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Published: 16 March 2021
Author: Penny Savidis

Bayswater and Box Hill Boys’ Homes – where child abuse was rife

There is a dark history of abuse of vulnerable Victorian children in The Salvation Army. For many decades, The Salvation Army ran the Box Hill Boys’ Home, which was home to wards of the State, and children were placed there privately or were referred by non-government agencies.

A few suburbs away, The Salvation Army also operated the Bayswater Boys’ Homes for 90 years. The Bayswater site was originally home to:

  • ‘Bayswater No 1’, which was responsible for boys over the age of 14 years (initially those who had committed serious offences);
  • ‘Bayswater No 2’, which housed younger boys under the age of 14 years and;
  • 'Bayswater No 3’, which initially housed older non-offending boys. The No 1 Home was later combined with the No 3 Home and became known as the Bayswater Youth Training Centre/YTC.

In 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held a public hearing over a number of days looking into the experiences of former child residents of The Salvation Army (Southern Territory) institutions between 1940 and 1990. The Royal Commission’s Case Study 33 examined allegations of abuse relating to Bayswater and Box Hill Boys’ Homes and heard from a number of former residents about their horrific experiences of repeated physical and sexual abuse as well as the life-long impacts of the abuse. See: Case Study 33 - Findings Report: The response of The Salvation Army (Southern Territory) to allegations of child sexual abuse at children’s homes that it operated

According to the Royal Commission, the lack of regular, thorough inspections of the Box Hill and Bayswater Boys’ Homes by the Victorian Government “increased the risk of child sexual abuse (and other abuse and neglect), as it meant that there was no oversight of the conduct of those working in Bayswater or Box Hill.” This is consistent with the evidence of many of our clients, who claim there was inadequate supervision of the Homes as well as insufficient complaints mechanisms.

Box Hill Boys’ Home

The Royal Commission found that The Salvation Army knew of sexual offending at Box Hill Boys’ Home from as early as 1947.
In relation to its particular knowledge of sexual offending by officer Captain Arthur Clee, the Commission found that The Salvation Army responded to Clee’s sexual abuse against four boys at Box Hill Boys’ Home by simply transferring him to Bayswater Boys’ Home and later placing him on sick leave. In doing so, other children were placed at risk of sexual abuse by Captain Clee.

The Royal Commission also found that Captain Matthew Kop breached The Salvation Army’s Orders and Regulations regarding the use of corporal punishment and that the Salvation Army failed to discipline Captain Kop for his abuse, in turn failing to protect children in its care.

Bayswater Boys’ Home

The Royal Commission reviewed documentary evidence of sexual and physical abuse at Bayswater Boys’ Home by officers Brigadier Roy Wright and Envoy Clarence Collins.

The Salvation Army has also previously been the subject of investigation by the Victorian Parliamentary “Betrayal of Trust” Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations. In 2013, after that Inquiry, The Salvation Army’s own Professional Standards Unit investigated its historical responses to child sexual abuse. The 2015 report from that investigation found The Salvation Army failed at a systemic level to protect children from child sexual abuse and failed to appropriately respond to claims of such sexual abuse.

The 2015 report also found that The Salvation Army implemented a practice that inadvertently facilitated the incidence or concealment of child sexual abuse by allowing Salvation Army members to take children to their own homes at times without proper vetting, leading to some such as the convicted predator, Mr John Beyer, sexually abusing children at the Bayswater No 2 Boys’ Home.

The Royal Commission reviewed The Salvation Army’s investigation and went further, finding that by not reporting allegations of child sexual abuse to the police, child sexual abuse was effectively concealed, and alleged perpetrators protected.

RCT Law has acted for hundreds of former residents of the notorious Bayswater and Box Hill Boys’ Homes, including those who allege abuse by Captain Clee, Brigadier Wright and Envoy Collins. The RCT Abuse Law team has a vast database of allegations of abuse against various Salvation Army officers and workers that we can draw upon to strengthen evidence in claims.

If you suffered abuse at a Salvation Army Home, we encourage you to reach out to us via 1300 366 441 or enquiries@rctlaw.com.au. RCT Law comprises 22 offices and more than 110 staff at locations across metropolitan and regional Victoria, including an office in Bayswater.

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