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Sorry stories of sexual abuse continue at Royal Commission

GRIM PICTURE: The Salvation Army Riverview Training Home in Ipswich, as it was in the 1940s.
GRIM PICTURE: The Salvation Army Riverview Training Home in Ipswich, as it was in the 1940s. Contributed

THE man with the walking stick is hovering in the hall of Sydney's Governor Macquarie Tower, resisting his wife's attempts to coax him into the hearing room.

It's been a long time since he has been in the company of Salvation Army uniforms and the prospect of spending the next few hours stuck with them on the 17th floor, is less than appealing.

Inside, there is nervous laughter, tears and warm greetings, as scores of grey-haired men and women, many of whom have travelled from other sides of the country, file through a door bearing the motif of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Hearing aids are adjusted and some move closer to get a better seat - they've waited decades for this moment and they don't want to miss a word.

Suits and uniforms line the bar tables.

In the middle and armed with what appears to be a mini library of files, sits counsel assisting the commission Simeon Beckett.

He has already exposed systematic abuse within Anglican and Catholic Church ranks and will soon be turning his attention to the YMCA but for now, his role is to call the Salvation Army into question over the treatment of children at four of its boy's homes - Riverview farm near Ipswich, Akira at Indooroopilly, Gill near Goulburn and Bexley, Sydney.

His opening address paints a grim picture of the unthinkable sexual and physical violence that marred countless childhoods from pre-World War II, through to the late 70s.

He singles out five alleged perpetrators - Captain Lawrence Wilson - sadistic rapist who left behind at least 15 victims when he died in 2008, Major Donald Schultz - demoted in 2005 following widespread allegations of sexual abuse against children and adults, Major John McIver -regimental punisher who continues to refute allegations of sexual abuse, Major Victor Bennett - abused children at all four homes and died without having ever having been reprimanded by the Salvation Army and another man, who due to ongoing investigations, can only be referred to as X17.

The commission, he says, will hear that out of the 157 child sex abuse claims made against the Salvation Army's eastern branches, 133 have resulted in an apology, the offering of counselling and restitution and often monetary compensation.

The public hearing, which takes much of its evidence from the 2004 Forgotten Children Senate Inquiry, will explore the Salvation Army's process of transferring accused predators from one home to another, where fresh claims would nearly always surfaced.

At some point, the man with the walking stick moves quietly into a back row, sits and immediately finds his wife's hand.

Like most of the others listening in, he manages to remain relatively expressionless until the face of the first witness - retired Kilkivan council worker Raymond Carlile - appears via video link from the Gympie courthouse.

"Oh I remember him," the man says.

He grips his wife's hand tighter, uses his free hand to wave at the screen and murmurs "hi mate".

Mr Carlile has barely finished taking the oath before tears begin to flow around the room.

His recollections of Captain Wilson "frothing at the mouth" as he dealt out beatings and the "excruciating pain" of being raped from as young as eight, set the tone for the miserably similar accounts that follow.

Several witnesses describe a prison like cell or "cage" where boys were sometimes confined to for days.

A description of the conditions in the Riverview piggery produces such a strong memory for one of the men in the gallery that he audibly groans and announces that he thinks he is going to be sick.

One witness, known as FV talks about a "billeting process" where boys were sent away for the weekends to stay with Salvation Army officers and friends of the homes.

On three of those visits, FV, a rough spoken miner who prefers to work underground than socialise with the outside world, was sexually abused by the men and women who were supposed to be giving him a feel for family -a married couple once forced him to engage in sex play when he was 12 - but when he reported the abuse he was caned and raped by Captn Wilson.

The impact the abuse has had on all the victim's marriages is brought home by the reaction of the wives who have turned out to support their husbands.

Weeping turns to sobbing as a FV describes not being able to cuddle his children.

"It's hard to describe how I feel when my wife (name withheld) looks into my eyes (and) does not see me there," he says

"She knows the pain I have to carry…once people realise what you have been through, they think of you differently."

The injustice the victims feel at not being believed is palpable and, as the commission soon learns, the few that did listen were quickly silenced.

Majors Cliff and Marina Randall have arrived at commission headquarters hand in hand.

They know they are dressed in the uniform which still appears in the nightmares of many of those present but for them, it represents their reasons for joining the army in the first place.

The Randall's were young newlyweds, when a passion for charity work, born on the mission fields of Papua New Guinea, landed them the role of house parents at Alkira.

They were told very little of their predecessor - only that had "he stayed in Queensland, he would have ended up in jail".

It didn't take long for them to figure something wasn't quite right.

Cliff recalls refusing to sign the punishment book after witnessing Major McIvor caning "those poor boys" to the point where they bled and lashing their testicles with a strap.

It is clear his breaking point came when he discovered a regular runaway, known as HT, had likely fallen into the hands of a child sex racket.

Another runaway, who was brought back to the home by police, told him that he and other boys had been taken to the home of a Brisbane millionaire and flown to Sydney to have sex with a Paddington chef.

He managed to escape but HT didn't.

Cliff becomes emotional as he says he never saw HT again and to this day, still doesn't know what happened to him.

The runaway who returned, he says, was beaten so badly his shoulder was dislocated.

The Randall's are repeatedly asked why they did not report the abuse to police and both express embarrassment at their naivety.

Cliff says he was always told by his superiors that the corporal punishment fell within government guidelines.

Marina wasn't even aware the boys were being sexually abused at the time but admits that later in life "it all made sense".

When the couple used their holiday to go to Salvation Army headquarters in Sydney and report the excessive violence, they returned home to Indooroopilly to find they were being dismissed.

They eventually went on to faithfully serve the army through it's more successful endeavours and are now retired.

Marina uses her spare time to oversee a professional standards committee which deals with allegations of child sex abuse.

As the hearing ends nears the end of its second week, the senior police officer in charge of investigating historic claims of child sex abuse in Queensland, tells the commission about the lengths his squad is going to to catch the perpetrators.

An adjournment is called and, after sitting through the entire inquiry, the man with the walking stick and his wife get up to leave.

She squeezes his arm and says "well love, it's done".

He stands aside to allow the senior police officer to pass, nods at him and replies "not yet".

Topics:  child sex abuse royal commission


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