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How the Salvos went from being flour-bombed to loved in Launceston

Songster leader Jeremy Reeve and members at the Launceston Corps, which recently celebrated its 140th anniversary. Photo: Phillip Biggs

From rocky beginnings in November 1883 – when onlookers exploded flour bombs in the Salvationists’ faces or threw mud and beer, to near unanimous support in 2023 – The Salvation Army in Launceston has come a long way.

The Salvos were not always received warmly in the early days – they were seen as a “noisy and disrespectful bunch to many, encouraging the larrikins of the town”, and often arrested during their parades.

However, on Sunday 26 November, the Launceston Corps received a very different reception when the community came together to celebrate exactly 140 years from their first service.

The original Elizabeth Street Barracks. Picture supplied

Corps Officer Aux-Lieut Roderick Brown said the celebration was a testament to the faithfulness and hard work of those who had come before.

“We have a long history of supporting people in practical ways, in tangible ways, and supporting people holistically with their spiritual needs too,” Roderick said.

“The Salvation Army is a faith-based movement, motivated by the love of Jesus. So that’s why we do what we do; helping and caring for people and trying to show them how valued each and every person is in the eyes of God. We want to lift them up.”

Over the past 140 years, 96 corps officers have been appointed in Launceston, all doing their bit, as Roderick says, to support others when they need it most.

“I’ve been involved with The Salvation Army all my life,” he said. “But I've been working here the last eight years, and seriously involved for the past 16 years.

“God called me into this to serve people and serve the community. And seeing the positive transformation made in some people’s lives makes it all worthwhile.”

During the anniversary celebration, photos and archive materials were available to look at. Picture by Phillip Biggs

During the anniversary celebration, photos and archive materials were available to look at and church friends and family shared stories and memories from their time in the corps.

Within two years of the Army ‘opening fire’ in Launceston, the present corps site in Elizabeth Street was obtained and built upon in 1885.

It’s reported that about 1100 people attended the opening of the Elizabeth Street Barracks, with a further 300 to 400 more outside, unable to get in.

In November 2010, the latest building restructure and remodel occurred, integrating all of the Launceston services into one site.

Over the years, the Salvationists opened many social service initiatives and places, including a maternity hospital for unmarried mothers and other young women “to whom life had been unkind”; provided shelter to unemployed single men; fed and clothed those affected by the 1929 Invermay floods; ran soup kitchens in the winter and during the Great Depression; and much more.

The Salvation Army Mothers Hospital in Connaught Crescent, Launceston. Circa 1936. Picture supplied

After 1945, The Salvation Army responded to new social problems by extending its services to assisting people experiencing homelessness, missing persons, drug, gambling, and alcohol abuse, disability and migrant services, employment, and aged accommodation, and helped in emergencies like the 1967 bushfires.

In 1970, the annual Red Shield Appeal doorknock began, raising much-needed funds. In the first year, The Salvation Army raised $9153, equivalent to about $119,206 today.

Despite the initial protests against the Army, The Examiner newspaper reported on 30 November 1883 that “the effects of the good these people are doing is becoming plainly visible”.

An edited version of an article that first appeared in Launceston newspaper The Examiner, author Stephanie Dalton. Photographer: Phillip Biggs


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