The Salvation Army is a world-wide Christian Church with international headquarters in London, England. It is generally accepted that the Salvation Army commenced its work in Victoria on December 24, 1882. (Although several localities lay claim to having held the first Salvationist meetings in Australia. The first official Salvation Army Corps in Australia was established in Adelaide.)
In 2014 the Salvation Army is a major community service organisation in Victoria, providing out of home care services via a number of agencies.
Major James Barker was instrumental in the Army's earliest provision of social services in Victoria. He and his wife Alice arrived in 1882, having been sent from London to establish the Army's work 'in all the colonies of the Southern Seas'. Although intending to land in Adelaide, they stayed in Melbourne.
In 1883, the philanthropist Dr John Singleton offered the use of his Little Bourke Street Mission Hall to the Salvation Army.
Barker's first work was with released prisoners, from 1883 from a house in Lygon Street, Carlton, the Prison Gate Brigade.
The Salvation Army became increasingly involved in the 'rescue' of children and 'fallen women'. A women's refuge for 'fallen' or 'rescued sisters' commenced in Carlton in early 1884.
In January 1888 the Government granted Barker the authority to apprehend without warrant any child under the age of 16 years found residing in a brothel (under the provisions of the Neglected Children's Act 1887).
Since 1882, the Salvation Army has established and run many institutions for children.
The Salvation Army has been publishing the War Cry in Australia since 1880.
In 1899, an article in the War Cry described the boys and girls who were then the target of the Army's child rescue activities:
'[They] are the criminal, the depraved, and the neglected of both sexes, whose reformation and salvation have become a charge upon the Social Department of the Salvation Army. Every boy or girl who has got off the straight track, and finds their return blocked by insurmountable difficulties, can secure help at once by writing to the Commandant at Headquarters, Melbourne.
The police court records of the doings of our boys and girls are simply alarming. The pitiable scene of a father appearing before the magistrate and acknowledging his inability to control a boy of eleven years of age leads to the enquiry - What is to be become of such a boy? Who in the place of the helpless parent is to save him from the evil course he is so early pursuing?
Oh how terrible is it to read in the very same newspaper of boys - mere children - being charged with an attempt to derail a train, housebreaking, stealing, and other crimes! Or of girls, incorrigible at a tender age, the companions of dissolute lads, not much their senior, often mothers and filled with care before having passed the range of childhood …
The work in the Army's Social Department with respect to the state children is the beginning of a new era. Although the homes are yet few, and the inmates a small proportion of the whole, the work being done is invaluable … The Army's homes are pre-eminently training schools. Training, however, must begin at the cradle, where the earliest habits form themselves, and in the absence of guidance, take permanent root.
The children the Army receives from the state are undeniable evidences of the ill effects of the lack of parental discipline. Hence the habits formed during ten or twelve or even fourteen years of ineffectual control have to be destroyed.
… these boys and girls are the possessors of strong wills and physical powers altogether too much for the flexible control of their irresolute parents, hence they have broken from restraint and are like wild colts in a station paddock, reveling in freedom, their hearts as untilled soil, from which have sprung all the inherent weeds of their natural depravity …
There is hope for the very worst! The Salvation Army despairs of none …'
The Salvation Army's network of children's homes expanded rapidly. The Bayswater Boys' Home, established in 1897, was joined by the Box Hill Boys' Home in 1913. The William Booth Girls' Home in Camberwell was founded in 1912, and the Catherine Booth Girls' Home in East Kew was established in 1915. A home for toddlers and young children, Kardinia, opened in Geelong in 1947.
The Salvation Army's large institutions for children were progressively closed down from the mid 1970s into the early 1980s. New, regionalised services were established around Victoria, including the Western Region Family Service (later known as Westcare) Peninsula Youth and Family Services, and the Salvation Army Eastcare Network.
From the late 1990s, government inquiries including the Forde Inquiry in Queensland and the 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, the Committee made the statement:
'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.
10 December 2021
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/vic/E000014
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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