also talked about the existence of a “Catholic mafia” within the Victorian police force decades ago, which he alleges actively protected paedophile priests such as Monsignor John Day, with collusion from the highest levels of the Catholic Church in Victoria.

So when DCI Fox came forward talking about the possible existence of similar problems within parts of the NSW police force, it came as little surprise to those who know of the history of the Catholic Church in actively working to shield abusers within their ranks from exposure and prosecution. And who know that the church is willing to use underhand tactics wherever necessary.

What DCI Fox had to say, however, did shock the majority of Australian society. And rightfully so. The integrity of the police is integral to operation of the justice system. Any whiff of impropriety or undue influence being exerted by organisations such as the Catholic Church is a cause for enormous concern.

DCI Fox did not allege that corruption was endemic within the NSW police force. His concerns related to some high-ranking officers and their failure, in his view, to adequately pursue those who had covered up child abuse within the Catholic Church. He said:

“My criticism was aimed at the failure of senior police to target, investigate and take action against those covering up child abuse.”

No right-thinking person could fail to share DCI Fox’s concerns. Even if only a handful of police officers had improper relationships with the Catholic Church, this needs to be investigated fully.

It was disheartening to read, therefore, that the special commission yesterday has largely rejected DCI Fox’s evidence. Worse, DCI Fox has been painted as a liar. Media reports on the special commission today lead with bald headlines slamming DCI Fox and his credibility:

“Church abuse inquiry rejects claims of ‘obsessed’ detective Peter Fox”

“Special Commission of Inquiry clears police, finds whistleblower Peter Fox ‘not credible’ over child abuse cover-up claims”

The danger now is that the Australian public will form the impression that there is no substance to DCI Fox’s allegations. The danger is that they will think that everything is hunky dory and that there are no problems of improper relationships between elements of the police and the Catholic Church in Australia.

This is cause for great concern. Because despite the findings of the special commission, the jury is still very much out on the issue of improper relationships between some law enforcement officers and parts of the Catholic Church. There are several reasons to claim this:

Firstly, it needs to be understood that he special commission was established with incredibly narrow terms of reference. This ensured that considerable amounts of evidence that DCI Fox wanted to provide to the special commission could not be supplied. It should also be understood that DCI Fox was also precluded from speaking on matters that would have helped us to know the extent of problems of too-close relationships between law enforcement and the Catholic Church. Put simply, we have not been presented with all the evidence.

Secondly, it does not appear from its reports that the special commission has looked very closely at material identified by other people concerned about the issues. For example, in late 2013, Greens MP David Shoebridge obtained, through Freedom of Information (FOI), astonishing evidence that two attempts were made to finalise memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between NSW police and the Catholic Church over how to deal with complaints of sexual and physical abuse by Catholic Church personnel.

A clause in one MOU says:

“Church authorities shall make available the report of an assessment and any other matter relevant to the accused’s account of events only if required to do so by court order.”

Barrister Geoffrey Watson SC is reported as saying that:

“When I looked at the MOUs they were really in effect trying to get the police to condone the failure to comply with that law, or even perhaps worse, get the police to participate in that.”

The NSW police deny that either MOU was ever signed, or in force, a claim that is refuted by the Catholic Church itself. According to Michael Salmon, director of the Professional Standards Resource Group of the Catholic Church in NSW in relation to one of the MOUs:

“We were practising the provisions of the MOU and dealing with the police under those provisions.”

“We had an understanding from police it was approved.”

“We had a line of communications with the police and all indications from the police were that the MOU was approved from their end.”

There is only a cursory reference to an MOU in the second volume of the special commission’s report.

Thirdly, there is reason for concern that premature reporting of the special commission’s findings by The Australian may have actually influenced the final outcome of the special commission by painting (see Read more here below for more information) its conclusions as foregone, and possibly dissuading other witnesses who may have been able to back up Peter Fox’s evidence from coming forward at the 11th hour. Even if this is a slim possibility, it needs to be considered.

Finally, it beggars belief that anyone could suggest that DCI Fox would not have done what he did and said what he did if he did not have extremely good evidence in support of his allegations. DCI Fox and his family have been put through an ordeal few of us would have the strength to endure. He has been subjected to threats, intimidation, and gruelling cross-examinations for over a year now. DCI Fox’s brave stance has led to absolutely no personal benefit to himself or his family. Quite the opposite. Intuitively, even without the benefit of being able to see the evidence that DCI Fox was precluded from providing to the special commission, we all know instinctively that there is much more to this matter that we are not being told. DCI Fox still stands by his allegations, despite the special commission’s findings. We need to be asking why.

In short, despite the special commission’s findings, there is still reason to push, and push hard, to see DCI Fox’s allegations re-investigated, and re-investigated in full.

It is now incumbent upon the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to announce that it will undertake its own investigation of the matters raised by DCI Fox and MLP David Shoebridge. Without the fetters of the limited terms of reference of the special commission, it can and should be able to get to the bottom of a potentially serious problem in the Australian system of justice.

And it should not confine itself to the NSW police. As one commentator said:

“We should also be asking about the existence of similar illegal arrangements in other Australian states, especially those states whose police forces have been most tightly controlled by the catholic mafia.

Readers of this blog are therefore urged to write to or phone the Royal Commission asking it to initiate a full investigation of potentially improper relationships between law enforcement officers and the Catholic Church. For contact details, go here: www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au Alternatively, you can Tweet at it: @CARoyalComm

But there is more we need to do. It’s all too easy to look at DCI Fox, who, despite the ordeals he’s endured, appears to stand strong and resolute in his stance, and say: “He’s obviously a tough bloke. He’ll be okay.” Yes, DCI Fox knew the path he was walking when he came forward, but we must acknowledge and pay respect to him for the ordeals he and his family have endured in his quest to protect Australian children from abuse. Despite all DCI Fox has endured, he still said today that if he had to go through it all again: “I would not hesitate to walk the same path.” How many of us could say the same?

As David Shoebridge said today:

“Survivors and ordinary Australians around the country reacted spontaneously and enthusiastically to the bravery of DCI Fox who put his career on the line for the sake of victims.

When DCI Fox first stepped forward, Australians were prolific in their expressions of support for this brave man. It’s time to show this support once more at this critical juncture in DCI Fox’s path in life.

But let’s also think about all the other people who will in the future stand in their truth in the interests of justice. Again, to quote David Shoebridge:

“It is an all too common outcome that the bravery of a whistleblower is lost when the institutions that are threatened turn their full resources on attacking their credibility.”

DCI Fox may stand strong in his truth, but others in the future may not have the full extent of his resilience and may crack under the pressure brought to bear on him and his family throughout the course of the special commission. For the sake of justice and truth, we must actively show not just DCI Fox but all future whistleblowers that we will applaud their courage, and will get behind them when the going gets tough, as it now has.

We therefore urge anyone in Sydney to come along and attend a rally being held today, the 31st of May, at 10.30am outside the NSW Parliament (Martin Place, near Macquarie Street) in support of DCI Fox and calling for the Royal Commission to take up where the NSW special commission left off and finally get to the bottom of the very serious issue of potential collusion between law enforcement officers and the Catholic Church in shielding child abusers.

We also ask you to jump on social media (Twitter, facebook, etc.) and express your support for DCI Fox and your support for the Royal Commission to now get involved in uncovering the truth. If you’re using Twitter, please use the hashtags #foxhero and direct your message to @CARoyalComm.

DCI Fox stood up for the protection of Australian children. Let’s now stand up for DCI Fox and the truth.

Read more here:

Nicky Davis and Aletha Blayse

[Postscript: Well done to Nicky and all the other wonderful Peter Fox supporters in Sydney for organising this rally].

THE AUSTRALIAN ROYAL COMMISSION INTO INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSES TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE NEEDS MORE TIME TO DO ITS WORK: PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION.

NO MORE SPIN, SALVOS: GIVE US REAL ANSWERS!!! PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION DEMANDING ANSWERS TO SARAH DINGLE’S QUESTIONS ABOUT PAEDOPHILIA IN THE SALVATION ARMY.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.

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White Shield Appeal, 24-25 May, 2014: Tell the Salvos: Clean Up Your Act!

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Dear all, 

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

And more.

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.

www.whiteshieldappeal.org

Aletha Blayse

THE AUSTRALIAN ROYAL COMMISSION INTO INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSES TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE NEEDS MORE TIME TO DO ITS WORK: PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.

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The Australian’s Premature Reporting on the NSW Special Commission of Enquiry (Or: Support for Peter Fox Needed NOW)

At the end of the month, the NSW Special Commission of Enquiry is due to release its final report. The full title of the special commission of enquiry is the “Special Commission of Inquiry into matters relating to the Police investigation of certain child sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.”

Many people have latched on to what they see as the core issue at stake. At the core of the enquiry, for many people, is the existence of a ‘Catholic mafia’ within the ranks of the NSW police force. A Catholic mafia that, if it exists, is responsible for protecting accused Catholic clergy from investigations and convictions in NSW. A Catholic mafia, that, if it exists, represents a serious blight on the Australian system of justice. A Catholic mafia that, if it exists, needs to be rooted out quickly before more children are harmed by predators potentially protected at high levels of the NSW system of justice.

While the existence of a Catholic mafia within the ranks of the NSW police is indeed an allegation made by whistleblower police officer, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, whose fearless stance sparked the NSW enquiry (and indeed gave the necessary impetus for establishment of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse), and may be what most concerned people really want to know about, this is not in fact the focus of the NSW enquiry. Even if it should be.  

The NSW enquiry established by former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and headed by Margaret Cunneen SC is very limited in its scope. It’s only charged with the ability to look at two matters:

  1. “The circumstances in which Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox was asked to cease investigating relevant matters and whether it was appropriate to do so; and
  2. Whether, and the extent to which, officials of the Catholic Church facilitated, assisted, or co-operated with, Police investigations of relevant matters, including whether any investigation has been hindered or obstructed by, amongst other things, the failure to report alleged criminal offences, the discouraging of witnesses to come forward, the alerting of alleged offenders to possible police actions, or the destruction of evidence.”

Note the use of the term “relevant matters.” which are said to be:

“… any matter relating directly or indirectly to alleged child sexual abuse involving Father Denis McAlinden or Father James Fletcher, including the  responses to such allegations by officials of the Catholic Church (and whether or not the matter involved, or is alleged to have involved, criminal conduct).”

Yesterday, two rather surprising articles in The Australian were published, which indicated that, assuming what’s written can be believed, someone in The Australian has access to information that no-one else yet has. According to The Australian [which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory by the Catholic Church in 1998]:

“While the inquiry’s staff ­declined to comment and The Australian has not seen the ­inquiry’s report, it is not expected to support Mr Fox’s claim.”

“Its report is not expected to make any significant adverse findings against those senior police officers directly involved in the investigation, codenamed Strike Force Lantle.”

There are a number of elements of The Australian’s reporting that give rise to several questions for The Australian and its crime reporter, Dan Box:

  1. What’s the reason for the headline “Policeman Peter Fox’s cover-up claims rejected”?

That’s a pretty sweeping statement. How does it tally with what Box himself says in the article:

“Its report is not expected to make any significant adverse findings against those senior police officers directly involved in the investigation, codenamed Strike Force Lantle.” [Ed. I’ve added bold font to the word ‘significant’ – it is not used in Box’s article]. 

Isn’t there a slight contradiction between the headline and the article here? The title implies a quite sweeping rejection of Peter Fox’s evidence, but what’s said later in Box’s article and quoted here is somewhat different. Also, the word ‘significant’ used in the 15th paragraph of Box’s article is quite likely to be missed by the casual newspaper reader who doesn’t get past the article’s title and perhaps the first couple of paragraphs of the article. Even if Box has been forced to run with the article title used, wouldn’t it have been fairer to Peter Fox to mention significant adverse findings earlier on in the piece?

  1. What is so relevant about Peter Fox’s lack of involvement in Strike Force Lantle and why has The Australian mentioned it in the way it has?

In one of Box’ articles yesterday, he says:

“Fox told Lateline he was forced to stand down from the police investigation into the alleged cover-up of serial child abuse committed by Catholic priest Denis McAlinden.”

“Giving evidence to the state inquiry, he goes further, saying a “Catholic mafia” exists within the police and the McAlinden investigation, codenamed Strike Force Lantle, was “a sham … set up to fail”.”

“The inquiry is not expected to support either of these claims. The evidence before it shows Fox was, in fact, never part of the Lantle investigation, partly because of concerns among superior officers about his relationship with the press.”

As Box himself should know full well, Peter Fox is not on record claiming to be part of the Lantle investigation. As Box himself reported in The Australian on 7 May, 2013:

“Giving evidence yesterday, Mr Fox said he was never, in fact, part of this formal NSW Police investigation, established in 2010 under the name Strike Force Lantle.”

“Instead, Mr Fox said he had pursued his own private inquiry, working closely with local Fairfax journalist Joanne McCarthy.”

“When Mr Fox did tell his bosses about his private inquiry — after the establishment of Strike Force Lantle — he was told not to pursue the matter as the investigation was now being handled by police from a different local area command.”

How then is it relevant in any way that Peter Fox “was, in fact, never part of the Lantle investigation?” What conclusions are readers intended to draw, if any, from what is said in The Australian and the order in which it’s been said? Some, uninformed, readers, might infer from the article that Mr. Fox lied about his involvement in Strike Force Lantle, when in fact he does not appear to have done anything of the sort. They may then form the conclusion that Mr. Fox is not credible. Is this a possibility The Australian considered?

  1. Why does Box mention the NSW enquiry’s failure to find evidence of a Catholic mafia without a qualifying statement that, given the limited terms of reference of the NSW enquiry and the potential that the Royal Commission may indeed find that one exists, Peter Fox may well be proven quite right in the end?

It may well be that the NSW enquiry’s report will not state a finding of evidence of a Catholic mafia. Given its limited terms of reference, however, this isn’t the end of the story. Even if the NSW enquiry formed the view that there was a reasonable chance that there was such a mafia, its terms of reference do not appear to give it scope to report on this. By failing to state the limited terms of reference of the NSW enquiry or even allude to them, doesn’t The Australian see the possibility that some readers will form the impression that the NSW enquiry fully investigated the possible existence of a Catholic mafia and failed to find it, and that therefore one does not exist in the NSW police force?

More importantly, why didn’t The Australian mention that the NSW enquiry is authorised to provide information to the Royal Commission about a broad range of matters that, potentially, could include the existence of evidence pointing towards the existence of a Catholic mafia within the NSW police force? The NSW enquiry website says that it is:

“… authorised to establish such lawful arrangements as considered appropriate in relation to the National Royal Commission [Ed. i.e., the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse], including for the referral or sharing of evidence and information, including of matters that may come to its attention which may fall outside the scope of the above terms of reference but which may be of relevance to the National Royal Commission or matters which, whilst falling within the scope of the above terms of reference, are considered more appropriately referred to the National Royal Commission.”

For all we know, the NSW enquiry may have been providing extensive evidence supportive of Peter Fox’s allegations and right now, the Royal Commission may be forming its own view that there is indeed a Catholic mafia operating within the NSW police force. Wouldn’t it have been more fair and balanced of The Australian to mention that the NSW enquiry may well be sharing vital information supportive of Peter Fox’s allegations with the Royal Commission?

  1. What is The Australian getting at by mentioning the hold ups in the operation of Strike Force Lantle?

In one article, Box says:

“Yet all this, while welcome, comes at a cost.”

“The Strike Force Lantle police investigation, completed before Fox went on Lateline, has been held up for the 18 months since, with no decision on whether to pursue criminal charges likely before the NSW inquiry reports.”

“There is also no way of measuring the full effect of Fox’s interview on other abuse victims. Given what he said, it would be understandable if they are now reluctant to approach their local police.”

What is Box getting at? It’s a bit unclear. Would it have been better if Peter Fox had shut up about what he observed, so that victims feel okay about going to the police, even if there may be police protection of paedophiles in the background that will see their cases swept under the carpet? Isn’t it better that we do what is needed to ensure that victims can SAFELY go to the police, even if it means that we have to admit as a society that, sadly, sometimes people in positions of governmental authority don’t always act according to the law? Also, is Peter Fox responsible for any hold ups that may be occurring? The NSW enquiry was initially due to report by 30 September, 2013. Is it Peter Fox’s fault that the enquiry delayed its reporting date by eight months? It’s not quite clear what’s being said here, or why.  

  1. Why did The Australian end one of the articles with the statement “Mr Fox and the ABC did not comment last night, while [Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne ] McCarthy could not be contacted”?

Reasonably or not, many people tend to form the view that if a person doesn’t respond in the face of a serious allegation against them, that they are ‘guilty’ in some way. If Mr. Fox didn’t comment on what was written or possibly said to him (assuming he was in fact given a chance and ample time to do so – we don’t know, because Box doesn’t say), why should he be reasonably expected to comment upon what can only be described as speculation, given that The Australian (nor, presumably, Mr. Fox) has seen neither the final report, nor (it says) spoken to anyone from the enquiry?

  1. Why the haste in reporting on what might come out of the NSW enquiry before the public gets to read its report in its entirety?

A casual reader of The Australian’s articles is likely to come away with several, possibly quite inaccurate, views about the NSW enquiry, its relationship with the Royal Commission, and what might happen in the future regarding further investigations, and indeed about Mr. Fox himself. But we don’t have the report in front of us to make up our own minds about what has happened. Wouldn’t it have been a more responsible course of action for The Australian to have waited until the full report comes out so that people can make up their own minds about what it all means, rather than relying on The Australian’s selective reporting of ‘facts’ that may not even be true?

  1. What point, if any, is The Australian trying to make in linking Peter Fox’s actions to the establishment of the Royal Commission?

What, if anything, is implied by the statement: “Predictably, the November 2012 broadcast creates a storm and is widely seen as critical in the decision, four days later, to announce the royal commission into child sexual abuse.” What, if anything, is implied by the statement, following on from an assertion that the NSW enquiry is going to find against Peter Fox in a ‘key’ respect, that: “As the royal commission stretches into its second year, does it matter if it was founded on such uncertain ground?” You tell us, Dan: does it matter? If so, why and how? Do you not know, Dan, that people other than Peter Fox have been calling for a Royal Commission, as long ago as the early 1990s? Are you questioning the need for a Royal Commission? Have you forgotten that it’s not just the Catholic Church that’s under scrutiny by the Royal Commission? What exactly is your point, Dan?    

  1. What’s the relevance of the reference to emails between Lateline and Peter Fox (and journalist Joanne McCarthy)?

In one article by The Australian, much attention seems to have been given to Peter Fox’s quite wise use of the media. Is there intended to be some sort of implication that Peter Fox’s apparent level of sophistication in understanding the media and how it works is somehow damning of the man himself and the evidence he has given? Are whistleblowers expected to be naïve and unsophisticated in their understanding of how the media works if they are to be believed?

  1. Is there an implication in these articles that Peter Fox had ulterior motives in coming forward the way he did?

Box says:

“So why did Fox speak out, and say the things he did?

Giving evidence to the state inquiry, he cites instances of frustrations and disagreements with his police colleagues in the past.

“What I do care about is that there are so many victims out there,” he told Lateline.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know whether I’ll face disciplinary charges or anything in relation to the stance I’ve taken.

“And again, I don’t care.”

What’s this all about? Yes, there is reference to Mr. Fox’s statement about caring for victims, but it’s only given after the statement about his ‘frustrations and disagreements’. Given that there is no qualification in the statement about ‘frustrations and disagreements’, and given the ordering of statements, isn’t there a chance that a certain proportion of The Australian’s readership is going to take away the message that Peter Fox is just a disgruntled employee with some sort of personality issues relating to his colleagues and a personal axe to grind with his employers? In this respect, The Australian fails to mention something rather important. Pursuant to Section 27 of the Special Commissions of Enquiry Act 1983 (NSW), any person who gives evidence to a special commission of enquiry “who gives testimony that is false or misleading in a material particular knowing it to be false or misleading, or not believing it to be true, is guilty of an indictable offence.” The penalty for such an offence is a maximum of five years’ imprisonment. Mr. Fox is a police officer of 30 odd years standing. He knows the law. No reasonable person could come to the conclusion that he would risk possible imprisonment in stating what he has to the NSW enquiry. It would’ve been nice if The Australian had seen fit to make some mention of that.

Concluding comments

Just as I prepared to put this post up and get some sleep, I saw that a third article by Dan Box has just popped up, released in the middle of the night. The title of the article is “Whistleblower’s kiss had him at odds with force.” See the ‘Read more here’ section below. I’ll leave it to readers to read it themselves in the light of what I’ve said in this post, and make up their own minds about why The Australian has seen fit to report in this way now (given that the matters The Australian talks about have been on the public record for a long time), and in the way that it has. Suffice to say, it looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this kind of reporting from The Australian. Let’s hope it’s not accompanied by more of the same from other mainstream outlets.

Some readers may wonder why I’ve bothered writing this post at all. Some may suggest that it’s about as useful as complaining to Caesar about Caesar’s wife.

The point is this. The Australian has taken a pretty clear stand on the issues well before all the facts are out, and its coverage needs to be read with a very critical eye. The Australian may also be shaping public opinion on the matters by jumping the gun on the NSW enquiry’s report and what it might or might not say. In addition to the personal tragedy of someone as brave as Mr. Fox speaking out and risking his career, his reputation, and other possibly dire consequences now being smeared in the media, there’s an additional problem. The Australian has a wide readership. The additional scandal of it all is that right now, there may be other police officers within the NSW police considering following in Fox’s footsteps, who might now back down because of the expectation that the media is going to report on them in the way that The Australian now appears to be doing.

Peter Fox took an incredible risk in doing what he did. Not to mention the personal ordeal he and his family have been through, including, apparently, even personal harassment through his personal GP (see ‘Read more here’, below). He did what he did for the sake of Australia’s children and for the families he wanted to see shielded from the horrors he witnessed in the course of his work as a police officer investigating child sexual abuse. As my father wrote back in May of last year, we owe it to Peter Fox to get behind him. As he said:

“Voices must be raised. It is incumbent on all who believe in justice for the victims not to let the Catholic Church and the culpable people within the NSW police department get away with shooting the messenger.”

If The Australian is right in its report about what the NSW enquiry is going to do, more voices must be raised to the NSW enquiry. If anyone who hasn’t yet spoken out has any more evidence that can back up what Peter Fox has been saying all this time, now is the time to be talking about it – loudly and without fear of the consequences. According to the NSW enquiry website (http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/Special_Projects/ll_splprojects.nsf/pages/sisa_index):

“Written submissions to the Special Commission of Inquiry were due by 1 March 2013. The Commissioner will consider written requests to provide a late submission to the Inquiry. The written request should provide the reason(s) for the delay in providing the Submission prior to sending it. Such requests to the Commissioner can be made by email to the following address: sisa@agd.nsw.gov.au.”

[Incidentally, it would also have been nice if The Australian had mentioned this too. There are three more weeks to go before the NSW enquiry reports – that’s a long time, and anything could happen in that time, including someone coming forward with evidence that will back up Mr. Fox’s testimony. Voices must also be raised to The Australian that the Australian public supports people like Peter Fox and isn’t impressed by the kind of selective reporting it’s been engaging in of late].

Finally, it is very much hoped that since discussion of the NSW enquiry’s findings now appears to be much ‘on’ in the media, given The Australian’s very premature strike, the Royal Commission will immediately release a clear and unequivocal statement to the Australian public that it too is very much interested in learning from others about the sorts of things Peter Fox has said to the NSW enquiry and is particularly interested in any evidence supportive of the existence of a possible ‘Catholic mafia’ operating within the NSW police force. Or indeed any police force.  

Whatever happens, Peter Fox cannot simply be left standing alone in in the cold.

Read more here:

THE AUSTRALIAN ROYAL COMMISSION INTO INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSES TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE NEEDS MORE TIME TO DO ITS WORK: PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.

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Scouts Australia Case Study 1 Findings (Or: Advice for Parents? Be Prepared, Be Very Prepared)

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Image: Steven Larkins (Image source: SMH)

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recently released its findings for Case Study 1. This looked into Scouts Australia’s handling of child abuse allegations, focusing on the case of convicted paedophile Steven (‘Skip’) Larkins. It appears it’s still looking into allegations against Scout leader Paul Hayes, also known by his scout name Grizzly. 

Media reports generally refer to the commission’s findings in relation to Larkins as “damning”of the organisation, and of other organisations that failed to stop Larkins in his tracks, including the NSW Police, the NSW Department of Community Services, and even the Commission for Children and Young People. Nothing to disagree with there.

A reading of the commission’s report is useful in that it explores how it is that a paedophile can operate for as long as Steven Larkins did. A limitation, though, is that the report doesn’t really give parents the answer to the questions that are likely to be at the forefront of most parents’ minds: “Okay, can I trust Scouts with my child?” “Is this a case of one bad apple?” “How big are the cracks that Larkins fell through?” The Australian scouting movement involves 65,000 children. That’s a lot of children and indicates a very high level of trust in the organisation. Is this trust warranted?

The case study approach has its merits. It allows for a detailed investigation of an instance of organisational failing, which can inform the commission and the public about exactly how people like Steven Larkins can slip through various nets supposed to protect children. It can shine a light on the sorts of things organisational members say about why they didn’t do what they should have done. And about how whistle-blowers like Armand Hoitink get treated when they try to do the right thing. 

A limitation, however, of the case study approach is that it can’t really reveal how deep the problem of child abuse and its cover up runs within an organisation. Yes, it gives a lot of clues, but much, much, much more information about how Scouts Australia has dealt with other allegations of abuse among members and volunteers would be very welcome. Hopefully, this will come out when the commission delivers its interim report in the middle of the year.

In the United States, there has been extensive investigations of the Scouting movement there. US readers will be very familiar with the Scouts’ ‘perversion files’ spanning 1947 through 2005, revealing decades of cover-ups of child abusers operating within the movement and involving staggering numbers of offenders and allegations. As the Larkins case study reveals, protection of organisational reputation trumped protection of children in the US Scouting movement for decades. Credit for exposing the rot goes not to the organisation, but to the victims, their parents, and the tireless work of people like attorney Kelly Clark, who passed away recently, shortly after urging Australian victims of the Scouts to speak up. The Scouting movement elsewhere in the world has been the subject of extensive reporting of child abuse problems as well. And there have been other reported abuse allegations in Australia too. 

While we have only one instance of protection of a child abuser within Scouts Australia to think deeply about now following the release of the commission’s report, it’s all too easy for defenders of organisations like Scouts Australia to say: “Okay, there was one bad apple, but overall, parents can trust us to look after their children.” It is welcome news, therefore, that the commission plans to conduct further investigations into systemic issues within Scouts Australia.

As the Scouts like to say: “Be prepared.” While parents and caregivers who have children involved in Scouts Australia or who are contemplating entrusting children with the movement are waiting for the commission’s anticipated more broad-ranging investigation into and reporting of the Australian Scouting movement, they’d be well-advised to acquaint themselves with United States history of cover-ups within the Scouting movement, and of the experiences of victims and parents in other places in the world. To this end, see the links in the ‘read more here’ section below. You won’t find the information you need for an informed decision on official Scouting movement websites, although you will find reassuring statements such as how the Australian Scouting movement has “zero tolerance” towards child abuse.

[Postscript: Steven Larkins is about to be released on parole back into society. In what is clearly an attempt to restore some of its tarnished reputation following the damning revelations about Larkins and the commission’s report, Scouts Australia has called for the NSW Attorney General to appeal the leniency of Larkin’s sentence. Given Larkins has spent only 19 months in prison, most people would have to support that call. Given Scouts Australia’s proven culpability in allowing allowing Larkins to do what he did for so long, though, it seems a little rich of the organisation to now be positioning itself as the ‘good guy’.].

[Postscript: Former US Boy Scout leader, James Allen Wilson, convicted of abusing a child for years from the age of 11 onward, has just been indicted on first degree sex abuse allegations. Investigators are searching for more of Wilson’s victims. The mother of one of Wilson’s victims had this to say to parents: “My fear is if there’s others, how many?” “You expect your child to be safe in an organization like that.” “If you feel like something is going on, or you’re not comfortable with something, then don’t let (your children) go. Just because everyone else might be, don’t feel like you have to put your child in that situation.”

Aletha Blayse

Read more here:

Recent coverage on Steven Larkins:

Child abuse within the scouting movement worldwide:

THE AUSTRALIAN ROYAL COMMISSION INTO INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSES TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE NEEDS MORE TIME TO DO ITS WORK: PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.

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Forgotten Australians & Inter-Generational / Inter-Familial / Intra-Familial Issues (Or: New Facebook Group Formed)

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Hi,

As I said in yesterday’s post, for me, this is a time for reflection, regrouping, and thinking for me. As well as for sorting out a number of pressing problems.

Something I have wanted to do for years but haven’t, however, is to get in touch with more people whose parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, spouses, or other relatives have been through the Homes or other forms of institutional ‘care’ in Australia. Largely, as a way of trying to understand things better.

From my searches, it doesn’t look like a group exists solely for kids / grandkids / etc. of institutional ‘care’ survivors to meet and talk with each other. I feel that we have much that we could do to support each other, learn from each other, and help arrive at our own personal goals in relation to our loved ones, whatever these goals may be. I’ve recently joined a number of groups of Forgotten Australians and similar groups on facebook and elsewhere and have been touched by being accepted into these groups. It’s helpful to listen to what people have to say about where things are at. I strongly encourage people who want to learn more about the issues to ask to join such groups. Just as I encourage people to undertake their own research: there is a wealth of information on the Internet nowadays. 

Since my father died, I’ve been approached by quite a few people looking to find information about their formerly institutionalised parents, when they’ve passed away. Some people have also approached me to ask about what support services are available to help them care for their parents who are still living. I’ve generally pointed people towards the various support organisations that now exist and of which I’m aware. Mostly, it seems people are searching for historical records and wanting to piece together missing elements in the stories of their families’ lives. Underlying this, however, I suspect there are many who are searching for broader answers to questions they may have about why things happened the way they did. 

Just as there are commonalities in experiences of those who survived ‘care’, I suspect there may be commonalities of experiences and insights among those who love and support these survivors. It would be helpful for people to be able to get together and talk about these things. People who’ve worked out solutions to problems they’re facing or have faced can help each other by sharing with each other. For example, while not all survivors of ‘care’ now require care themselves, many do. It may help carers to have a place to talk about this and help each other with day-to-day problems – e.g., dealing with governmental organisations as part of their caring responsibilities. 

Something that concerns me as well is that there is currently a dearth of research into Inter-generational / inter-familial / intra-familial effects relating to Homes survivors. (I use the term ‘Homes’ loosely to encompass groups such as Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants, Stolen Generations, and others.) This stands in stark contrast to the situation in respect of, for example, second-generation (and even third-generation) Holocaust survivors, and descendants of Vietnam War veterans, where there has been some work done. From my own, limited experiences in talking with members of the medical / caring professions, there is less than optimal understanding of the experiences of Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants, Stolen Generations, etc., although this is changing a bit. There’s an even smaller understanding of the impacts on and experiences of family members. Without such understanding in the professions, it’s unlikely that people can receive the counselling and support they really need.

That suggests to me that it’s up to family members / descendants to start the ball rolling by working together to develop our own understanding of ourselves and our experiences. It may be hard to talk about these things. I find it hard. It might be hard to talk about these things because if you care about someone who’s been through ‘care’ and had a very bad time of it, there may be a tendency at times to want to ignore your own problems as being ‘lesser’ in some way. Hopefully, people will find that there’s a shared understanding that you face your own difficulties, and that it’s okay to acknowledge them without diminishing what the person you love went through. Again, it would be good if there were a way for people to provide each other with constructive advice about dealing with day-to-day problems and feelings about loving someone who was in ‘care’, but with an acknowledgment of their own feelings and problems too. 

A lot of people who love someone who’s been through ‘care’ have superb levels of understanding about the issues. In my experience at least, a reasonable level understanding of the issues has been very helpful, even if painful. When my Dad, Lewis Blayse, started the support group ‘FICH’ (Formerly in Children’s Homes) in 1990, his initial motivation was to develop his own personal understanding of his experiences and to find out the extent to which they tallied with those of others; this was partly intended as a way of understanding himself and trying to heal from his experiences, although he never achieved this goal. Critically, as well, he felt he’d worked out a fair bit about what impact his experiences had had on him, and he was interested in helping others obtain similar levels of understanding if he could. He learned as much as he taught, and this was of great benefit to him, even though the learning process never ended. For me, having a reasonable level of understanding helped at many points in my life with my Dad. He was awesome, but there were times when I struggled to understand him and wished I knew more than I did. I don’t know how deep the level of understanding is among family members of survivors of ‘care’ throughout Australia. In my view, it would be good if it were much deeper: lack of knowledge is a common reason for avoidable conflict and pain.

There are many fantastic resources these days for anyone who wants to learn more about the issues with a view to helping a person who went through ‘care’. These can be accessed even if the person you care about isn’t up to talking much about what they went through, which may be the case. As I say, though, there doesn’t seem to be a place for people who love someone who went through ‘care’ to chat daily about matters affecting them. Such discussions may take the form of trying to find a way to come to terms with what has happened to someone they love or loved and lost. They may take the form of talking about ongoing struggles to support and care for a loved one who survived ‘care’. They may be to talk about resources / support services available to assist them in their care of family members. They may be to track down lost members of extended families. They may be of a more overtly political flavour. 

Whatever your motivations, for those who are related to or otherwise in a relationship with someone who was in ‘care’ who do want to get together and talk about things in a constructive, respectful, and gentle way with each other, I’ve just set up a facebook group called “Kids & Family of Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants, Stolen Generations” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/285302578303029/).

I recently kicked off a discussion asking people of their experiences in providing information about the experiences of loved ones to the current Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. A few people have already posted up useful informational resources for those who may not know much about history and are keen to learn more.

I look forward to talking with new members. The group is also open to survivors themselves. You just need to ask to be joined, as it’s a ‘closed group’ in facebook format so that only members can read posts on the group page. I hope readers who join will jump on the site and start their own discussion threads about whatever they want to talk about.

Kind regards,

Aletha Blayse

THE AUSTRALIAN ROYAL COMMISSION INTO INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSES TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE NEEDS MORE TIME TO DO ITS WORK: PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.

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Salvation Army Fails in Response to Lewis Blayse’s Family (Or: I Hear Sunbury Court’s Lovely This Time of Year)

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On 11 April, I wrote to several high-ranking members of the Salvation Army Australia and elsewhere explaining how it could respond appropriately to the matter of compensation for the family of Lewis Blayse, my father. In this, I indicated a willingness to wait until 18 April, 2014 for a positive response (https://lewisblayse.net/2014/04/11/settlement-of-lewis-blayse-matter-or-an-opportunity-for-the-salvation-army-and-a-new-beginning/).

This elicited a response from ‘major’ Peter Farthing, who said:

Aletha

thank you for your email. as you mention, I have said I am willing to meet with you, and remain willing. 

I think however that I am not the best person to respond to your email properly. My role has been Royal Commission Coordinator, and I am not responsible for ‘claims’ against The Salvation Army. Lieut-Colonel David Godkin, Secretary for Personnel, carries that responsibility, and am cc him.

All the best

Peter”

The email was cc’d to bruce.redman@aus.salvationarmy.org (Dr. Bruce Redman, the new PR man helping the Salvation Army with its PR efforts at the moment, a man with a very big job on his hands given what’s come out of the Case Study 10 hearings), james.condon@aue.salvationarmy.org (‘commissioner’ James Condon, current Australian Eastern Territory Salvation Army head who apparently still holds his position and who apparently hasn’t had any charges laid against him following the extraordinary revelations about his conduct in the Case Study 10 hearings), luke.geary@salvoslegal.com.au (Luke Geary, head of Salvos Legal), mediaofficer@aue.salvationarmy.org (Australian Salvation Army Media and Communications Office), websa@salvationarmy.org (General André Cox, world Salvation Army head), richard.munn@aue.salvationarmy.org (Richard Munn, Chief Secretary and Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries), david.godkin@aue.salvationarmy.org (David Godkin, new Salvation Army Secretary for Personnel in Australia).

I did not explain to Mr. Farthing that he was the last person in the world I would like to be anywhere near after reading of role in Salvation Army handling of child abuse matters, which you can read about here:

I wrote back instead to all cc’d in on the email addressing Mr. Farthing and Mr. Godkin, in which I said:

“Peter,

Thank you,
 
I don’t believe we’ve met, Mr. Godkin
 
I look forward to hearing from you in due course.”
 
The 18th has come and gone, with no response from the Salvation Army. I wrote again to the people in the cc list tonight saying: 
 
“Dear Mr. Godkin,

 
I expect a response either stating that your organisation will compensate my family in the manner I have set out or a detailed explanation as to why it will not. 
 
Please advise immediately.”
 
In response were two automatic email replies, one from Mr. Farthing and one from Mr. Godkin. 
 
Mr. Farthing’s automatic response said: 
 
“I am out of the office until 30/04/2014.”
 
Mr. Godkin’s automatic response said: 
 
“I am out of the office until 28/04/2014.”
 
Given that the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has now completed its Case Study 10 hearings into the Salvation Army Australia Eastern Territory, I do not know why Mr. Farthing and Mr. Godkin should now be unavailable to respond to emails. 
 
Given that not a single person from the Salvation Army has responded to my most recent email, and that the two key individuals apparently vested with the authority to handle my matter are off work for the next week or so, I am now of the opinion that the Salvation Army is unlikely to be responding positively to my family’s call for justice. By extrapolation, I feel that my suggested approach to appropriate quantums of compensation to victims of Salvation Army children’s homes and other matters I had hoped to be able to provide constructive advice to the Salvation Army about are unlikely to be part of official Salvation Army policy any time soon. 
 
What I do know, however, is that today the Salvation Army world head, ‘general’ Andre Cox (who, rather than sack James Condon, has just extended his period as Eastern Territorial Australian head), is about to officially open the renovations of the palatial Sunbury Court in England, which are nearly complete. According to the Salvation Army, the first ICO delegates “move in next week.” Sounds like a great bash is being planned! 
 
Perhaps Mr. Farthing and Mr. Godkin are headed to Sunbury Court? If they are, who could really blame them for wanting to be there rather than back in Australia dealing with incomplete business regarding Salvation Army victims and their families? Sunbury Court sounds like an utterly lovely place, as the following description of the premises suggests (see also ‘Read more here’ and ‘See more here’, below): 
 
“Sunbury Court, a fine Georgian mansion overlooking part of the River Thames where pleasure craft and houseboats abound, is but 14 miles from the great metropolis, London. Woven into the fabric of the backcloth which throws into colourful relief this country residence are the gold and silver threads of history and romance.”
 
“Historical associations are enriched by the close proximity of the beautiful and royal Windsor Castle, a few miles upstream. Almost equally famous, Hampton Court faces the broad river near Kingston-upon-Thames.”
 
“The grandeur of the crystal chandelier in the lounge is surpassed only by the beauty of the murals, painted in oils on to the plaster by Elias Martin, the Swedish artist, between 1768 and 1780 for the second Earl of Pomfret.”
 
I’d love to offer a proposition as attractive as a stay at the gorgeous Sunbury Court, if this is indeed where top decision-makers in the Australian and world Salvation Army movement are about to be spending their valuable time, but can’t. In fact, I’m not sure I can offer any accommodation at all, as I am now going to have to figure out a way to save the home in which my father and I lived, which has very special meaning not just for me, but to all members of our family, and which currently looks set to be lost.  
 
I hope readers will understand why it is that I will be a little quiet for a while, as the Salvation Army’s silence on the matter of compensation and my interpretation of such silence means that I believe I am now in a fairly difficult situation in a number of respects, and not just in relation to loss of my father’s and my home. I have to give these my urgent attention. I feel reasonably confident of finding some sort of solution to these matters, but it will take some time. Time during which I may have to step back from writing about the Salvation Army a little. 
 
That does not mean, however, that I am giving up the fight, either on behalf of myself and my family, or on behalf of those I believe have received utterly inadequate responses from the Salvation Army. It also does not mean that I have forgotten that there is much work to be done in respect of what has come out of the Case Study 10 hearings of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the organisational failings of the Salvation Army vis a vis child protection. Nor does it mean that I will not be continuing my discussions with other people who are aware of failings of the Salvation Army organisation in many respects. It just means that I need to retreat for a little while until I’m in a better position to do something constructive.
 
I will use this time to reflect on where best to direct my efforts over the years ahead to be of most use to those who also have problems with the Salvation Army. And hopefully to resume some sort of coverage of unfolding events at the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, starting with the up-coming Case Study 11 hearings into the experiences of a number of men who were resident at Christian Brothers’ residences in Western Australia and the responses of the Christian Brothers and relevant Western Australian State authorities to allegations of child sexual abuse at the residences.
 
To all who have offered messages of support, who have written to the Salvation Army, or who have otherwise attempted to assist my family in its quest for justice, I thank you. Thank you particularly to those who signed the petition I set up at Change.org (see below). While it looks at this juncture that nothing has come of things, I feel the opposite is true. It demonstrates that there are those who are concerned about the practices of the Salvation Army in its treatment of victims and their families. This gives me heart that there is some point in pushing on in the near future, however long the journey may take. As I say, however, I may be taking a step back for a little while in relation to the Salvation Army to deal with other matters. I will be back in due course, and I hope that all of you who have written to me or spoken to me about difficulties you’ve experienced with the Salvation Army will stay in touch: I’ll still be offering personal support to anyone who is having their own problems with the Salvation Army for whatever that’s worth.  
 
[Postscript: The Salvation Army in the United States has recently been pressured into paying $US450,000 to each of two wrongfully dismissed employees after a group of 19 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Salvation Army in 2004 alleging that the Salvation Army “was using public taxpayer money to proselytize their evangelical religious beliefs, discriminate, and terminate employees based on religious beliefs.” Read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-arel/the-salvation-armys-white-flag-surrender-to-secularism_b_5003298.html%5D.
 
Read more here: 
 
See more here:
 
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Images above: Salvation Army Sunbury Court, London
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Image: Not Sunbury Court; a Salvation Army homeless shelter
 
Aletha Blayse
 
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.
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Extend the Royal Commission to the end of 2017 (Or: Sign the Petition to George Brandis)

The author has recently become aware of a call by Justice Peter McClellan for an extension of time for the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

At present, the Commission is to due be wrapped up by the end of 2015, with an interim report due in the middle of this year.

Justice McClellan has called on Australian Attorney-General, George Brandis, to give the Commission another two years to complete its work.

Justice McClellan, noting some of the ‘victories’ already achieved by the Royal Commission, has warned that as many as 2,000 people may miss out on providing their stories to the Royal Commission. That number is almost certainly an underestimate, but even if we take this as the number of people who are yet to speak to the Commission, it certainly underscores the need for the Commission to be provided with the extension it requests.

Attorney-General George Brandis is aware of Mr McClellan’s request, which at this stage appears to be informal. Mr. Brandis has said that the request for more time:

“… hasn’t been formally sought yet but Justice McClellan did indicate to me that at the time the interim report is delivered to the Government in the middle of the year, I should expect an application or request for an extension of time.”

The present government needs to receive the message, loud and clear, that the Australian public wants to see the work of the Commission continue as long as is necessary to achieve its objectives. Compelling arguments are needed to get the current government to see the sense in extending the Commission’s work. So too are indications that the Australian public wants the Commission to go as long as is needed to complete its work.

In this regard, readers are urged to add their voices to a petition recently set up by Mr. Trevor McNamee that calls on George Brandis to accede to Justice McClellan’s request: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/extend-the-australian-royal-commission-into-child-sex-abuse-beyond-2015/sign.html#se

Some of the comments that have already been made in support of this petition are as follows:

“Please extend the Royal Commission so everyone can do their submission and so that all abuse providers can be inquired into.”

“Every one deserves to have their stories heard, they deserve to be Validated for the horrid crimes inflicted onto them.”

“I have been before the Royal Commission myself however there are many who have not had the chance. Maybe just maybe this can bring some type of closesure for many.”

“Every victim deserves to get to tell their story.”

“We need more time… There are thousands of us that need to be heard.”

“many people still haven’t come forward and it may be very difficult for them Time is much appreciated”

“The Royal Commission needs to be extended…there are still SO many stories to be told and recorded…”

“Justice delayed is justice denied.”

“The work of the Royal Commission is incredibly important. As you know, it had overwhelming public support. If its head says more time is needed, it is needed. This should be taken very seriously. Australian society wants the mess of institutional child abuse cleaned up. Please listen to what people are saying about the need for more time. People are fed up with institutions that fail to protect children. If economic considerations are an issue to the current government, please don’t consider this a cost to government in difficult economic times. Child abuse costs society as well as its victims and their families. It’s been estimated that the cost to society of each instance of child abuse can be as much as $1 million. If you have to make a decision based on economics, please understand that the Royal Commission will deliver multiples in terms of ‘return on investment’. More importantly, however, there are still many who need to have their cases heard, and may not. They deserve to be heard. Please provide hope to those who wish to see the Royal Commission continue its work by providing an immediate positive response to Justice Peter McClellan’s call for a 2-year extension.”

Read more here:

Aletha Blayse

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.

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James Condon and Salvation Army Organisational Culture (Or: A Fish Rots from the Head Down)

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Image: James Condon and Peter Farthing at the Royal Commission (Image Source: ABC).

Management experts know that organisational culture is a key determinant of how an organisation engages with stakeholders and comports itself in its day-to-day operations. Organisational leaders are particularly important in demonstrating, through their practices, what values an organisation embraces as part of its organisational culture. In particular, how a leader behaves says a lot about an organisation because organisational members generally follow a leader’s example as being a tacit indication of how they should behave themselves.

It is extremely disturbing, therefore, to see how Australian Salvation Army chief, ‘Commissioner’ James Condon, has acted in relation to claims of child abuse by Salvation Army members, including accused paedophile Colin Haggar. Disturbing not just in its own right but because of what his conduct conveys to organisational members who take direction from their leader about what conduct is acceptable or unacceptable, whatever official policy documents may say to the contrary.

James Condon’s rather bumbling testimony about how he took confessed paedophile Colin Haggar to the police raised disbelieving eyebrows to all who listened to it. You could drive trucks through his story in places. Close and critical observers of his testimony, which had just the right mix of uncertainty and certainty in its telling to sound somewhat plausible to the casual listener, felt instinctively that it was clearly scripted and, to be frank, utter rubbish, and were clearly increasingly distressed at having to listen to it.

Witnesses to his self-serving accounts and his intermittent attempts to use a grave environment such as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to get in little ‘plugs’ for the Salvation Army also became increasingly angry as Mr. Condon continued on with his testimony in a way that indicated that Mr. Condon appeared to be using the proceedings to push the image of the Salvation Army.

It was even more galling to observe Mr. Condon smiling broadly throughout his testimony. To be fair, a lot of people smile when they are nervous, but it seemed to this author at least that Mr. Condon smiled the most broadly when he delivered his lines without faltering. Perhaps that’s a little unfair, but that’s just how this author, who fully admits bias, saw things. Perhaps Mr. Condon was just trying to show that he had a human side? Some people have the misfortune to have faces that, in their relaxed state, regrettably and unfairly make them look like unpleasant people, and need to work hard to show their true colours through appropriate modifications to their ‘resting state’ faces. Poor Mr. Condon may be one such person, as the images below demonstrate.

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Images: Would the real James Condon please stand up?

In any event, after having to listen to Mr. Condon go on and on and on in a way that was causing increasing distress and anger to most of those listening to him, it was therefore an enormous relief after this sickening charade to witness surprise and brilliant cross-examinations of Mr. Condon by solicitor Karen McGlinchey and NSW State Lawyer John Agius QC.

In relation to Mr. Condon’s assertion that he took Colin Haggar to the Parramatta police station in 1990 upon Haggar’s confession of his crime to Mr. Condon, which included a patently unlikely claim that the police didn’t ask for any details that might have assisted them in investigating the matter, among other things, John Agius ably ripped Mr. Condon’s story apart at every turn, concluding with the statements:

“Your evidence is ridiculous, isn’t it?”

“It beggars belief, doesn’t it … that the police would not have asked for details of the complaint?”

Karen McGlinchey also showed how preposterous it was for Mr. Condon to have accepted Haggar’s ridiculous assertion that when he told the victim’s parents what he had done, they forgave him. And how ridiculous it was of Mr. Condon to have accepted Haggar’s claim that not only did the parents forgive the man who hurt their child that they actually asked Mr. Haggar to stay for dinner, invited him back to their home on several occasions, and even told Mr. Haggar that they did not want to go to the police.

Mr. Condon is a family man, with children and grandchildren of his own. As a parent and grandparent, it seems unlikely in the extreme that he would act in the way he claimed the family of Colin Haggar’s victim behaved were he to find himself in the same awful situation as they found themselves. Yet he expected those listening to him to believe it of the victim’s parents. As Karen McGlinchey said:

“Well, that’s just ludicrous. Parents don’t behave that way.” 

But there was more to come. And that was in the accounts of how James Condon and the Salvation Army fought the NSW Ombudsman tooth and nail about the Salvation Army’s reporting obligations to that governmental organisation. Reputable charitable organisations involved in provision of services to children should be falling over themselves to work with governmental organisations charged with protection of children. Not so the Salvation Army, it would seem.

When Salvation Army whistleblower Michelle White told Mr. Condon in early 2013 that additional abuse allegations had been made against Colin Haggar, who was running at the time a shelter for women and children,.what did the Salvation Army do?

What it did not do was immediately take the matter to the NSW Ombudsman, which it should have done whether or not the Salvation Army was absolutely certain that the Ombudsman had a right to such information or not. What harm could there have been in going to the Ombudsman? Instead of taking the approach that in pursuance of the interests of child protection it was better to help the NSW Ombudsman, whatever reservations it may have had about the necessity of doing so, it dug its heels in.

According to Michelle White, there were very long delays by Mr. Condon in fulfilling the Salvation Army’s mandatory reporting requirements. Eventually, this led her to take action of her own and report to the NSW Ombudsman that there was an active Salvation Army officer with a known history of child-related sexual abuse in a position to abuse children.

That Ms White had to take this action herself and that it was not done by her employer as soon as she alerted it to the problem is a damning indictment of the Salvation Army. So too is how Ms White was treated by her employing organisation for taking the initiative to follow the law and fulfill her legal and moral obligations to society to protect children from harm. Ms. White is reported as indicating that that high ranking members of the Salvation Army actually intimidated her personally and professionally after she reported a child sex-abuser.

There was another thing that also beggared belief. Not only did Mr. Condon not immediately report Haggar to the NSW Ombudsman on the advice of his staff member Michelle White, it appears from evidence presented to the Royal Commission that the Salvation Army waged a protracted communications battle with the Ombudsman through Salvos Legal, headed by Luke Geary, about whether it actually had an obligation to make such a report! Again, reputable organisations work hand in hand with governmental child protection agencies, not against them. Not so the Salvation Army, it would seem.

So what does all of this tell us about the Salvation Army? At this stage, nothing good. A high ranking leader of the Salvation Army, James Condon, has demonstrated, through his conduct:

1. A willingness to believe utterly implausible stories told by those accused of abusing children.

2. A tardy approach to reporting suspected child abuse and a belief that it’s okay to act in the Salvation Army’s own sweet time about very serious matters in which children might right now be being abused.

3. A confrontational approach to governmental organisations charged with protecting children rather than an approach predicated upon engagement and full cooperation.

4. A lack of support (to put things mildly) to people within its organisation who are concerned about child abuse and the Salvation Army’s handling of incidents of suspected child abuse.

Quite possibly, depending on further action by the NSW government in addressing the matter of Mr. Condon’s strange and implausible story about how he took Colin Haggar to the police in 1990, it may even be shown that Mr. Condon is a head of an organisation who is prepared to lie under oath, on the Bible, to a Royal Commission. Worse, it may even be shown that Mr. Condon broke the law in covering up child abuse. Hopefully, all will be revealed in this respect on Monday when the Royal Commission resumes the Case Study 10 hearings, or at least very soon afterwards.

As stated at the beginning of this post, organisational members generally take direction from the conduct of their leaders. Mr. Condon, through his conduct, has shown himself to be a leader who does not remotely understand child abuse and is prepared to take the word of accused paedophiles no matter how ridiculous their claims, a leader who does not give the respect that is due to governmental institutions designed to protect children, and a leader who does not support internal critics of the Salvation Army who attempt to get it to lift its game in respect of child protection.

What message does all this send to those who work below Mr. Condon?

Further, what confidence can the Australian public have in the Salvation Army, an organisation intimately involved with young people, when its leader has such serious shortcomings?

Finally, what does it say about the worldwide Salvation Army movement that world Salvation Army head, ‘General’ Andre Cox, rather than sack Mr. Condon, has recently announced that Mr. Condon and his wife, Jan, have had their ‘contracts’ as Territorial Leaders of the Australia Eastern Territory extended until 31 May 2016 rather than ‘retire’ Mr. Condon, as planned, on 30 November 2014?

[Postscript. It has been reported in the media that “The commission was also told on Monday that the Salvation Army had no plans to use the defence of vicarious liability in historical cases of child abuse, unlike the Catholic Church which had argued in another matter that it could not be held vicariously responsible for historical abuse.” Will the Salvation Army apply this new decision retrospectively and allow anyone blocked by the defence of vicarious liability in the past to make new claims? Will the Salvation Army also pledge to remove reliance on statute of limitations legislation (retrospectively as well as in the future), vow not to be held to Deeds of Release it made victims sign, and allow the Australian legal system to work so that class actions and other legal actions may now be taken against the Salvation Army for abuses committed by its members?]

Aletha Blayse

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.

Read more here:

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