Those who haven’t walked in the shoes of children abused in institutional care struggle to understand the enduring hurt and pain.
Many people urge these victims to get on with life, put their experience behind them and do the best they can. But anyone with understanding of the lingering effects knows this is only possible to a certain extent.
Feelings of neglected childhoods were evident amid the camaraderie and happiness at the recent reunion of Gill Memorial Boys Home residents. These men love catching up each year but it’s always with a tinge of sadness. Instances of proven and alleged sexual abuse by Salvation Army officers have been aired at a Senate inquiry and more recently, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Former residents have taken their lives, suffered depression, alcoholism, learning difficulties, battled feelings of inadequacy and not reached their full potential as a direct result. It’s little wonder some, like Bob Conway (pictured) want to “destroy” the organisation. His words might seem strong to some but not those abused sexually, physically and emotionally by the very people society trusted to care for them. It is the ultimate betrayal.
It is particularly inspiring then that Jim Luthy and Mr Conway, despite this experience, advocate for those who can’t negotiate the maze of bureaucracy and compensation. Through their association with the Care Leavers Network of Australia and evidence to the inquiries, they have helped expose the truth. Likewise, Goulburn man Fred Walshe can be proud of his role in bringing allegations to court.
It’s a sad part of our history that must be acknowledged. Goulburn was unusual to have so many orphanages, some of them grand buildings, and not all of them were tainted by abuse. But for those which were, it should be acknowledged in commemorative plaques, rather than insulting former residents through the current weasel words.
If the Salvation Army is truly sorry, this would be a good start.
Anyone who has watched young Tom Toparis’s fledgling career would be thrilled by his looming international debut.
The 17-year-old Trinity Catholic College student is a credit to his parents, school and Goulburn Motorcycle Club, all of whom have nurtured his talent. We wish him every success in the upcoming Moto3 rounds.