Children at Salvation Army Boys’ Home “Rented Out” for Abuse

The Salvation Army

During a hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, it was revealed that children at a Salvation Army Boys Home in Sydney, Australia were “rented out” to strangers who sexually abused them. The Bexley Boys Home is among the four homes that are being investigated.

After former residents of two homes in Queensland provided the commission with evidence about sexual and physical abuse, the inquiry turned its focus to the Bexley Home on January 30. A police investigation had been launched during the 1990s after many men came forward with complaints. Detective Inspector Rick Cunningham had investigated the allegations of abuse.

In 1974, a man named FV told the police that the superintendent of the Bexley Home, Lawrence Wilson, had introduced him to a woman dressed in Salvation Army uniform who had been accompanied by a man. According to FV, the duo took him home and sexually abused him.

According to Cunningham, the boy’s report had initially been ignored. Lawyers for the Salvation Army asked Cunningham if he knew of a pedophile network operating within the home.

“Information from various former residents [was] that they went to homes on weekends, that there were visitors to the Bexley Home. But as to who sanctioned or organized if that occurred, it's difficult to say,” said Cunningham.

The counsel assisting the commission, Simeon Beckett, has described Wilson as the “most serious offender” in the Salvation Army’s eastern territory. During the 1990s, FV’s evidence led to criminal charges including buggery, indecent assault and common assault being brought against Wilson. However, he was finally acquitted in 1997 and the commission was told that the Salvation Army was taken by surprise with this decision and had paid more than $1.2 million to its victims as compensation to date. Wilson died in 2008.

Other homes that are being investigated include the Riverview Training Farm at Riverview in Queensland, the Alkira Salvation Army Home for Boys at Indooroopilly in Queensland and the Gill Memorial Home at Goulburn in southern New South Wales.

Photo Credits: By Nick Findley

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