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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

2.7 The Salvation Army

1. The Salvation Army UK (SAUK) is an international charitable organisation affiliated with Protestant Christianity, although it is not formally part of any church. Since it was founded in the mid-19th century, one of its focuses has been charitable works aimed at alleviating poverty around the world. The Salvation Army organises itself according to the territory in which it operates, with each country having a different Salvation Army structure and hierarchy. For the purposes of this Inquiry, the Chair and Panel considered evidence regarding the conduct of the Salvation Army’s organisation in the UK, which we refer to as ‘SAUK’ in this report, because the SAUK was the part of the Salvation Army involved in the child migration programmes.

2.7.1 What was SAUK’s role in child migration?

2. It has been estimated that SAUK assisted over 250,000 people (including children, adults and families) to migrate to Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the first half of the twentieth century. Its involvement in migration continued post-War but to a lesser extent.

3. It appears that the majority of the unaccompanied children SAUK migrated were aged 15/16 and so were properly classified as ‘juvenile’ migrants. Professors Constantine and Lynch have referred us to Government sources indicating that SAUK migrated 91 children to Australia from 1950-60, but the SAUK documentation refers to 71. The post-War SAUK migration to Canada is said to have been solely of older children.[1] 

4. SAUK entered into agreements with the CRO in August 1957 and 1960, authorising it to select children under the age of 16 for migration, to provide the names and particulars of children for approval, to ensure that they received training to fit them for permanent settlement in Australia and to be responsible for the care and maintenance of those children.[2] It appears likely that SAUK’s role in child migration to Australia prior to 1957 was similar.

5. Mr Juster has indicated that the different parts of the Salvation Army around the world are “legally independent entities”, albeit part of one worldwide movement. He has also said that “at no stage did [SAUK] have any responsibility for, or control over, the work, behaviour and decisions of...the [SA] territories in Australia” such that “it cannot be considered to be responsible for what happened after the child migration ended". [3]

6. Although three Australian institutions were approved by the Government to receive child migrants from SAUK, children were only migrated to Riverview, and the boys were generally only resident there for around three to six months before placed out in farmwork.[4] 

7. The Inquiry did not hear any evidence during Part 1 from someone alleging child abuse while an SAUK migrant, nor does the table of additional accounts include any such evidence.

8. However, the Australian Royal Commission’s report into the three Salvation Army homes (including Riverview) made findings of very serious incidents of sexual abuse over an extended period of time. It also noted a culture of violence, an inadequate inspection regime, a culture of discouraging disclosure of abuse and evidence of the Salvation Army moving offending officers between different children’s homes, sometimes to protect its own external reputation, and potentially due to the religious devotional culture within the Army.

9. It appears that many of the allegations post-date the period when SAUK sent child migrants to Riverview (1962 at the latest), and there is no evidence that any of the allegations made to date have been made by former child migrants. However, of the 14 alleged abusers identified by the Commission, three (including one whom the Salvation Army in Australia recognises to have been one of its most serious sexual offenders) were on the staff at Riverview when child migrants were resident there.[5] 

2.7.2 What did SAUK know about alleged sexual abuse of its child migrants?

10. The Inquiry accepts Mr Juster’s evidence that SAUK had no actual knowledge of allegations or evidence of sexual abuse of its child migrants during the migration period.[6]

However children were exposed to a risk of sexual abuse, which ought to have been appreciated by SAUK. Had SAUK operated a more robust process for monitoring the welfare of those children it migrated, it might have known more about specific allegations of sexual abuse and about the risk of sexual abuse more generally. A robust system of monitoring was more likely to have reduced the risks to the children, by triggering interventions to protect children from sexual abuse, and other harm.

2.7.3 Did SAUK take sufficient care to protect its child migrants from sexual abuse?


11. SAUK’s selection process included a family meeting with a local officer, the completion of a form with details about the family background, the completion of “reasons why the minor has decided to leave home and migrate” and the provision of references. Boys were apparently also advised that Australia was far away, farming was hard work, and migration required careful thought. There was apparently a similar process for the Canadian scheme. It is understood that children would only have been sent overseas by SAUK with the consent of a parent.[7]


12. Although the evidence is incomplete, we have seen correspondence confirming the safe arrival of, and reports about, child migrants at Riverview in 1952, 1954, 1955 and 1960. Mr Juster stated that responsibility for child migrants lay primarily with the receiving country, who were also responsible for aftercare, and Professor Lynch noted that there does not appear to have been an expectation of SAUK receiving reports about child migrants, although some reports were provided.[8]

13. Moreover, there is evidence that when concerns came to the attention of SAUK, they were not ignored and would be raised with the receiving institution:[9] for example:

a. in 1958, seven boys wrote with concerns about Riverview, which led Commissioner Ebbs (SAUK) to write to Colonel Cooper in Sydney, including a note that “The Riverview Training Farm is under constant Government inspection…[10]; and

b. in 1956, two child migrants raised concerns about Riverview being “a kind of Borstal” which was not what they had expected, which led to a series of concerns about Riverview being raised and ultimately its discontinuance as a receiving home for child migrants in 1960.[11]

However, Professor Lynch noted that these documents suggest that following concerns, reassurance was provided by correspondence from Australia, rather than any direct inspection of the institution from the UK.[12] 

Conditions generally

14. The Salvation Army institution at Riverview (Queensland) was given Government approval to receive child migrants in 1950, and this was confirmed in 1952.[13] The 1956 Ross mission raised concerns about the very poor level of accommodation and very unsuitable staff, such that the institution had nothing to commend it for child migrants at all, and on that basis it was put on the confidential “blacklist” of institutions.[14] The Commonwealth Government’s subsequent review did not include Riverview. This appears to be on the basis that they thought it only housed boys in the juvenile range. Perhaps as a result, boys continued to be sent to Riverview until 1960.[15]

15. The 1957 agreement referred to above required that the staff caring for the children be sufficient in number, include women and be as far as possible persons with knowledge and experience of child care methods. Reference was also made to the need for the children to have adequate opportunity to assimilate into Australian life, and other aspects of care,[16] although in light of the lack of systematic reporting, the Inquiry does not understand how SAUK can have been satisfied that these conditions were being met.

We note that it was decided in 1959 that migrants would no longer be sent to Riverview because it was clear it was no longer acceptable.

While SAUK operated a more rigorous selection process than some other sending institutions, its limited supervision and aftercare processes meant that it did not take sufficient care of child migrants to protect them from the risk of sexual abuse.

2.7.4 What has SAUK done in the post-migration period?

16. In response to the UK government’s 2010 apology, SAUK produced a statement referring to the apology given in 2004 by the Salvation Army in Australia to former residents who had been subjected to any form of abuse. This was reiterated in 2009, with deep regret for “any part we may have played in causing…child migrants to have suffered abuse and neglect thousands of miles from home”. SAUK has not provided any compensation or redress to any child migrant, albeit the Salvation Army Australia has.[17]

Although SAUK has apologised, we have not seen any evidence that it provided any other service to former child migrants, such as counselling, nor has it been proactive with regard to compensation to individuals.

SAUK’s statement that it had no ongoing responsibility for the children it migrated was not consistent with what was expected of a “parent organisation” at the time of migration. 



  1. Juster 14 July 2017 127-132; SVA000033_002-005; Lynch 21 July 2017 87-88; EWM000459_003; EWM000005_027; SVA000036_001; SVA000033_003-005; SVA000036_007-009.
  2. Juster 14 July 2017 132-133; SVA000033_006; SVA000036_035-043.
  3. SVA000047_001-002.
  4. Lynch 21 July 2017 86-87. The other two establishments were Bexley and Goulborn (both in New South Wales): EWM000005_162.
  5. Lynch 21 July 2017 88-92; 98; EWM000046 see link: (, EWM000005_162-168; EWM000459_007; SVA000033_011; EWM000402_028; SVA000047_002.
  6. SVA000033_010; SVA000047_002.
  7. Lynch 21 July 2017 94/16-22; SVA000037_005-007; 013-019; 022-027; SVA000033_008
  8. SVA000037_041-044; SVA000038_001-024; SVA000033_009; Lynch 21 July 2017 95/17-25
  9. SVA000033_011.
  10. SVA000038_026-029.
  11. SVA000038_030-056.
  12. Lynch 21 July 2017 97/11-14.
  13. EWM000459_003; EWM000402_027.
  14. Lynch 21 July 2017 97-98.
  15. Lynch 21 July 2017 98/4-13.
  16. SVA000036_037.
  17. SVA000039_001; SVA000033_011.
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