12 Apr 2013

Salvation Army dealt with abuse claims privately

10:36 am on 12 April 2013

The Salvation Army in Australia dealt with 500 child sex abuse complaints privately to avoid further distress to victims, a Victorian inquiry has been told.

The Christian charitable group denies there was a culture of abuse or that it was endemic in its children's homes but has apologised for the pain and suffering victims endured.

A senior army officer says nothing has been proven against approximately 50 officers named in abuse claims, because the organisation takes a "non-adversarial" approach to such complaints.

This is to spare victims further distress, Salvation Army legal secretary Captain Malcolm Roberts told a Victorian parliamentary inquiry.

Since 1997 the Salvation Army has received 474 abuse claims, 470 of which arose from its children's homes, over a period of 30 to 40 years.

Citing anecdotal evidence from a small handful of the 35,000 wards who passed through Salvation Army homes, Capt Roberts said instances of abuse were the result of individuals and not a culture within the organisation.

But he said the Salvation Army was ashamed of what the victims in its care had endured.

Thirty-seven of the officers named in the claims are dead, three or four have been jailed and two are still active officers.

Capt Roberts said the Salvation Army had never conducted an internal investigation into the sexual abuse complaints involving the children's homes it ran up until the 1980s nor had it reported any of the allegations to police.

He said that was because the claims were made by wards who were now adults, who had the responsibility to go to police.

The organisation has paid out approximately $15.5 million to claimants, including legal costs, with a further $4 million available for future claims.

Counselling was provided to claimants where necessary, Capt Roberts said.

He said he could give no explanation as to why alleged perpetrators named in the inquiry were not held to account when complaints were made.