Children at a Salvation Army home in Queensland were fed food donated for animals, savagely beaten, sexually abused and locked in a cage, an inquiry has been told.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which is examining four homes run by the Salvos in NSW and Queensland from 1966-77, has been told that evidence to be given of corporal punishment and sexual abuse at the homes were some of the most disturbing the commission had heard.
It is at the “severe end of abuse” examined by the commission, the opening of a two-week hearing in Sydney heard on Tuesday.
Simeon Beckett, counsel assisting the commission, said the hearing would hear many allegations about five identified officers, “Laurence Wilson, Russell Walker, Victor Bennett, John McIver and Donald Schultz”.
Mr Walker, Mr Schultz and Mr McIver are still alive and have been given notice of the hearing.
He said the evidence against Mr Wilson, who died in 2008, would shock.
Mr Beckett said the commission would be examining the response of the Salvation Army to child sexual abuse within two Queensland homes for boys, Alkira at Indooroopilly and the Endeavour training farm at Riverview, as well as Bexley Boys Home in Sydney and the Gill Memorial Home in Goulburn, NSW.
Outlining the evidence that would be presented, Mr Beckett said 13 people would give evidence of severe and disturbing abuse at all the homes.
— The Salvation Army (@salvos) January 28, 2014
At the Endeavour farm, one witness would tell how he was made to sort fruit and vegetables given to the farm to feed the animals, picking out what could be given to the boys.
If he made a wrong choice, he was flogged.
“Other forms of punishment included sweeping the playground with a toothbrush, cleaning 50 pairs of shoes … and on one occasion forcing a boy to eat his own vomit.”
Boys were also locked in a cage on the home’s verandah for up to two weeks as punishment. Children were raped and beaten. Mr Bennett was said to beat boys until they bled.
Mr Beckett also said there had been an inquiry in Queensland in 1999 and a senate inquiry into the Salvation Army homes.
“In 1976, a childcare officer expressed extreme concern at what was happening and reported `the normal behaviours for Alkira is absconding, truancy and stealing. How desperate do children have to become?’,” Mr Beckett said.
He added that evidence would show that the Salvation Army moved personnel around.
The hearing continues.