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"Sadistic" Salvos may never be held to account

SHOCKING HISTORY: An archival photograph of the Salvation Army Riverview Training Home in Ipswich taken in the 1940s.
SHOCKING HISTORY: An archival photograph of the Salvation Army Riverview Training Home in Ipswich taken in the 1940s. Contributed

THE "sadistic" Salvation Army officers who once ruled the Riverview Boy's home may never be held accountable for their sins but the end of yesterday's royal commission hearing brought much-needed closure to the surviving victims who shed light on one of the most disturbing chapters in the region's history.

Over the past two months, the royal commission has been investigating the Salvation Army's response to victims who claimed they had been abused at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them at several of the organisation's boy's homes across Queensland and New South Wales.

At least five of the offending officers, two of whom are still living, were said to have been transferred between the homes rather than being reprimanded.

The commission heard that a culture of abuse going unreported had existed from the turbulent post-Second World War period, right up until Riverview - later known as the Endeavour Training Farm - was shut down by the State Government in the late 1970s.

Tales of rapes, whippings and the injustice of not being believed were recounted by men of varying ages, many of whom told of how the torment had impacted their marriages and ability to care for their own children.

Raw emotion was also evident in the testimonies of those who had tried to step in, only to find themselves being "moved on" by the powers that be.

Some of the most controversial evidence surrounded an alleged isolation room, described by many witnesses as a "cell" where boys were sent for days at a time and forced to defecate in buckets.

The panel will examine one particular complaint by a witness referred to as JE, who during a 2008 compensation battle, was told by senior army officers that they could not find any evidence that such a room existed.

The witness, who escaped after spending just 12 days at Riverview, told the most recent hearing he and another boy had risked jumping into the Bremer River in full flood after witnessing beatings and rapes at the home he described as "a middle ages slavery camp".

This week's hearing, which also took in allegations against former officers John McIver and self-confessed child abuser Colin Haggar, was the third involving the Salvation Army's eastern branch.

The commission is expected to release its findings later in the year.

Topics:  riverview boy's home royal commission child sex abuse salvation army


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