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Inspiring stories highlight Red Shield Appeal launch in Canberra

Major Peter and Captain Tara McGuigan, and Captains Kim and Steve Haworth, with Shieldy at the Canberra Red Shield Appeal launch. Photos: Greg Donovan

The Salvation Army has held a business breakfast in Canberra to help promote the Red Shield Appeal during a sitting week of Parliament.

The keynote speaker at the 24 May event at Canberra Rex Hotel was the Hon. Dr Anne Aly MP, Minister for Early Childhood Education and Minister for Youth. Dr Aly shared how she arrived in Australia from Egypt as a young girl with her family in the late 1960s, living at different times in Albury and Brisbane before settling in Sydney. She told of how The Salvation Army had been there for her family in those early years, starting in Brisbane.

By her late 20s, she was a single mum with two young boys, a victim-survivor of family and domestic violence. Again, The Salvation Army journeyed with her through these tough times when she lived on the minimum wage. She described the trajectory of her life from that point as “very fortunate”.

Dr Anne Aly MP shares her life story at the Canberra launch.

“I’m immensely grateful for the way you helped – without judgment, without casting blame – a woman who was at the lowest point in her life,” she concluded. “I know how much The Salvation Army does, but I also know how much it means to the individuals they help.” *

Testimonial speaker Susie Slapp, from Canberra City Corps, was also grateful for how the Salvos had helped her. Interviewed by corps officer Captain Sally Stevens, Susie revealed the seemingly insurmountable challenges she had overcome with the help of The Salvation Army, including dysfunctional relationships, alcohol abuse and attempting to take her own life.

“I woke up one morning and saw the mess I was in and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I got on the phone and found a detox service, and I found The Salvation Army Canberra Recovery Services. That was the beginning of me coming alive. I was alive, but I wasn’t living. Now I’m the happiest person I have ever, ever been.”

At the start of the event, Emcee Alex Sloan AM welcomed attendees and special guests, including Federal Parliamentarians and Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory. Senator Dean Smith represented the Hon. Peter Dutton MP, Leader of the Opposition, and Mr Deepak-Raj Gupta represented Andrew Barr MLA, Chief Minister of the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory. Ms Sloan also thanked Mr Peter Barclay and the King O’Malley’s Hotel, who sponsored the breakfast.

Also present were Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK, AFC, former Chief of the Defence Force, Ngunnawal Elder Nin Jannette Phillips, who shared a Welcome to Country, and senior Salvation Army leaders Colonel Winsome Merrett, Chief Secretary, and Colonel Rodney Walters, Secretary for Communications.

Captain Kim Haworth, Divisional Commander for NSW/ACT, presented her own welcome and challenge to partner with the Salvos by giving to the Red Shield Appeal. “Amid the rising cost of living, the Red Shield Appeal this year will focus on bringing to life the struggles of everyday Australians,” Kim said. “We are asking you to please dig deep and do what you can to help us extend our reach.”

His Excellency General, the Hon. David Hurley AC, DSC (Rtd), Governor-General of Australia, brought his support for the Red Shield Appeal and a greeting via video link. “The Salvation Army is one of Australia’s most recognisable and trusted charities,” said the Governor-General. “The Salvos have been part of our social fabric for more than 140 years, supporting everyday Australians when they need them the most.”

Mr Andrew Balzanelli, Salvos’ Canberra Advisory Committee member and Senior Director of the Jones Lang LaSalle property management group, steered attendees through two opportunities to donate.

At the end of the formal part of the event, Colonel Winsome Merrett thanked participants and prayed for Australia. Nearly $70,000 was donated, including a lead gift from the ACT Government of $15,000.

David McIntosh secured a signed ACT Brumbies rugby jersey at the Canberra launch with a $700 donation bid.

“I want to say thank you to the Hon. Dr Anne Aly MP,” Winsome said. “And also to Susie. Your stories, I believe, have inspired us today. You remind us that this sense of hopelessness, shame and humiliation pervades one too many people across this nation, and we want to change that. I believe the presence of so many in the room today and the donations given will help us to see that change. Such generosity makes a difference to those who are struggling, feeling alone and disconnected.”

More than $5000 was then added to donations through an auction of items especially given to the Salvos. Officiating were Salvos’ Canberra Advisory Committee Member Craig Wagstaff and Steve Thomas from the Edge Real Estate Group. Items included Salvos socks signed by the Governor-General and Mrs Hurley, Christmas ornaments made for Government House, a Canberra Raiders jersey signed by the Raiders team, and a signed Brumbies Jersey.

* An abridged version of Dr Aly’s speech will be published in Salvos Magazine, 17 June edition.

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