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Salvation Army apologises to children mistreated in its institutional care facilities.

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Monday 18 August 2003

Salvation Army apologises to children mistreated in its institutional care facilities


LINDA MOTTRAM: After the damaging scandals in the Catholic and Anglican Churches over the abuse of children, the Salvation Army has now issued an unreserved apology to those who were victims of abuse while in its care. 


Stories of years of beatings, sexual molestation, and slave-labour type work conditions, endured by some children in Salvation Army-run institutions will be detailed tonight by the ABC's Four Corners program. 


Nick Grimm reports. 


EXTRACT FROM SALVATION ARMY AD: The Salvation Army is a strong supporter of the scouting movement, as a means of building healthy bodies as well as healthy minds - ideals that are carried through to their schools for children from broken homes. For these youngsters, school is home. 


VICTIM 1: My number was 68 and every article of clothing or anything that we owned was put, that number was put on. 


VICTIM 2: I was number 32. Now I'm sorry I'm going to get upset if I hold that for too long. 


NICK GRIMM: Merely a number - just one of ways that children who were sent to church and State-run institutions during the 1950s, 60s and 70s found themselves dehumanised by the system. 


For some it was just the start of the brutality they were to experience. 


VICTIM 3: Once he came up and just punched me right in the side of the head and then he dragged me and kicked me and punched me all the way to his office. 


VICTIM 4: Absolute mongrels. I can't think of other words for them and these people call themselves Christians. 


VICTIM 5: And then he would ask me for like a cup of hot Milo or some biscuits and lollies and of course I said yes, and then once we got to his room he started fondling me… 


VICTIM 6: The older boys, I think they grew up with that environment, so they thought it was perfectly normal. They would prey on the younger boys. 


NICK GRIMM: Tonight's Four Corners examines some of the stories of the children who suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse while living in facilities run by the Salvation Army. 


One such victim even admits it was an ordeal that later turned him into a child sexual offender as well. 


VICTIM 7: I remember I started enjoying some of the stuff that was happening to me when I was 13. So my mind locked in on 13-year-olds and I couldn't get out of that. To be truthful, I cannot look at a 13 or 14-year-old and not think, I wouldn't mind that. 


NICK GRIMM: Some victims have sought redress from the Salvation Army, and a number of financial settlements have been made. 


Salvation Army Spokesman John Dalziel denies it's hush money. 


JOHN DALZIEL: No, we're not trying to muzzle the victims. We are doing it for their own benefit. It is not always a good thing to make public a private thing like that. No, in some cases it does benefit them, and psychologists will recommend that people do it. But, as I understand it, it is only rarely that it is a good thing. 


The financial amount varies according to the client concerned, but dollars speak, and we don't want that to be the criteria. We want the person to be seeking healing. 


NICK GRIMM: Later this year a Senate inquiry will begin investigating the extent of the abuse meted out to former wards of the State around Australia. 


The Salvation Army will be just one of the organisations that provided care facilities who are expected to be asked to make submissions to the inquiry. 


But it's already made a frank admission that it has betrayed the trust placed in it by Australians over decades. 


John Dalziel again. 


JOHN DALZIEL: I feel that the Salvation Army has betrayed its trust. We have extremely high regard in Australia because of the superb work that's being done by so many, both officers, paid staff and especially volunteers and it's been built up over literally millions of incidents over the years. And, in these cases we've just been talking of today, that trust has been betrayed, and to the Australian public now I apologise. 


LINDA MOTTRAM: Salvation Army Spokesman John Dalziel ending that report from Nick Grimm. 


And that full report can be seen on ABC TV's Four Corners tonight