Royal Commission: An open letter to Salvationists, Employees, Volunteers and the Australian Public
18 February 2014
You may be aware that The Salvation Army in Australia recently appeared before The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The hearing focused on four children’s homes in NSW and QLD that ceased to operate over 30 years ago. The Royal Commission will also be looking at similar homes run by a range of other religious and state-based institutions. The Salvation Army in Australia will need to appear before the Royal Commission in the future, and we will continue to cooperate fully with it.
The evidence already heard from victims of abuse at these homes is horrific, shocking, and deeply shameful, and media coverage has been understandably damning of The Salvation Army officers, employees and volunteers involved as well as the systems and structures that allowed them to prey on children so deviously and deceptively.
The Salvation Army is ashamed that we allowed this to have happened. It was a breach of the trust placed in us. We are deeply sorry. In 2004 The Salvation Army Australia first publicly apologised for the sexual and physical abuse suffered by children in some of our children’s homes. Since then, we have continued to express our unreserved apologies, regret and shame.
This has been a time for The Salvation Army, along with the Royal Commission, to listen to victims, respect their courage in coming forward, and to try to understand the devastation that has been inflicted on their lives. We have been at all times transparently honest with the Commission, and we intend to remain transparent with the general public. That is why we are sending this letter to you. I want to reassure you that we take our duty of care for vulnerable Australians seriously. I want to assure you, as the leader of The Salvation Army in the Australia Eastern Territory, that nothing is more important to me than this.
The Salvation Army has done everything possible to ensure that this terrible chapter of our history can never be repeated. The Salvation Army has strong policies in place to protect children and vulnerable people. We have put in place a range of checks and balances where interactions between Salvation Army personnel and children are concerned, such as requiring every employee and officer who works with children has police checks and a Working with Children clearance.
My hope is that the process of the Royal Commission will bring healing for those who suffered while in our care and that we will act justly and compassionately towards them, being fair to all.
Today, through over 1000 social programmes across Australia, The Salvation Army remains committed to fulfilling its mission to help Australians in crisis and meet human need without discrimination.
For more information about The Salvation Army’s cooperation with the Royal Commission, please visit the website: http://salvos.org.au/royalcommission.
James Condon (Commissioner)
The Salvation Army Australia Eastern Territory