Thank God for the Salvos


Comment by Greg Bright

My last boss at the Sydney Morning Herald, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, was Ross Gittins, who was then, and still is now, the economics editor. If you don’t know him, you’d get an idea from his writings that he is a fabulous person. Fabulous. He grew up a Salvo. And that’s not easy.

To grow up in a Salvation Army family means moving from town to town every couple of years. Salvation Army officers get moved around, as Ross’s family did. For a kid that means it’s hard to make and keep friends. Ross managed to break the mould, made friends, and went to university, the University of Newcastle. To the disappointment of his mother, he says, half-jokingly, in his autobiography, he studied accounting. On graduation he got a job with one of the big firms. His mother said to him: “Why don’t you become a carpenter? You know Jesus was a carpenter.”

The Salvation Army in Australia gives about 16,000 meals a week to hungry people. They assisted, in one way or another, more than 100,000 people this year already because of the floods in Queensland. They handed out money – cash. No-one has to fill in any forms dealing with the Salvos. Thank God for the Salvos.

At the annual lunch to launch its fund-raising effort, the ‘Red Shield Appeal’, in Sydney last Friday (May 3), Miriam Gluyas, the lieutenant-colonel and divisional commander for NSW and the ACT, said: “Last night, as all of us slept safe in our beds, over 100,000 of our fellow Australians didn’t have a roof over their heads. Throughout our country, families are in crisis. Women and children whose homes are no longer safe are fleeing family violence, teenagers who have exhausted their last couch-surfing option, those who have lost everything through addiction… Our services ensure that, no matter how complex their needs or how long-lasting their problems, no-one ever has to face their journey alone.”

Alex Gottshall, a specialist financial public relations manager and long-time supporter of the Salvation Army, was awarded an OAM – Order of Australia Medal – in this year’s Australia Day honours. He was singled out at last Friday’s lunch, not just for being involved in the media for 37 years but also for being loyal to the Salvos’ cause. As with Gittins, Alex makes the often-maligned media look good, as – dare we say – it deserves to look.

There are several prominent investment and super folk who spend a lot of their time working with charities. Ian Martin, for instance, who has recently become the chair of UniSuper, is also the chair of Wayside, a Sydney charity which is a lot like the Salvos. Wayside picks people up out of the gutter too. Wayside fought the NSW Government to introduce a safe drug injection room in Sydney’s Kings Cross. Also, Steve Bracks, the chair of Cbus, fought the Australian Government on behalf of the people of Timor Leste to get their fair share of their offshore oil. He won. Ian MacRitchie, an influential financial planner, set up, with his wife Marrion, a charity called the Emerge Foundation which is also focused on helping the people of Timor Leste. The recently retired Michael Dyer, the former chief executive of NSW’s First State Super, has been a director of Australia for UNHCR for several years and is now its chairman. And there are many others.

– G.B.