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Salvos honour the Australian public on its 140th anniversary

7 September 2020

Salvos honour the Australian public on its 140th anniversary

The Salvation Army is celebrating 140 years in Australia and is honouring the Australian public for its incredible support, generosity and volunteering over more than fourteen decades of serving Aussies in need.

On 5 September 1880, John Gore and Edward Saunders conducted the first unofficial meeting of the Salvos in Australia, speaking to a group of people in Adelaide’s Botanic Park.

At the end of the meeting, Gore famously said; “If there's a man here who hasn't had a square meal today, let him come home to tea with me” – foreshadowing the millions of acts of service from the Salvos to the Australian public in the years to come.

Now, 140 years on, the Salvos are reflecting on what has allowed them such a rich and fruitful history of serving the most marginalised and helpless in our society. Their answer – everyday Aussies.

“We want to thank every single Australian who has supported the Salvos over the years. Whether you have donated, volunteered or helped in any way, the Salvos wouldn’t be able to do what we do, without your ongoing championing of our work and cause,” said Major Bruce Harmer, The Salvation Army’s National Public Relations Secretary.

In a rough estimate from Salvos’ history, it was found that well over a staggering five million volunteers have supported the Salvos over the years – helping everyday Aussies in their time of need.

“One of the most amazing things about being Australian, is that we come together in times of need,” said Major Harmer. “Whether that’s supporting a friend in a crisis, volunteering during a natural disaster, or digging deep to help our fellow Aussies in need, we’ve got each other’s back. In whatever form you’ve supported the Salvos over the years, we thank you on behalf of the millions of Australians we are privileged to serve.”

Throughout the past 140 years, the Salvos have been on the frontline helping Aussies – whether providing food and support to frontline servicemen and women during wartime, offering emergency relief through countless disasters, or giving financial, emotional and spiritual assistance during a crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic – we remain committed to serving the Australian public and being the people’s ‘Salvation Army’.

Major Harmer added; “Thank you to all the Aussies who have backed us over the years. Salvos will continue to live, love and fight to transform the lives of Australians, one life at a time with the love of Jesus.”

Salvos historical snapshot


  • 1880: John Gore and Edward Saunders hold a meeting in the name of The Salvation Army in Adelaide Botanic Park – this is now known as the beginning of The Salvation Army in Australia
  • 1881: The first Salvation Army officers in Australia, Captains Tom and Adelaide Sutherland, arrive from England
  • 1881: The first Salvos brass band formed in Adelaide
  • 1883: First local publication of the Warcry magazine (recently changed to Salvos Magazine)
  • 1883: Prison Gate Brigade formed – offering ex-prisoners accommodation and support
  • 1883: First Salvos Women’s Rescue Home opened in Launceston
  • 1886: First Prison Gate Brigade Home opened – this would evolve to become Salvos’ op shops and Salvos Stores.



  • 1892: The Salvation Army responded to the harsh conditions of an economic depression by opening the Free Employment Bureau – a model adopted by the Australian Government and the forerunner of The Salvation Army Employment Plus of today.
  • 1894: Salvos purchased 69 Bourke Street in Melbourne, which served as the Territorial Headquarters for Australia until 1921 and for southern Australian until 1980



  • Limelight Studios, at the Bourke Street Territorial HQ produced ‘Soldiers of the Cross’ – a ground-breaking moving picture, utilising many innovative techniques
  • 1904: Arnott’s SAO biscuits launched in Australia and thought to be named for Salvation Army Officer, Arthur Arnott



  • 1914: WWI – Salvation Army chaplains deployed to help those on the front line. Salvation Army chaplain William ‘Fighting Mac’ Mackenzie was one such chaplain and was remembered for his bravery and courage
  • 1914: Red Shield Defence Services was formed – The ‘Sallyman’ trucks that went around providing food and drink to service personnel remain active today
  • Salvation Army nurses served with the Australian Army Nursing Service



  • The Salvation Army provide family tracing assistance to reflect a service commenced in the UK in 1885
  • 1921: Salvos divided into two Australian territories – Eastern and Southern – to serve a growing nation
  • 1923: Foster House men’s homelessness refuge, was opened in Surry Hills, NSW



  • 1930: Salvos provided food, accommodation and clothes during the Great Depression
  • 1939: WWII – Red Shield Defence Services provided assistance to Australians serving in places of conflict around the world



  • 1945: Flying Padre Service was started by Vic Pedersen – light aircraft flying around remote Australia to provide practical and emotional support to those lonely and isolated still exists to this day



  • 1955: Aussie Salvationist, Major Alan Gowlett, discovered mountain ranges in Antarctica while working with an Australian Government research party – they were named the Gowlett Peaks
  • 1956: Salvos began work in PNG through Salvo officers Keith and Edna Baker



  • 1964: The Bridge Program – for alcohol and other drugs rehabilitation – began
  • 1965: First Red Shield Appeal doorknock was conducted



  • 1974: Cyclone Tracy – Salvos among first responders assisting those impacted
  • 1977: Granville train disaster – Salvos Emergency Services team of 200 people on the ground, providing 11,000 drinks and 7000 meals, as well as emotional support



  • 1982: Salvos Care Line was established – 24-hour crisis phone service
  • 1983: Ash Wednesday Bushfires, Victoria – Salvos on the front line offering assistance
  • 1987: Brisbane Youth Outreach service (YOS) began – to date YOS has transformed the lives of more than 60,000 young people



  • 1992: 24-hour youth drop-in centre, Oasis, was opened by Alan Staines
  • 1995: Salvos began outback ministry through deployment of rural chaplains
  • 1997: Thredbo Landslide – 70 Salvos provided emotional support and over 16,000 meals to those impacted



  • 2004: Salvos established Australia’s first centre to address problem gambling
  • 2005: Salvos Legal Humanitarian established a first-of-its-kind law firm, offering free legal assistance to the vulnerable – mainly in immigration and family law
  • 2008: Salvos opened Australia’s Safe House for women who have experienced trafficking or slavery



  • 2017: Cyclone Debbie – Salvos helped feed hundreds of families impacted
  • 2017: Salvos Funerals began, providing affordable and transparent funeral options for grieving families
  • 2019: Black Summer Bushfires – SAES teams on the front line provided food, financial grants, and emotional support (counselling and chaplaincy) to those impacted and are still providing assistance today



  • COVID-19 – Salvos working through the pandemic to help those most vulnerable with emergency relief, financial counselling, housing and support


The Salvation Army acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters throughout Australia. We pay our respect to Elders and acknowledge their continuing relationship to this land and the ongoing living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia.

The Salvation Army is a child safe organisation that is committed to ensuring the wellbeing of children and young people, and protecting them from harm.

13 SALVOS (13 72 58)

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