1880-1900: Gaining a Foothold in Australia
Several localities lay claim to having held the first Salvationist meetings in Australia. These pioneering meetings were conducted by various immigrants who had been converted by The Salvation Army back in Britain. It is Adelaide, however, that owns the right to claim the first official Salvation Army Corps in Australia.
John Gore and Edward Saunders (below) were both converts of the early Christian Mission. They met unexpectedly in the colony of South Australia and decided to form a Salvation Army Corps in Adelaide.
Gore and Saunders held a street meeting in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Gore's parting invitation to those standing around listening, reflected Booth's philosophical bent towards Christian ministry: "If there is any man here who hasn't had a decent meal today, let him come home to tea with me."
Because there were no Salvation Army Officers in Australia, John Gore assumed temporary leadership in September 1880. Once established, the pair of pioneers appealed to General William Booth in London to send out an Officer.
Captain and Mrs Thomas Sutherland were despatched on the S.S. Aconcagua, arriving at Adelaide in February 1881. The new officers arrived wearing the first Salvation Army uniforms seen in Australia. Thomas wore a scarlet jacket (ex-British Army), navy-blue trousers, and spike-topped white helmet, and Adelaide wore a princess robe-style dress with a small bonnet. They brought with them 12 uniforms, and were met by 68 converts and Army followers.
Within three years, 32 Officers were commissioned and 12 corps formed, and on the third anniversary 3,600 soldiers mustered for the grand celebrations.
In 1882, Major James Barker and his wife Alice were appointed by the General and sent from London to extend and establish The Salvation Army's work "in all the colonies of the Southern Seas".
Intending to disembark at the Port of Adelaide, a wharf-strike forced the Barkers on to Williamstown, Victoria. Friends of The Salvation Army met them and took them into Melbourne, where the Barkers were so impressed by the potential of Victoria that they determined to begin work there.
The following dates are generally accepted as those on which The Salvation Army commenced work in the Australasian colonies:
- South Australia September 5, 1880
- New South Wales December 4, 1882
- Victoria December 24, 1882
- New Zealand April 1883
- Tasmania November 1883
- Queensland 1885
- Western Australia December 1891
- Northern Territory 1940's