Email to Peter Farthing and James Condon, Salvation Army Australia
A while ago, when I sent out an email about the availability of my father’s memorial film, including to representatives from the Salvation Army, I received a reply from Peter Farthing, of the Salvation Army, in which he said,
“Thank you Aletha, it is clear that your father’s memorial was a fittingly weighty event which will contribute to the ongoing quest for justice in this crucial area.”
I have just written back to Mr Farthing and James Condon, of the Salvation Army Australia, with an invitation for them to speak with me about why I have taken the stance I have taken, and why I am angry about how my father, Lewis Blayse, and his family were treated, on the very slim chance that they may actually want to know. On the slim chance that they may actually want to understand why I am doing what I am doing.
“Dear Mr Farthing and Mr Condon,
Yes, this is a “crucial” area. Really, I have no idea why you have written to me referring, in an apparently approving tone, to my quest for justice when it is your organisation that is blocking my and others’ quests for justice.
I am trying to secure the safety of my family and to help others avoid going through what I’ve gone through and what my father has gone through and make sure that they don’t live in the pain they do anymore, because no-one should have to endure what my father and his family have had to endure. No-one should have to live as I now have to live, never having gotten to see the person they loved more than anyone else in the world in a good and safe place and with peace of mind after decades of suffering.
The Salvation Army, by doing what it has to my family, and not just doing the right thing after so many years in which to do it, has given me no other choice but to fight. I’m fighting, as I said at the memorial, for the security of my family. But it’s more than that. Knowing that so many others have continued to suffer long, long after the Salvation Army became aware of what had happened to them, I can’t in all conscience do anything but try to change things for them too. It is what my father would have wanted, and were he still with me, I know he would be telling me to fight for all the people who are still coming forward and saying how badly they’ve been treated. And to fight for those who are too broken or afraid of your organisation to speak out about all they’ve endured.
If you and Mr Condon truly feel all the things you say publicly you feel, frankly, you wouldn’t have done what you did, and I find it difficult to believe otherwise. That’s why I’m angry, if you can’t understand why.
1. You had the documentation proving that my father was totally and permanently disabled over a decade ago.
2. You never once asked me about the consequences of Alkira on my family’s life, not even after my father died.
3. You never asked my father to have legal representation at your meeting with him.
4. You only came to my father after my mother came to the Salvation Army.
5. You only came to my father after your organisation beat him down and crushed his hope for true justice through your lawyers, who treated him appallingly.
6. And then, rather than apply a decision rule that looked at what actually happened to him and the effects the abuse at Alkira had on him and his family, you made a ridiculously low payment that no-one could possibly think could make up for all the losses my father and his family endured.
I now find out from the news that you applied a ‘matrix’ decision rule to payouts. Frankly, no-one who really intended to make things better would dream of applying such a decision rule, because nowhere in the decision rule was any attempt to truly undo damage done. It was an arbitrary and meaningless way of making decisions.
But I’m told that I don’t give people enough chances. So here’s a chance. You know I will be in Sydney next week. Meet with me, therefore, one day after the end of hearings, with my representatives present, and let me tell you, to your faces, why what you did was wrong and what you need to do to make it better, not just for my family, but for other affected families. Maybe you really don’t know? I have no idea. I can only go by what I’ve seen, and what I’ve seen is terrible. As I say, though, I’m told I don’t give people enough chances. If you really don’t understand why I’m angry, let me explain it to you in the simplest language I possibly can.
You have the opportunity to do something right, and I don’t understand why you don’t just do it. I can tell you exactly what to do and how to do it. I’ve spent my life watching my father suffering and can bring my life’s experiences to you in a way that could help 1000s of others. Why wouldn’t you want to know?
You and I know that the Salvation Army does have the resources to do the right thing by victims and their families and that the delivery of true justice and healing could be done in a way that didn’t cause others to suffer. It would be wrong in the extreme of you to try to convince the Australian public that by doing the right thing by the 1000s of victims of Salvation Army Homes and their families that other people would have to suffer, and I truly hope you don’t try to do that, because that would be a gross misrepresentation of the truth.
You, by now, almost certainly have the statement I wrote to the Royal Commission. What I wrote was only the tip of the iceberg about the suffering my father and his family endured. You probably have boxes and boxes of materials from victims other than my father and pleas from them and their families. How can you possibly continue as you have done for so long with the voices of so many people crying out in pain and desperation? How does that fit with the public face of the Salvation Army and all it claims to stand for?
Finally, if you and Mr Condon know that I am right and you know that what is being done by the Salvation Army is wrong, but you are powerless to get your organisation to change, you should do the only moral thing, which would be to resign and state your disappointment with your organisation’s stance, and join me and others in trying to bring about real change. Your resignations would have extraordinary weight, and could be what it takes to get your organisation to change, and change now, how it is doing things. In the process, you’d help 1000s of people. But even if your resignation didn’t bring about immediate change, you would have the satisfaction of knowing that you did the right and proper thing and that, eventually, you and the others you’d be joining would bring about an alleviation of the suffering of so many people who deserve peace. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?
Try putting yourself in my position for just one minute. I’ve grown up hearing about the radical difference between the public and the private “face” of the Salvation Army. It has instilled in me a deep distrust of your organisation, and my experiences, the experiences of my father, and the experiences of other victims of Salvation Army Homes I’ve met over the years and that I am now hearing more about has done nothing but reinforce my position of distrust.
I am not the sort of person who comes crawling on her hands and knees begging for help. In my experience, people either do the right thing or they don’t. If you truly don’t care, I’m not going to waste any more of my time trying to get you to care. As I say, I’m happy to meet with you and explain why you need to be doing things differently. But if that doesn’t work and you continue to block your ears and harden your hearts in the face of all that you are hearing, I have to continue as I have, which is to continue to appeal to the Australian people to send your organisation a clear and direct message that it won’t tolerate injustice and cruelty of this magnitude.”