Paedophile ring 'lent out boys'
BAYSWATER Boys' Home was a paedophiles' paradise, with several unexplained deaths and missing boys, and others lent to outside paedophiles, a leading abuse lawyer said on Monday.
Angela Sdrinis - whose firm has represented more than 1000 wards of state, including 137 from Bayswater - said systemic abuse by Salvation Army staff was so severe that in some cases boys were killed or allowed to die from their injuries.
''I believe that children may well have been killed or at least allowed to die. Children as young as eight were allowed to abscond, with no efforts made to find them or report to the police,'' Ms Sdrinis said.
''Many of these children would have had no family and no one to take an interest in their existence. Society regarded these children as worthless, and these attitudes were mirrored by police.'' The deaths of such children may well not have been investigated, she said.
In other testimony, boys from Victorian orphanages later sent to prison said that was not nearly as bad as the boys' homes, according to the Care Leavers Australia Network.
It was another litany of horror at the inquiry as CLAN told of repeated and systematic rapes over years in many orphanages, physical and psychological abuse amounting to torture, and a callous indifference by police and authorities, whether church or state.
CLAN chief executive Leonie Sheedy said a sample of 18 years showed that 1352 children absconded from religious and non-government homes and 1877 fled state institutions.
''A great number were running way from child rape, and sexual and other criminal assaults. What did the police do? They simply returned them to their abusers. They did not ask why the children were running away or inquire into their wellbeing,'' Ms Sheedy said.
''The boys who ran away from homes and ended up in prison have told me over and over again that prison was much better than the boys' homes.''
Ms Sdrinis said the police searched the former Bayswater Boys' Home in 2009, but no charges were laid. One victim, Rod Braybon, told police in 2009 of reports of two wards of state who died of beatings in the 1950s and were allegedly buried in the Sugarloaf Hill area of the home, while three other boys disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
Ms Sdrinis said there was compelling evidence of the rape of many victims by serial abusers who were allowed to molest children for more than 20 years. ''In the 1970s the Bayswater Boys' Home was staffed by a paedophile ring, and staff not only sexually abused the children in their care but also allowed other paedophiles free access to boys, who were removed from the home and sexually abused at will.''
One such was John Bayer, who was jailed for nine years in 2008 for abusing 12 victims, five of them from the Bayswater home. In 2006, the Salvation Army secretly paid more than $1.5 million in compensation to more than 50 victims who were beaten, raped and tortured from the 1950s to 1970s by Salvation Army officers at the Bayswater home, Box Hill Boys' Home and East Kew Girls' Home, all now closed.
CLAN spokesman Frank Golding said the processes of dealing with child abuse had ''not improved at all'' in the past 100 years.
He said the responses of institutions over thousands of cases followed a similar pattern. This was disbelief (''you can't take the word of a child over the word of an adult''), denial, blaming the victim (''the girl was wicked and used her seductive charms against the priest'') and blaming the parents (''the children come from immoral families, what else could you expect?'').
Law Institute of Victoria president Michael Holcroft told the inquiry that under present Victorian law, there was no obligation to report suspicions of child abuse to police. The mandatory reporting required of some professionals was to the Department of Human Services.
He said failure to report reasonable suspicion to police should be a separate offence under the Crimes Act.