140 years ago, on September 5th, 1880, a tradie and a railway worker stood on the back of an apple cart in Adelaide’s Botanic Park and shouted, “If there’s a man here who hasn’t had a square meal today, let him come home to tea with me.” They didn’t know this at the time, but they were about to start something that would significantly transform the lives of tens of millions of Australians in the years to come. That declaration is known as the first unofficial Salvation Army meeting in Australia and what was to become famously regarded as the birth of The Salvos.
140 years on and we are still here! While we may not be jumping on the back of apple carts, we are still providing meals to those who need it. We are still providing accommodation for those suffering from homelessness, family and domestic violence and addiction. We are still providing emergency relief for those in financial hardship. We are still assisting those impacted by disaster. We are still giving hope, where it is needed most.
It is often said to me that, “There is nothing more Aussie than calling The Salvation Army, ‘The Salvos’.” And while I agree that The Salvos have become known as quintessentially Aussie, from the rattling of the tins during the Red Shield Appeal, to your local Salvo selling the War Cry magazine at the pub – I believe that there is something even more Aussie when it comes to The Salvos. That is, the ability for us to come together and help out a friend, or even a complete stranger, when they are in their time of need. That is why, on our 140-year anniversary of being in Australia, The Salvos want to honour the extraordinary Australian public who have donated and supported us over the years. To you all we say “Thank-you!”
We also want to acknowledge our amazing volunteers who have given an incredible amount of their time over the years. A rough estimate over the years suggests that there have been well over a staggering 5 million volunteers who have supported The Salvos throughout our 140-year history. And volunteering comes in many forms, too. It could anything from knocking on the doors of your neighbours to collect money for the Red Shield Appeal, to cooking meals at your local Salvos centre, to handing out presents to those in need at Christmas time. Whatever your contribution has been, big or small, The Salvos could not function without you, and we could never have impacted the millions of people we have helped over the years without your generosity and time.
The Salvos have been here through it all in Australia. Through two World Wars, where we provided food, drink and support to our frontline servicemen and women, to countless disasters providing emergency relief to those impacted, and throughout periods of economic turmoil like the Great Depression or the Global Financial Crisis. And today, through COVID-19, we are here on the front-line, helping the most vulnerable in our society in their time of need. We have been there through it all. And through it all, our heartbeat has always been the Australian people.
So, again, Thank-you to all those who have supported The Salvos over the years. Although your work may go unnoticed, we honour and appreciate you all. Thank you for your support over the last 140 years, and here is to 140 more!
Major Bruce Harmer
The Salvation Army’s National Public Relations Secretary