Beginnings in Australia

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The First Salvo Meeting

On 5 September 1880, two Salvationists from England, Edward Saunders and John Gore, led the first Salvation Army meeting in Australia.  Gore and Saunders 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 from the back of a greengrocer's cart in Adelaide Botanic Park.  When Gore said "If there is any man here who hasn't had a decent meal today, let him come home to tea with me," little did he realise that within a century, The Salvation Army would feed hundreds of thousands of Australians each year.  Nevertheless, he was expressing the ethos of an organisation which, from its earliest days, was concerned for a person's physical as well as spiritual needs.

In a climate where religion had failed to really gain acceptance, Saunders and Gore presented themselves as ordinary men.  Without theological training or the status of ordination, the railway worker and the builder invited their small audience to attend a meeting of The Salvation Army that evening.  A number agreed to attend, and Saunders and Gore formed themselves into a Corps (church) under the temporary leadership of Gore.  After an appeal to London for officers to be sent, Captain and Mrs Thomas Sutherland were despatched on the S.S. Aconcagua, arriving at Adelaide in February 1881.

Adelaide SutherlandThe new officers arrived wearing the first Salvation Army uniforms seen in Australia. 

Thomas SutherlandThomas 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.

By 1883 the first Salvation Army Social Services Institution in the world was established in Australia: Major Barker rented a small two roomed house with a lean-to in Lygon Street, Carlton (Victoria) to house released prisoners.  The Lygon Street Home in Melbourne soon proved too small and on 8 December 1883 larger premises were rented in Argyle Place South, Carlton.  This was the beginning of the Salvation Army’s institutional social work.

From this humble beginning, The Salvation Army grew rapidly in Australia.  Pioneer Salvationists faced rowdy and sometimes violent opposition, with at least two members being fatally injured.  However, by 1890, mob attacks had virtually ceased, and by the early 1900s Salvationists were accepted in the general Australian community. 

The Salvation Army can be found working and sharing the love of God in the majority of communities throughout Australia, and has been a part of our community of Hurstville since 1899.


Contact info

Cnr Bond & Dora Streets
Hurstville, NSW 2220

Ph. (02) 9570 2617
Fax. (02) 9570 4840

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“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12

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