TRISH PASCOE: The bitter, lonely years.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Why do you call it that?
TRISH PASCOE: Because they were bitter and lonely. That's the only thing I can use to describe it.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Some homes were well-run. In others, abuse turned children into angry, sometimes criminal, adults.
MAN IN SHADOW: To be truthful, I cannot look at a 13- or 14-year-old and not think, "I wouldn't mind that".
BEVERLEY FITZGERALD, PRESIDENT, QLD CHILDREN SERVICES TRIBUNAL: Its repercussions are enormous and they ripple out to every facet of a person's life, and we have to start looking at that.
JOHN DALZIEL, THE SALVATION ARMY: That trust has been betrayed and to the Australian public now, I apologise.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tonight on Four Corners, the secret history of the extraordinary cruelty inflicted on children in care.
NEWSREEL: The Salvation Army is a strong supporter of the Scouting movement as a means of building healthy bodies and minds - ideals that are carried through to their schools for children from broken homes. For these youngsters, school is home.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, tens of thousands of boys and girls from broken homes were dispatched to institutions around Australia.
(PHOTOGRAPH LABELLED 'INDOOROOPILLY')
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The damage some homes caused is still there in the lives of middle-aged Australians like Lewis Blayse.
LEWIS BLAYSE: It was out in the middle of nowhere, which is where most of these places were - out in the middle of nowhere.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Lewis Blayse went into care in 1950 when he was five months old. His parents simply couldn't cope.
LEWIS BLAYSE: My mother was about fifth-generation Australian, uh...English, Welsh. Year 6 education, uh...schizophrenia. My father came out as a refugee during World War II from Yugoslavia. The whole village was shot, eventually. Uh...he became a canecutter. He had two years education.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Lewis Blayse's fate was typical of an age when large numbers of children were institutionalised through no fault of their own, with no choice where they went. Placing them in a home run by a church or charity was seen as a safe, inexpensive option.
BEVERLEY FITZGERALD: Children placed in care was usually an economic motivation rather than a child development or child nurturing or child protection, and that the state found often the cheapest way to look after children.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Life in the hundreds of institutions around Australia was ordered and impersonal. At the age of nine, Lewis Blayse was sent to Indooroopilly - a Salvation Army home in Queensland where boys were referred to by numbers.
LEWIS BLAYSE: I was number 32. I'm sorry. I'm going to get upset if I hold that for too long. Number 32.
WALLY McLEOD: I was sent to Indooroopilly, supposedly for psychiatric treatment, of which I never got.
BARRY MASLEN: I was deemed a juvenile delinquent, and my single mother at the time couldn't cope with me.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Wally McLeod and Barry Maslen share memories of life in care. Their stories of life at Indooroopilly tally with Lewis Blayse's accounts.
WALLY McLEOD: You would get up, you would have breakfast, you would collect a lunch wrapped in rag, with dry mince, and you would be marched to school with an officer in a line of three rows.
LEWIS BLAYSE: The lining up, the...the whistles, the toilets, the lights-out time. You know, it was just military and...and your bunks are sort of like, you know, this far apart. No...not...no personal possessions. Spartan.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The chores were as nothing compared with the discipline handed out by the officers in charge.
LEWIS BLAYSE: If you spoke in your own language, you got six cuts on each hand. If you spoke during meals, six cuts on each hand. If you stepped out of line, 'cause you had to line up everywhere, six cuts on each hand.
BARRY MASLEN: I ran away from home with another boy. And...the police caught us at Eumundi and drove us back to the home. On the way back, they asked why we ran away, and we told them and they said they would look into the matter, but I don't think they ever did because nothing changed. When we got back to the home... Um...we were caned 6 times on each hand - 6 times on the knuckles - and 18 times on the backside - bare...bare behind.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Sometimes the pain endured was as much psychological as physical. Lewis Blayse was one of the cleverest boys at Indooroopilly, and he helped organise an escape attempt. When the boys were caught, he had to watch while his mates were brutally punished.
LEWIS BLAYSE: Boys had been escaping, which is part of what you do in boys' homes, and when they brought them back, you know, they were sort of stripped naked, beaten with a bloody rubber hose over a vaulting horse, and we all had to stand around and watch. You know, it was, like...ridiculous. It just got worse and worse - you know, beating people...you know.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: That's completely unacceptable, isn't it?
JOHN DALZIEL: Absolutely. There is no justification for it whatsoever in any circumstances and, even at the time, the Salvation Army did not condone that.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Lewis Blayse lives alone in a ramshackle house in the country. His years in children's homes left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. Like so many former state wards, he's a loner. His marriage has broken down, even though his wife Sylvia remains his greatest supporter. On one thing they both agree - the emotional price paid by them all has been high.
SYLVIA BLAYSE: There's been a lot of screaming, a lot of fighting, a lot of throwing glasses on the floor, a lot of breaking furniture. That's as violent as we ever got, really. But there's been so much anger in our family. That's really, I guess, the main effect.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Has Lew ever tried to harm himself?
SYLVIA BLAYSE: Yes, he's tried to suicide a number of times.
LEWIS BLAYSE: If anybody is to be compensated, I'd say it was my family, because they, you know... You compensate a breadwinner if he's killed at work or something. If they're psychologically killed...the family should still be compensated.