Butchers identify two biggest needs in Bairnsdale community
Emergency relief and homelessness are the two priorities that Major Cheryl and Captain Russell Butcher have been focusing on since taking up their new appointments at Bairnsdale Corps in Victoria’s East Gippsland.
The Butchers, having moved 150km ’up the road’ from Moe earlier this year, are settling into the community after stepping into the role vacated by Captains Claire and David Jones.
“We’re just really excited to be here, and it’s a good opportunity to build on the good work of the two officers before us,” Cheryl said.
However, Cheryl concedes that there has been an increase in people seeking assistance due to cost-of-living pressures.
“Some days you’re run off your feet – Mondays are especially busy with people in need of food parcels,” she said.
“Cost-of-living pressures have made life difficult for many – you only need to look at the prices of items in supermarkets. Rents are high, and it’s becoming more difficult for people trying to find a rental.
“While there will always be that group who are disadvantaged, the group seems to be expanding with mortgage stress. There’s that group that wouldn’t have asked for help before that are now doing so.”
The Butchers have also seen an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness.
“We’ve had people come and get food parcels who are homeless,” Cheryl said. “A lot of people are still recovering from the bushfires.
“People are unaware of how wide the homelessness problem is because they can’t see it. Many couch surf, and those who are homeless tend to hide away of a day and come out at night.”
Russell is particularly vocal in advocating for government to spend more money on social housing.
“The government needs to stop spending money on sport and spend it on social housing,” Russell said. “Having somewhere safe to live should be a priority for them. Spending money on sport is not helping a person on the streets.”
Family affair Cheryl joined The Salvation Army in 1985 but left to start a family before returning in 2004.
She is pleased to be in Bairnsdale, where her father, Brian Morgan, was born and lived for a time before heading to training college to become a Salvation Army officer.
There, he met Cheryl’s mother, Carolyn Bath, from Western Australia, who was also training to be an officer.
Growing up in Kyabram (north central Victoria), it was her parents’ influence that formed Cheryl’s decision to join The Salvation Army.
She met Russell, who joined the Army in 2010, and the couple have lived in Northam (WA), Rosebud (Vic.) and Moe for four years before arriving in Bairnsdale earlier this year. Their two sons, aged 32 and 26, still reside in Rosebud.
“We were asked if we would like to come to Bairnsdale, and we agreed because we thought it would be a good fit,” Cheryl said, adding that she and Russell would continue “to get to know the needs of the wider community so that we can address them”.
This is an edited version of an article that appeared in the Bairnsdale Advertiser