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History and Heritage

From our biggest national celebrations to our darkest moments of despair, for more than 130 years our stories have intertwined with Australia’s milestones.

A continuing vision

When William Booth first offered the gospel and basic social services to London’s underprivileged in the mid-1860s, he could not have conceived the global response to The Salvation Army. In 1881 it was Captain and Mrs Thomas Sutherland who first brought the uniform to Australia. Since then we’ve grown to an organisation encompassing hundreds of Officers who reach tens of thousands of Australians every year. And internationally we offer programs and services in more than 120 countries – bringing hope, assistance and compassion to the people who need it most.

Australian initiatives such as employment services, court and prison programs, disaster relief, and international development have all been positively impacting people’s lives for well over 100 years. This continuation of vision and mission is underpinned by the values embedded by Booth all those years ago. And because of this, our heritage continues to pave the way to our future. 

Here are some things that may surprise you:


The world’s earliest social work

In 1883 Melbourne’s Salvation Army Prison-Gate Brigade offered discharged prisoners a home and the prospect of a job – one of the first permanent social services in the world.

Initiatives in international development 

Hamodava Tea was the world’s very first fair-trade venture. We imported unblended tea and sold it in Australia, with the profits used to return poor Sri Lankan farmers to the land.

Limelight Studio 

Did you know we built one of the first film studios in the world? And the studio’s first film, Soldiers of the Cross, is possibly the first costumed narrative drama ever produced.


Since 1899 right through to East Timor, and wherever our troops are today, Salvation Army Officers go to war with Australian troops.

Disaster relief and emergency services

Droughts, floods and cyclones; fires, transport disasters and workplace tragedies – in Australia’s most desperate moments we’ve been on the ground helping people get their lives back together.

Symbols and uniform

Learn how to tell a bandsman from a songster to a general to a commissioner to a colonel to an ordinary soldier, just by looking at their hats.

Flying Padre Service

Our Flying Padre Service began with a cloth and wire bi-plane and has now been offering support to remote Australians for 70 years.