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STANDING COMMITTEE ON COMMUNITY AFFAIRS
06/04/2009
Implementation of the recommendations of the Lost Innocents and Forgotten Australians reports

CHAIR —Welcome. We have reconvened, with our first witness this afternoon being Mr Jim Luthy. Before we go to the next part of our hearing, I want to put on the record our appreciation of the welcome we received at the Lotus Place centre when we went there at lunchtime to look at their site. It was a very good visit. I now welcome Mr Luthy and thank him for his patience. Mr Luthy, we have your submission and thank you very much for it. Mr Luthy, in what capacity do you appear today?

Mr Luthy —I am appearing in an independent capacity. I am not representing anybody although I am a member of CLAN.

CHAIR —Do you have an opening statement that you would like to make?

Mr Luthy —Yes. I have a statement that I would like to make about all of the points that I have put forward.

CHAIR —Please proceed.

Mr Luthy —Quite obviously, this is going to be incredibly personal for me and very subjective and it will be based on the experiences that I went through as a person who was incarcerated in the Gill Memorial Home for Boys at Goulburn by the Salvation Army. The first point that I would like to address is the fact that I believe that recommendation 1 is particularly important to all of those thousands of Australians who, through no fault of their own, were incarcerated in institutions. I acknowledge the Indigenous stolen generation. But also what needs to be looked at is the fact that thousands of white Australians were also stolen. They were taken and put into places through no fault of their own and with no reference to anyone. I have an application form here. This is the paper that I have got from the Salvation Army. This is the paper with which they took me on. It asks if the child is deformed and the answer is no. Was I suffering from any disease? No. Was I illegitimate? Yes. My father’s name is ‘not known’. My mother is ‘dead’. Any other children? There is nothing there, but I did have brothers and sisters. And so I was placed into a home. When I queried the Salvation Army about this, they said the Salvation Army took care of over 20,000 children during the forties and fifties from court placements, single parents who could not cope and voluntary placements from responsible next-door neighbours. In other words, anybody could be sent off whether or not they had parents or family. I would like to also acknowledge the fact that the Salvation Army sent me a letter dated 25 May 2005 that began:

I want to acknowledge also your serious complaint regarding the irregularities with your admission to the Gill Home. I apologise to you on behalf of the Salvation Army for the way this was handled.

It goes on:

 … we would like to offer you an ex-gratia payment of $50,000—

for the imprisonment, for the virtual kidnapping. This happened to thousands of people. It was like this with the Indigenous people, and I spent time in a boys home with numbers of Indigenous boys. Can I say that the Salvation Army treated them no differently from how they treated us. We were all beaten and we were all starved. Black, white or brindle, it did not matter to them. I recognise the worth of the statement made by the Prime Minister with regard to the stolen generation, but we were all deprived of our culture when we were in these homes because we were placed at the bottom of the cultural barrel. We were worthless. We were forgotten Australians. No-one believed us. So our cultural heritage was taken away as well. The churches refused to apologise, even though they knew these things had happened, until the Senate inquiry report came out. Regardless of their protestations, the governments of the various states did not apologise until these things came out. In particular, I am appalled by the fact that the churches just ignored us and just left us alone. So I would ask that this country recognise those who were placed in homes through no fault of their own and I would particularly want an apology for the girls who were digitally raped, for the boys who were buggered, for the boys and girls who had to perform oral sex on Salvation Army officers, and on all the other church people as well, and for the people who were beaten and abused in every way you could think of. Until there is an apology there can be no closure. So I would ask for that; that is the first thing.

Secondly, I believe there is a need for recommendations 9 to 11 to be implemented. There is a need for some transparency to be initiated. There is the need for churches to admit their crimes and then move on. I do not think that the churches really have admitted their crimes. As you are aware, there have been the moves of the Catholic Church and there has been the High Court challenge with the Catholic Church, with the Uniting Church getting in on the act and so with the Presbyterians and the whole lot of them. Well, the fact is that these things did happen. They are indefensible and you cannot argue against the indefensible. When the homies came out on Four Corners, the Salvation Army issued a statement—and again, as I have said, I am only talking about the Salvation Army—to say that approximately 30,000 children were looked after in homes, and they gave a breakdown of the officers who were there. They said that around 19 or so people were abused. What they did was play with figures. It was all smoke and mirrors. What they did was take the 30,000 children and say 19 people had complained. It appeared that those figures came from all around Australia when in actual fact those were the figures from Victoria: 19 at the time. What has happened since then has been quite remarkable. The Salvation Army say on their website—and this has not been changed since 2006—that ‘we have settled with approximately 60 cases’. I am involved in business and I am involved with staff management and if I ran a business I would like to know exactly how many people I was paying money to. ‘Approximately 60’ is a very poor example of book-keeping.

So I got a letter from the New South Wales person, who said, ‘I note your question where we claimed that only 50 or so people complained. I acknowledge there may well be more.’ So we have got different figures from Victoria and different figures from New South Wales and nobody knows how many. There is no transparency, nothing is clear, everything is hidden, everything is put away. I have the capacity to be able to speak and to write in a fairly cohesive manner. As I say, the reason that that happened, the reason I got my settlement, was because I was able to argue and put my case forward fairly well.

The Pipeline magazine is a magazine put out by the Salvation Army. There were two pages written in the Pipeline magazine. It says, ‘When people say sorry.’ The apology written by the Salvation Army, by the way, is only very small; it is only a paragraph. This was written for the rank-and-file Salvationists, two pages to justify why children were raped, beaten and abused. In this the Salvation Army says these words:

Let justice roll, God said to Israel. Let justice roll. God cares about justice. That is why we care too. God put a sense of justice in us.

I would like to take the words of the Salvation Army and say, ‘Let justice roll. Let us be open and honest. Let the Catholic Church be open and honest, let the Anglicans be open and honest, let the Salvation Army be open and honest. Let justice roll. Let’s see what it is all about. Let’s stop hiding behind the smoke and mirrors and the court cases, vindicating your actions.’

The home that I was in is written about in this book Orphans of the Living by Joanna Penglase. You may know of her; she is a sociologist. In the chapter on bad homes there is one in Queensland, nEERKOL, but the home that takes up the most is a Salvation Army home, the Gill Memorial Home in Goulburn. She writes this:

One which reoccurs as the template for inhumanity is the Gill Memorial Home at Goulburn, New South Wales. Because of its brutality, mindless discipline and sheer cruelty to children it was among the worst. The rituals of institutional life which I described in the previous chapter here were intensified into a regime which appears designed purely to oppress the spirit, break the will and destroy the hope of any boy who lived there.

So let justice roll. Let us be transparent. Let us bring some form of compensation to people who have suffered so long. Whenever I go to Goulburn I visit the cemetery because there are friends of mine who are buried there. I have stood in a park in Goulburn with a 50-year-old man sobbing on my shoulder asking me why he was buggered by Salvation Army officers. Probably one of the most brutal people in the homes was a man called Major Noel Hughes, who was eventually dismissed by the Salvation Army because he wanted to have a fight with people in the church who disagreed with him. If he did that in public, you would dread to think what he did in private. I was hit when this man wrapped urine stained sheets around a four-year-old boy and swung him over the balustrade of steps. So let justice roll. Bring it on. If places do not have anything to hide then what is the problem? There is no problem. Again let me say that the churches have known about this long before the inquiry. There were complaints, but they failed in their moral, ethical and Christian duty to do anything at all about it.

For me, the third point is recommendation No. 20, dealing with the need to fund CLAN. For me, as a person in Queensland who has moved here from interstate, CLAN is a support mechanism—as it is for many people. For me, CLAN has the capacity to represent all of those homies right across Australia. I believe there is a necessity for recurrent funding. I believe that it is not all that much to ask for the federal government for half a million dollars a year in funding for the next 10 years. I believe it is not all that much to ask the states for half a million dollars in funding for the next 10 years. And I believe it is little enough to ask the churches between them for half a million dollars in funding for the next 10 years as well. You have left us alone for too long. Our cries have been ignored.

The Salvation Army said this about people from CLAN—and they were talking about children in children’s homes: ‘We do not respect them and their attitude to us is one of hatred.’ That was a statement by the Salvation Army. I was disturbed by that statement, so I wrote a letter of complaint to the person who wrote it, John Dalziel. I received no reply, so I sent a letter to the commissioner in Victoria. I received this response: ‘What John Dalziel has actually said are organisational responses, not personal responses by him.’ In Sydney, Major Peter Farthing, the Secretary for Personnel at the time, said: ‘Goodness me, John Dalziel does not speak for us when he says “We do not respect them”. The official policy is contained there.’ So: ‘We do not respect them; they hate us.’ And that means that I started in a Salvation Army home with no respect, and the policy is still the same. On the website it will say, ‘We are sorry’—some meaningless, asinine twaddle. The official statement, the one that is not read, is: ‘We do not respect you. We are not too interested, really, in what it is you are on about.’

Leneen Forde, a person who is known to you, said with regard to the Salvation Army:

They have to realise that it’s a moral issue for them. I mean what would Christ have done? He’d have put out a helping hand and an apology, a shoulder to cry on—I’m sorry this happened, we were at fault—but they don’t get that because I suspect people are more worried about saving their good name—

and she is talking about the Salvation Army here—

their property and their assets, than the people.

So I want an apology. I think the people in the homes deserve that because we suffered as well. The Salvation Army published in their magazine Pipeline, in October 2002, an article about the Gill called ‘The Gill legacy’ in which they said that boys who came into the Gill were ‘larrikins or worse’. I was an orphan. I was not a ‘larrikin or worse’. I got this response:

Dear Mr Luthy,

Thank you for drawing my attention to the article in Pipeline. In response to your request, the article has been removed from our website.

I find it reprehensible that I have to contact this organisation to ensure that they do what is moral and just. So to you I say: you have lots of people in from lots of organisations, and organisations are important. But it is people who are important: it is people who suffer; it is people who cannot write; it is people who cannot complain.

I know that there are literally hundreds of people who would love to be able to participate in some form of redress. I know that there are literally hundreds of people who would just love to hear the words ‘on behalf of the country we’re sorry’. If that is said the country is not going to fall down and there are not going to be huge court cases. We are not asking people to assume some form of negligence or whatever. We are simply saying, ‘Could we just get some acknowledgement that we’re people?’

Finally, my application form, which I have here, says I am illegitimate, and the opposite of that is legitimate. That primarily means that I was a bit like the Indigenous people: ‘You don’t exist. Technically you don’t exist.’ So when my mother died without making a will, died intestate, I was not even included. There was nothing. Because I was not legitimate I did not exist as a person. I want you to legitimise my existence. Thank you.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Luthy. We will go to Senator Humphries for questions.

Senator HUMPHRIES —Thank you for that testimony, Mr Luthy, and I realise that it would not have been easy to give that evidence. I refer to the letter from the Salvation Army that you quoted from; I think it was the first one apologising to you for, as I think you referred to it, the process that was used. Would you quote that back to us, please?

Mr Luthy —Certainly.

Senator HUMPHRIES —It is where you went on to mention that—

Mr Luthy —Yes, when I find it. Here we go. It says:

I want to acknowledge also your serious complaint regarding the irregularities …

Is this the one or is it the other one where—

Senator HUMPHRIES —This is the one.

Mr Luthy —It goes on:

with your admission to the Gill Home. I apologise to you on behalf of the Salvation Army for the way this was handled. Our personal injuries committee has also considered your statement and, as an expression of our deep regret, we would like to offer you an ex-gratia payment of $50,000.

Please remember that at the time the Salvation Army was offering $5,000 and $10,000. I did not realise just how important that actually was until they came back with a large amount.

Senator HUMPHRIES —So they were offering that on account of the way you had been treated at the Gill Home or on account of some other irregularity? I did not quite catch what was being said before that.

Mr Luthy —On account of the fact that I should never have been put there to start off with—that is it. You could take a person and incarcerate them and pay £2 for a week and the person could be locked away. I was put in without any of my family even knowing about it. I had a brother and sisters who were all trying to survive themselves at that time. What happened was this. When my mother died, a next-door neighbour came along and said to my family, ‘I will look after Jim. You must never contact him again.’ One of my sisters is dead. My brother is dead. One sister I have seen once in the last 30 years. Last Christmas I got the first pictures I have ever seen of my mother.

CHAIR —How old were you when this happened, Mr Luthy? Were you a baby?

Mr Luthy —I was four.

CHAIR —So you were four years old.

Mr Luthy —Yes. I was looked after as a four-year-old. I was taken into this person’s home. She was not married. There were no legalities there. I grew up and my job was to chop wood, sweep paths, work around the house. I had one school uniform, no shoes. That was it. I had one bath a week. Then after a while she put me into the Gill. Who do you go to? There is just no-one.

Senator HUMPHRIES —Do you think that if a national apology is made to the people who experienced the sorts of things you experienced that it is important for churches like the Salvation Army to in some way be a party to that?

Mr Luthy —Yes, I think it is important for them to be a party to that. They need to let justice roll. They have said it; let it roll. And let it roll for all of the churches. Let them come out and publicly say why they have initiated High Court challenges to stop people being paid. The Salvation Army has come out and said, ‘We have assets.’ This is only the Salvation Army; the Catholics—well, they could make the Australian Treasury look poor. But the Salvation Army have assets of over $3 billion. They are not prepared to do anything. As Leneen Forde said, they are more interested in their money and their good name than they are in the people they have hurt. That does not apply only to the Salvation Army; that applies to the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Uniting Church and the Presbyterian Church. They are more interested in their good name than in the people they abused.

Senator HUMPHRIES —Thank you.

Mr Luthy —Yes. They should be included in an apology and they should be held accountable for their crimes. If there is nothing to worry about then transparency is fine.

Senator FURNER —Mr Luthy, do you have any children?

Mr Luthy —Yes I do; I have three children.

Senator FURNER —What ages are they?

Mr Luthy —You will have to ask my wife! I have a daughter who is 27 or 28; a son who is 25 and another who is 18.

Senator FURNER —How are they coping with what you have experienced?

Mr Luthy —They know precious little about this, because, like other people, I was too embarrassed and ashamed to say anything at all. They have come to know about this only since the Senate inquiry. I was too embarrassed to say anything. I went and got my passport and found that I had a third name—the name of my father; Frederick Drayton. My name is Terrence James Drayton Luthy. I did not even know that I had another name until I got my passport.

Senator BOYCE —Mr Luthy, first of all I congratulate you on the courage you have had in persisting. I know how hard it can be to write letter after letter after letter and to just keep going. Congratulations on behalf of all the others whom this assists.

Mr Luthy —Thank you.

Senator BOYCE —What association, if any, have you had with the Salvation Army outside your correspondence with them?

Mr Luthy —One of the recommendations is to erect memorials. I wrote to the Salvation Army. I asked them to put a memorial on the Gill Memorial Home for Boys. They came back with a whole pile of ridiculous wording which I changed and said to them, ‘This is far better.’ They put those memorials onto the Gill at Bexley, Indooroopilly and Riverview.

Senator BOYCE —These are plaques?

Mr Luthy —Yes, these are plaques. However, I want to say something else, and I really do need to mention this. They have never acknowledged the girls homes. They have never acknowledged the girls who have slaved. They have never acknowledged the drudgery and the humiliation that they caused those girls. They have never acknowledged that. Very few of the churches have acknowledged that. I know that perhaps there were far more boys in the homes there, but the girls were brutalised beyond belief. So my contacts with the Salvation Army, I am afraid, have not been terribly social, and, no, I do not give to them when they come knocking on the door.

Senator BOYCE —Has there ever been an attempt from the Salvation Army to engage you at a personal level. I am not talking about responding to your criticisms or whatever but simply to talk to you as a person?

Mr Luthy —There has never been an attempt because the official policy—forget what is written on there—says that they have no respect for you. Why would they engage? There was no attempt. I do not give them money; they gave me money. No, there has been no attempt made. There has been absolutely nothing. Nobody has come along and said, ‘Hey, Jim, let’s sit down and talk about this,’ or whatever. I do not want people to justify themselves. I want them to say, ‘Listen, we are sorry.’ It really happened. I do not want people to say that only 19 people were abused or only 60 people were abused—let us forget that. Everybody who was in a home was abused whether they were hit or not. We lived in a constant abusive environment. It did not matter whether you were hit, raped or whatever.

Senator BOYCE —There was the fear of being abused, at the least?

Mr Luthy —There was a fear of abuse. It was constant.

Senator BOYCE —Thank you.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Luthy. Your evidence will be on the Hansard and you will get a copy of that. And we do have your submission. Thank you very much for your contribution.

[2.02 pm]