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The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army

Evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in a snapshot:

  • 4,029 survivors of child sexual abuse gave evidence to the Royal Commission in private sessions into abuse in religious institutions
  • 294 gave evidence about abuse in Salvation Army institutions (7.3%)
  • Of those 73.1% were male and 26.9% were female.
  • Average age at the time they were first abused – 10.3 years old.
  • 4% told the Royal Commission they were abused by an adult.
  • 9% said they were abused by an adult male.
  • 8% told the Royal Commission they were abused by a child.
  • Some were abused by both an adult and a child.
  • 3% of perpetrators identified were in religious ministry.
  • 4% of perpetrators identified were residential care workers.
  • 1% of perpetrators were housemasters.

The Salvation Army – Southern Territory

The Salvation Army operated 55 children’s homes across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia (the Southern Territory) between 1894 and 1998.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Case Study No. 33 looked at institutional abuse and The Salvation Army, specifically abuse that occurred Salvation Army run children’s homes.

The children’s homes studied were:

  • Eden Park (a working farm in the Adelaide Hills near Mount Barker, South Australia)
  • Nedlands (Nedlands, Karrakatta, West Subiaco, Western Australia)
  • Box Hill (originally in Brunswick, before moving to Box Hill, Victoria)
  • Bayswater (Bayswater, Victoria)

At each of these homes, the Royal Commission heard terrible stories of institutional abuse and The Salvation Army. The Royal Commission heard examples of how, even though The Salvation Army may have had policies and procedures, in the form of The Salvation Army Orders and Regulations, these were not followed and as a result, children suffered.

The Royal Commission established that the children were afraid to report sexual abuse, felt powerless to resist maltreatment and staff and officers continued prohibited behaviour, despite it being in breach of The Salvation Army’s own Orders and Regulations. Limited government oversight and a lack of external accountability all contributed to abuse continuing unchecked for many years. Stories of deficiency were noted at each institution.

Eden Park

The Royal Commission found that staff at Eden park used a lockup room to detain and punish children. The Royal Commission found this practice to be in breach of The Salvation Army’s Orders and Regulations.

The commanding officer of the home, Brigadier Reginald Lawler let officer William Ellis use a strap to strike the children, which the Royal Commission found did not comply with The Salvation Army’s own Orders and Regulations. Neither Brigadier Lawler nor Mr Ellis were adequately disciplined for their breach of the Salvation Army’s Orders and Regulations and thus, The Royal Commission found The Salvation Army failed to protect children in its care.


The Royal Commission received documents into evidence that revealed in 1964 and 1965, The Salvation Army considered removing Captain Charles Allan Smith’s name from The Salvation Army Officer’s Roll after receiving complaints about “unseemly behaviour” with a child. Instead of removing Captain Smith, The Salvation Army transferred him to Nedlands home and placed him in a position of trust over children.

In 1974 Captain Smith pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault on children. It is unclear whether he resigned or was dismissed but he left the Salvation Army. However, in 1979 he was re-accepted as an envoy to The Salvation Army and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1980.

The Royal Commission found that this action defeated one of the purposes of The Salvation Army’s Orders and Regulations – to protect children in its care.

Box Hill and Bayswater

A number of former residents of the homes gave evidence of physical and sexual abuse by officers and employees of The Salvation Army.

The Royal Commission found severe deficiencies in the monitoring and inspection of the Box Hill and Bayswater homes by the State of Victoria. The Royal Commission established through oral evidence and documents tendered into evidence that the State of Victoria did not inspect Box Hill or Bayswater with the frequency required by the relevant legislation. The records of inspection also appeared to focus more on the physical aspects of the home rather than the wellbeing of the residents. Only general observations about wellbeing were recorded.

The Royal Commission heard devastating evidence from former residents linking institutional abuse and The Salvation Army. They found many children did not disclose the abuse they were suffering because:

  • They did not think there was anyone to tell
  • They did not think they would be believed
  • They were threatened with physical harm
  • When they did attempt to report Salvation Army sexual abuse, they were accused of telling lies

In some instances, they were also physically punished after telling officers or employees about their complaints of sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission found that, as with many religious institutions, the high concern for the reputation of the organisation was reflected in the often deficient manner in which allegations of abuse were handled.

For any person who suffered abuse whilst in the care of a Salvation Army home, there may be legal avenues available to you for redress. This is where Koffels can help.


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