Allegations of Abuse in Institutions

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Index 2003 (Sept-Dec)

One News
September 12 2003

Wider Salvation Army inquiry wanted

Claims of abuse in children's homes run by the Salvation Army may yet trigger an independent inquiry.

The Salvation Army is conducting its own investigation but the minister responsible for children says some sort of action will have to be taken if there's evidence of widespread abuse.

Some alleged abuse victims are demanding government action.

Roy Skinner says he suffered repeated sexual and physical abuse when he was a six-year-old state ward in the Salvation Army's care. Now he says only an independent public inquiry can help make amends for his loss of innocence.

The Salvation Army is investigating more than 20 cases of abuse in its children's homes - dating back decades. Thirteen of the complaints are from former state wards.

However, many refuse to make a formal complaint because they are furious that the Salvation Army is investigating itself.

"All those old feelings come back - it's just the sight of the uniform," says Anita.

For eight years Anita was a resident at the Grange in the heart of the Auckland suburb of Remuera - now replaced with upmarket apartments. Anita says it was there that she suffered shocking physical abuse in the 1950s.

Anita is adamant that the Salvation Army should not be investigating the cases.

The Salvation Army is offering to meet victims face to face and they are being offered counselling. Anyone wanting compensation must prove their case to the army's insurers.

"We're not pranged cars - we are people...this happened and by doing this they're trivialising us," says Anita.

In Australia a senate inquiry is under way into all historic cases of abuse of children in care. New Zealand victims say if it's good enough for Australia, then it should be here.

"It was a total and utter letdown - it was a failure of the government to act properly and...I am strongly of the opinion that they are not acting properly now," says Skinner.

The government says it is still too early for an independent inquiry - but it's not rejecting the idea.

Child, Youth and Family Minister Ruth Dyson says if there is clear systematic abuse then that would certainly call for some sort of co-ordinated action and response