In an ever-changing world containing both constant challenge and opportunity, the Salvos have history on their side.
If you were transported back to the Australia of 1880, you might be forgiven for not realising it was even the same country, given how radically it has changed in the past century. In 1880, there were no states, only five separate colonies. Infamous figures such as Ned Kelly were being brought to justice, bringing an end to the era of bushrangers, and England even managed to win a Test match. Since then, we’ve gone from a dominion of England to an independent nation, and been through depressions and war, many natural disasters, gold rushes and tech booms.
The Salvation Army has changed alongside this country, finding ways to meet each new challenge face on and offer a helping hand to Australians in their time of need. As Australia has grown, so have the Salvos, from two men in the back of a wagon parked beneath a gumtree in SA to one of the largest Christian movements and providers of social services in the country, with more than 20,000 members, 10,000 employees and 30,000 ongoing volunteers working together to make a difference in people’s lives.
Understanding that new issues require a new approach, the Salvos have a history of innovation, adapting to a changing cultural landscape. In 1890, we set up the nation’s first employment service, and during the Great Depression of the 1920s and ’30s we provided meals and hope to a nation battling to stay on its feet. In World War II we established ‘Hop In’ centres to support soldiers. In 1945 we established the ‘Flying Padre’, using a small aircraft to visit and care for families on remote properties.
This has continued into the 21st century. In 2004, we created Australia's first problem gambling centre and, in 2005, established Salvos Legal to offer free legal representation to clients who would otherwise be unable to afford a lawyer. And, we continue to improve our emergency relief services to better provide Australians with the help they need when natural disasters suddenly strike.
As Australian society changes over the years, The Salvation Army will keep ensuring it remains relevant, while always seeking to stay true to the same timeless truths on which it was first founded. In the face of an increasingly intolerant world, we have reiterated our commitment to being there for all Australians and demonstrating Jesus Christ’s message of love. We’ll continue to provide open places of worship where people can explore faith, and serve those in need without discrimination.
Our structure of operation in Australia is changing, but our commitment to transforming Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus never will. The calling that led John Gore to say “If there is any man here who hasn’t had a meal today, let him come home with me,” at that inaugural meeting of the Salvation Army in 1880 is the same one that sees our street teams alongside the homeless in our cities or our emergency workers first at the scene of a natural disaster today.
But, even though the number of Australians experiencing hardship and social isolation continues to grow from year-to-year, the amount of resources required to help these people doesn’t necessarily equal the need. That’s why it’s vital we keep looking for ways to do more with what we have, living up to the trust that Australians show us through their generous support.
This continual quest for improvement in the way we do things, from our stewardship to our processes and everything in between, has been the impetus behind the decision to embark on a major change in the way the Army operates in this country.
For almost a century, The Salvation Army in Australia has been divided into two territories—Australia Eastern, comprising New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, and Australia Southern, covering Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australian and the Northern Territory.
On 1 March 2016 the leaders of the two territories, Commissioner Floyd Tidd (Southern) and Commissioner James Condon (Eastern), announced that The Salvation Army in Australia would merge to form a single national territory. This process has begun, and the new national territory will be fully operational by January 2019.
It is a massive undertaking, hence the interval between the initial announcement and the completion date—it’s vital that we take the time needed to get it right. It is a large consolidation, of a size the not-for-profit sector in this nation hasn’t seen for quite some time, but it’s possible that many people won’t even notice. There is no doubt that a large percentage of the public don’t think in terms of Australia Southern or Australia Eastern Territories—they just think of The Salvation Army as a whole.
As a result of this organisational transformation, our administrative structures and processes will be more streamlined and efficient, so we can direct resources where they are needed most—better equipping our frontline leaders, workers and volunteers with the tools they need to respond faster to the needs of Australians.
A national territory will mean an aligned vision regardless of geography, a united voice when speaking up for the powerless and vulnerable, increased innovation shared across the country, stronger partnerships with government bodies and other organisations, better stewardship of the resources we are entrusted with, and—above all—a greater impact in Australian society.
Despite the work involved and the changes required, this new national territory is not a different Salvation Army than the one that has been part of the fabric of Australian society for 137 years. As we progress towards the national territory—and beyond—we will always be focussed on caring for people, creating pathways to faith, building healthy communities and working for justice.
The creation of the Australia Territory is yet another step on the journey the Army in Australia been on since 1880. Our commitment is to continue to adapt to the needs of a changing world, and ensure that your generosity and support make a real difference in the lives of Aussies doing it tough.
And, no matter what, wherever there is hardship or injustice, Salvos will live, love and fight alongside others to transform Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus.