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Brunswick Stories gives voice to diverse Salvos

Brunswick Stories contributors John and Elizabeth. Photos: Mark Phillips from the Brunswick Voice.

An inner-city Melbourne Corps recently celebrated the diversity of the Brunswick area with a book of personal stories and poetry.

Publishing Brunswick Stories was part of the fulfilment of a goal of Corps Officer Lieutenant Alison Templar to capture the resilience, strength and creativity of the Brunswick Salvation Army community.

The book, launched on 8 May, was the brainchild of Eva Milman – corps volunteer and Diploma of Community Services student placement worker – who saw the potential for recording stories after meeting participants in Sunday services and weekly programs. Programs at the corps include free breakfasts three times a week and a regular women’s group.

Alison said most of the pieces were collected orally to account for those who did not speak English as a first language or had low levels of literacy.

“It was mainly just sitting, listening and letting people share their stories and holding them and crafting them until they were happy with them [being] included in the book,” she said.

The book also features original poems by members of the Brunswick Corps.

“We have a couple of really gifted poets in our community,” Alison said.

Captain Kris Halliday, who leads the Brunswick Corps, said the book also demonstrated the safe, inclusive space that had been built at the centre.

“Something we've gone to great efforts to do is to really let people know from the very outset that we are a safe community,” he said. “We’re really changing perceptions around what it means to be The Salvation Army in a place like Brunswick and are finding the place is really acting its role as a place of safety and belonging for everybody.”

Kris said the initiative had given members of the community who contributed to the book a deeper sense of belonging and ownership.

Project coordinator Eva Milman (left) with Brunswick Stories contributors Elizabeth Calder and John.

“It’s giving them an opportunity to open up more and look for other ways to participate at the Brunswick Salvos,” he said. “They see now on paper that they’re more than just someone who comes and participates in what we do, but they are custodians, they are partners [and] they belong at the Brunswick Salvos.”

Alison said while the corps had a small number of soldiers, participants in the programs and services were ethnically and culturally diverse, with some also belonging to the Muslim and Jewish communities.

“You don’t have to put on a uniform or be fully signed up to be part of our community,” she said. “We are diverse and rich and whosoever is welcome.”

The launch was attended by Merri-Bek City Council staff, local police, Rotary members and members of a neighbouring school. Kris and Alison hope copies of the book will soon be available at the Brunswick Library, neighbouring cafes, neighbourhood houses and council chambers.

To download a copy of the book, click here.


Book inspires moving donation

Brunswick Corps Officer Lieutenant Alison Templar was collecting for the Red Shield Appeal at her local shopping centre, Barkly Square, when she was approached by a woman who said she had read a story from the book.

“The local newspaper had posted a story about the book on Facebook, and included an interview with Elizabeth, a beautiful soul who has become part of the Brunswick Salvos family since seeking help and support following the death of her son,” Alison said.

“A woman came up to the table at Barkly Square and donated $100. She said that she had read the story about Elizabeth on Facebook and was so moved that she wanted to support the Salvos so that we could continue to help people like Elizabeth. This was a great example of the power of our stories and how we can connect through sharing them.”

Elizabeth’s story, and many others, can be downloaded here.


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