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Salvation Army locked boy in room for days without toilet, royal commission told

Justice Peter McClellan conducts the Royal Commission proceedings in Sydney.

Justice Peter McClellan conducts the Royal Commission proceedings in Sydney. Photo: Supplied

A man who as a boy was locked in solitary confinement for days without a toilet at a Salvation Army boys' home said the organisation's "redress scheme" effectively continued the abuse, and likened the organisation's uniformed officers to "the Gestapo".

The man, referred to as JE, told the Royal Commission into child sex abuse on Friday that he was sent to the Riverview boys' home in Queensland in the late 1960s, when he was about 15.

"I remember being locked in a small room in solitary confinement with some boys who were 'wog bashing' me," JE said, fighting back tears.

"There was no toilet, not even a bucket ... If you had to go to the toilet, you had to just go and they threw some newspaper to clean it up."

"I had to sleep on the same floor."

JE, his brother and a number of friends made a desperate escape bid 12 days after he arrived, nearly drowning when he dived into a swollen river.

The commission heard that, decades later, when JE sought compensation, the Salvation Army effectively denied that such solitary confinement had ever taken place.

In March 2008, the organisation's head of personnel, Major Peter Farthing, said the army had been "unable to identify the nature" of the solitary confinement room.

In light of this, and the fact that JE had "only" been at the home for 12 days before escaping, the Salvation Army initially said it "did not find it appropriate" to offer him an ex-gratia payment.

"It sounded like one of those letters you get from a hotel when complain about the room," JE said.

"I feel like the Salvation Army continued the abuse by treating me like a turd."

JE continued to fight for compensation and eventually the Salvation Army agreed to pay him $20,000 and provide a letter of apology.

He said the apology looked like a form letter and had been "completely unsatisfactory".

"Their main motivating factor is to keep the cost down ... keep a lid on it and get it out of here," he said.

"The fact that they didn't meet with me - it was just, 'I'm sorry, good luck'."

When asked by counsel for the Salvation Army, Kate Eastman, whether he would now like to speak to an officer face-to-face, JE said: "If I see one of those uniforms come within a metre of me, you better be there, OK?"

"If I see that Gestapo come near me ... I'd like them in plain clothes with an open mind and an open heart."

The hearing continues.

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