The Salvation Army is one of the largest welfare providers in Australia. In Gladstone, our doors have always been open to families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet. In the mid 80s, the history book notes that there was a 30 percent increase in requests for The Salvation Army’s emergency food and financial assistance due to increasing unemployment and rising costs. When dozens of people lost their jobs from the smelter at Boyne Island, The Salvation Army experienced a 139 percent increase in requests for assistance over the following eight months and worked hard to meet local needs. Today, The Salvation Army in Gladstone continues to offer assistance to those in need through welfare assistance and the provision of low-cost clothing and household goods at its Gladstone and Tannum Sands Family Store.
From the early days when the Gladstone Salvation Army used to march the streets of the city, to today, when local Salvos can be found teaching budgeting skills or running children’s activities; one thing has remained the same – The Salvation Army is about people finding freedom.
In 1919, John Stewart found freedom through Jesus after he came into contact with The Salvation Army during the building of its new hall. An account in the Gladstone Salvation Army history book reads: Our comrade, who is a practical business man, and assisted in the erection of our newly acquired property, was very capable in every way, but for the drink, this having become such a weakness that his heart and life became a burden ... recently he sought Christ, Who saved him from drink and tobacco and he is a living witness for God in the town.
The Salvation Army “opened fire” in Gladstone on 30 August 1894, with its first officer Captain Walter Barker. An early excerpt from The Salvation Army’s War Cry newspaper describes the work as thus: Staff-Captain Spargo and the writer boarded the S.S Cintra at the Brisbane wharf on Saturday, August 25, bound for the opening of Army operations in Gladstone. After travelling we arrived at our destination and I must say that it is one of the bonniest little spots I ever saw. The harbour somewhat resembles that of Sydney, and the scenery around its shores is lovely ... Nearly everyone in the district wishes us abundant success.
The Salvation Army soldiered on in Gladstone for the next eight years, but closed for reasons now unclear on 8 February 1902. After a five-year hiatus, the Gladstone Salvation Army was re-opened by Ensign Harry Flatt in 1908 and this time, it was here to stay.
Meetings were first held in Gladstone at the Oddfellows’ Hall and other rented premises until a new hall was built and opened on 6 February 1919. In 1974, a new hall was built and opened. Today, The Salvation Army in Gladstone is located in Goondoon Street, which is also the location of the Gladstone Family Day Care.
Not content to sit still, the early Salvationist pioneers took their ministry further afield and by 1915 an Outpost Hall had been secured in Beecher. Several Young People’s groups were also established in nearby communities such as Rocky Glen, Burua, Machine Creek and Talaba. In Calliope, The Salvation Army acted as Chairman of a “union church” which included three denominations – The Salvation Army, the Church of England and the Presbyterian Church. This arrangement lasted until 1973, when The Salvation Army relinquished its share.
The Salvation Army in Gladstone has produced and hosted its fair share of outstanding Salvationists. In 1949, then-Second Lieutenant William Cairns took charge of the Gladstone Salvation Army. It was from Gladstone that he married Lieutenant Bernice Woodland and the two went on to become Commissioners, with William serving as international secretary of the worldwide Salvation Army.
In 1987, local Salvationist Glennis Mills was honoured with a Citizen Award for her work with foster children. The Gladstone Salvation Army history book records that she had fostered about 200 children over the past 18 years.