A leader of the Salvation Army has apologised for breaching the ‘‘trust’’ of the community as he launched the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal for 2014 in Brisbane.
Commissioner James Condon told more than 1000 people that he felt "shocked, ashamed and aggrieved" by what he heard at the February hearings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse.
'Trust has been betrayed': Salvation Army
The Salvation Army Commissioner feels "shocked, ashamed and aggrieved" at sexual abuse within the organisation while saying resources are "stretched to the limit".
The commission has been told boys were abused - both sexually and physically - while in the Salvation Army’s care.
"I want to begin this morning by saying I feel the trust has been betrayed," Commissioner Condon said.
"The second hearings continue today and I may well be criticised for being here today, rather than being there.
"But I am used to being criticised, particularly in these days."
Commissioner Condon, who is leader of the Salvation Army’s Eastern Territory covering Queensland, New South Wales, and the ACT, repeated his apology made after the February hearings.
"I have expressed to the nation, and indeed to the world, my unreserved apology, regret and shame at what took place,’’ he said.
He promised none of the money raised from the Red Shield Appeal would be used to pay victims of abuse.
"I want to assure you there is no donated funds through the Red Shield Appeal, or any other means, that is used for compassionate grants to the survivors," he said.
Commissioner Condon's comments come as the family of one of the men abused at the Salvation Army's Alkira Home at Indooroopilly called on Australians not to donate to the Red Shield Appeal.
Lewis Blayse was abused at the Alkira Home between 1958 and 1960.
He gave evidence at the first Royal Commision hearings.
The Salvation Army paid $44,000,including $14,000 towards his recent funeral.
His eldest daughter, Aletha, said Australians should not donate to the Red Shield Appeal.
"It has a nerve to be asking people to support it when it has treated victims like Lewis and his family so appallingly," she said.
The Salvation Army hopes to raise $80 million nationally, including $10 million from Queenslanders and $5.3 million from Brisbane, through its appeal.
At the launch, two men shared their personal stories of recovery with the support of the Salvation Army.
David Corby used to "sleep rough" in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens and in warm corners of the Brisbane CBD.
After working through foster care problems, he ended up on drugs and with no motivation.
However, a friend introduced him to the Salvos’ Youth Outreach Service - known on the streets as YOS - and he turned his life around.
He recently had lunch with the Salvation Army at the prestigious Queensland Club, overlooking the place where he once slept as a homeless teenager.
"It was a pretty interesting experience. It put into stark contrast the kind of progress I have made with the Salvation Army over the past five years or so," he said.
"I used to live in the CBD, I used to sleep in the parks and in the car parks, wherever I could find a place that was a bit private and a bit warm.
"So eating lunch at the Queensland Club with these fine gentlemen was just a bit of an interesting contrast."
It was music that kept his hopes alive.
On Thursday, he played piano while 1000 business leaders, politicians and other guests had breakfast.
"Playing piano has been a key part of my life for many years," he told gathering.
"When I was in Year 5, they had a music room with electronic keyboards.
"I started to tinker with the preset songs that you could just follow along on the LED screens.
"So I started to play along on the keys and memorised classic works by Beethoven and Mozart."
He now works as a barista for chocolate store Max Brenner and hopes to travel overseas.
The other speaker, Jason Quattromani, shared his path from a drug user at the point of taking his own life to now working with the Salvation Army’s Moonyah Recovery Services.
"I hated myself, didn’t like myself and I wanted to end my life," he said.
He survived after people came to help and called his mother.
Jason told of beginning the long journey through detox to learn to trust people. He eventually entered the Salvation Army’s Moonyah Recovery Service for addicts.
He now plays trombone in one of the Salvation Army’s big bands after buying one, something he could never have imagined a decade ago on the streets.
"From wanting to die to now, I want to live,” he said.
Queensland Governor Penelope Wensley referred to Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities as she launched the appeal.
"It’s about human suffering, poverty and injustice," she said.
"And above all it is an enduring testimony to the best, and the worst, of human nature.
"So it is directly relevant to us this morning."
She quoted the famous opening lines.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity."
Premier Campbell Newman, who was among the guest, praised Commissioner Condon for his words and donated $60,000 of behalf of the Queensland Government to the appeal.
The Salvation Army holds its annual Red Shield Appeal through May this year. Its doorknock appeal runs 24-25 May, 2014.