Jim Luthy spent three years at the Salvation Army's Gill Memorial Boys Home in the 1960s. The Queensland man gave evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and although not sexually abused himself, has advocated strongly for those who have sought restitution from the Salvation Army.
Mr Luthy has also organised the Gill boys' reunions for many years and secured plaques on and around the Auburn Street building and at Victoria Park, recognising the orphanage history. Here he gives his thoughts on the building's current state.
In 1936 the Gill Memorial Home for Boys was opened by the Salvation Army in Goulburn.
It was built due to the bequest given to it by Joseph Gill, a wealthy Melbourne businessman who donated half of his vast fortune to the Salvation Army in Melbourne and the other half to the Salvation Army in NSW.
His money purchased the land at the top end of Auburn St.
The Boy's home itself was built from federal government grants and by public subscription while the bulk of Joseph Gill's estate was deposited to earn interest, which it still continues to do to this day.
The underlying reason for a boys home was to provide a safe, caring and loving Christian environment for boys who were orphaned, or who were unable to be cared for due to parental sickness, family breakdowns or the inability for children to remain with their parents and siblings due to domestic violence, financial problems or other family issues.
The Christian ethos of the Gill therefore promised the hope of a life which, while fairly structured and relatively disciplined, was nevertheless devoid of violence, domestic abuse, hunger and poverty.
Fine ideals, but unfortunately this was not going to be the case for the majority of boys who ended up calling the Gill their home.
The 2004 Senate Inquiry into Forgotten Australians and Child Migrants provided a spotlight into the practices of the Salvation Army and in particular the Gill where decades of sexual, physical, psychological and spiritual abuse were the order of the day. There were ongoing bashings, boys' possessions stolen by some Salvation Army officers, the denial of adequate medical and dental care and the lack of proper clothing and food.
Boys were punished for the most minuscule reasons, they had bones broken and noses bloodied.
These actions and worse were further highlighted in the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse.
The Gill finally ceased operating as a boys home in 1980.
At present the Gill sits atop Auburn street as a decaying sentinel. It was, for a period of time a Family Home and then a nursing home but has now been left to become a run down building desperately in need of repair. The various officers' homes have also been left to decay due to continuing neglect.
The plaque on the wall remembering those who lived there has been removed and it seems the Salvation Army wants it to reach a state of total decay so it can easily be condemned.
The thing is though that this should not be the case. The Salvation Army by their actions in caring for children lost much of the trust that people had for them and it is now time for that trust to be repaired in a positive way.
The buildings can't be left to fall down, they could be used for a myriad of things. The money that the Salvation Army has made and still makes from the Gill legacy could do great good. There are those in Goulburn who are homeless, those who suffer from domestic violence, those who could use a respite centre, the list of uses for providing hope is endless. The need is great.
This boys home which started on the promise of doing good but degenerated into a cruel and evil place has the capacity to regain the community's trust. It can't be left to rot simply to make money when there is such a great need.
The Salvation Army in their advertisements say they provide hope. Now is the time for them to live up to their beliefs, to not only provide hope, but to rebuild trust, and to act as they should have done when the Gill was first built.
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