The Salvation Army Australia Southern Territory was one of two autonomous territories of this world-wide Christian Church in Australia. Its international headquarters are in London, England. The Southern Territory comprised the Salvation Army in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory (Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory made up the Salvation Army Eastern Territory). In Australia, since 1882, the Salvation Army have established and run many institutions, programs and services for children. They ran children’s Homes, reformatories and maternity Homes around Australia and conducted adoption, probation, child migrant settlement and fostering schemes. In 2018 the Salvation Army unified its Southern and Eastern Territories. In 2019, the Salvation Army (also known as The Salvos) continues to provide a range of community services in Australia, including out-of-home care for children and young people, aged care and family support services.

From 1880 until 1907, the Salvation Army’s operations in Australia were conducted by the Australasian Territory. The Australasian Territory comprised Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. In 1907, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga became a separate territory from the Salvation Army Australian Territory. The Australian Territory was split into the Southern and Eastern Territories in 1921, a structure that remained in place for nearly a century. A project to unify the territories of the Salvation Army in Australia – ‘Australia One’ – was announced in March 2016.

The Salvation Army was founded in London in 1865. By 1880, the church was active in Australia, conducting services in Melbourne and Adelaide. In 1881, the founder of the Salvation Army, General William Booth, despatched Captain Sutherland and his wife to Australia to commence a ‘campaign’ (Illawarra Mercury 1 April 1881). In 1883, Major James Barker established the Church’s first permanent social program, the Prison Gate for discharged prisoners in Melbourne. In 1884, the Fallen Sisters Home was established in Carlton (an inner suburb of Melbourne) for women released from prison.

By the 1890s, the Salvation Army was setting up its first maternity Homes in Australia, including the Adelaide Maternity Home (established 1893), Rock Lynn House in Launceston, Tasmania (around 1895), a Home for Neglected Girls in Perth (1894) and The Haven in North Fitzroy, Victoria (1897). The Salvation Army was active in the adoption of children from their maternity Homes and hospitals. Many of its maternity Homes were not closed until the 1980s and 1990s.

The Salvation Army began establishing institutions for children in the 1890s, homes and industrial schools for ‘neglected’ boys and girls, as well as reformatories for ‘convicted’ children. The first of these was the Heidelberg Boys’ Home, Victoria, established in 1893. Some of these earliest Salvation Army institutions – such as Bayswater Boys’ Homes in Victoria (established 1897) – operated continuously until the 1980s.

The Salvation Army’s network of children’s institutions in the Southern Territory continued to expand in the twentieth century. Most were large institutions and some also had sections for children and young people with intellectual disabilities (such as Seaforth Salvation Army Boys’ Homes, Gosnells in WA). The Salvation Army’s large institutions for children were progressively closed down from the mid-1970s into the early 1980s. The Salvation Army continued to provide out-of-home care for children and young people, through other models such as residential care and foster care.

From the late 1990s, government inquiries including the Forde Inquiry in Queensland and the Senate’s Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care heard criticism of the Salvation Army and its treatment of children in its Homes.

In the ‘Forgotten Australians’ report (2004), the Committee stated that:

the overwhelming majority of submissions to this inquiry from ex-residents of Salvation Army institutions in all States reported negative experiences in these institutions, often citing cases of extreme forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The Committee believes that there has been a notable reluctance by the Salvation Army to acknowledge past practices, in particular the nature and extent of abuse in its institutions.

The Salvation Army subsequently issued an apology to former residents of its children’s Homes:

From 1894 to the 1970s The Salvation Army operated children’s homes around Australia. The Salvation Army deeply regrets that not all the children in its care received the love and protection they deserved. Some of the children experienced great fear living with rigid and harsh discipline. Some became victims of physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. The Salvation Army acknowledges its failure with those children. The Salvation Army offers all persons who were hurt its unreserved apology.

In December 2010, the international leader of the Salvation Army issued an apology to former residents of its children’s Homes in Australia.

In October 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to Child Sexual Abuse held a public hearing in Adelaide into the experience of former child residents at institutions operated by the Salvation Army (Southern Territory) between 1940 and 1990 (Case Study 33).


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