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Policy and Advocacy team celebrates five years of being a voice for change

The Salvation Army’s Jennifer Kirkaldy (centre) with Michael Chester (Co-CEO Uniting WA) and Claerwen Little (CEO Uniting Care) after they addressed the Senate Inquiry into the worsening housing crisis last year.



The Salvation Army’s Policy and Advocacy team – created to give The Salvation Army a united voice on issues of social justice – has just marked its fifth anniversary.


The Salvation Army’s two former Australian territories (Australia Eastern and Australia Southern) merged in 2017 to create one national territory. The merger process, known as Australia One, provided a structure for The Salvation Army to best deliver its spiritual and social mission to all Australians.


The Policy and Advocacy team was established in 2019 to influence key decision-makers and those who have the power to implement social policy change.


“When I arrived, The Salvation Army was still settling in following the changes of the Australia One process,” explains Jennifer Kirkaldy, General Manager of Policy and Advocacy. “We had a good brand, good people doing good work, but weren’t making the most of that. There was no central coordination around advocacy.


“We needed a consistent, dedicated policy and advocacy team that can tell people about the work we do, translating it into actions that government can take. Our team is really about change and working with people who can make that change.”


The Policy and Advocacy team has three broad functions: social justice education and empowerment, social policy development, and advocacy. The team looks at the research, the data from SAMIS, and The Salvation Army’s services to identify the drivers of disadvantage and the practical action in response. 

Dr Elli McGavin, The Salvation Army’s Head of Policy, Research and Social Justice. Elli has over 20 years of experience working for social justice through Salvation Army services.

“One of the objectives of the Australia One process was to have a united voice,” explains Dr Elli McGavin, The Salvation Army’s Head of Policy, Research and Social Justice. “Prior to having a Policy and Advocacy team, we were warmly greeted and welcomed by government, but we weren’t one of the top players in the policy space. Now, The Salvation Army is recognised as a policy expert in the community welfare sector.”


The Policy and Advocacy team works with all parties, ministers, MPs and senators to make a difference for the Australian community. The Salvation Army acts as an honest friend to the government and has established channels of communication with diverse members of Parliament.


“We’ve been fortunate to have Jennifer Kirkaldy’s experience and ability to meet with advisers and ministers,” Elli says. “It’s a very specific and specialised role, and her years of experience in the public service is very helpful for us. She understands our faith and believes in our cause as well. We’re very fortunate to have the right person at the right moment.”


The Policy and Advocacy team has made submissions on homelessness, family and domestic violence, and poverty, among other things. The Salvation Army ran a nationwide Social Justice Stocktake (a research project that canvasses the needs of every electorate) in late 2021 to learn more about the challenges people were seeing in their local communities. The result created a map of national social justice priorities and important data that can be taken directly to decision-makers. 

“The methodology is really simple: what do we need, who can give it to us, and how do we convince them,” explains Jennifer. “You start with the evidence, what is causing the disadvantage, and then we take all of that information, lived experience, academic research, to find the interventions that are effective.”


Over the past two years, The Salvation Army’s Policy and Advocacy Team has met with over 80 Parliament ministers and senators, speaking with more than a third of the current Parliament. The Salvation Army has a physical presence in 150 of the 151 electorates and is now able to speak to the needs of each one through the Social Justice Stocktake.


“The Salvation Army has always had an understanding of the holistic nature of poverty,” Jennifer says. “In the inquiry we’ve just seen, they’re now talking about poverty in a holistic sense, in terms of an inability to meet basic needs, to find safety, shelter, to participate in society, all of which was in our submission. That’s a new and different way to look at poverty for parliament, but for The Salvation Army, it goes all the way back to William Booth.”


Following the Australia One process, The Salvation Army’s vision stated that ‘wherever there is hardship or injustice, Salvos will live, love and fight, alongside others, to transform Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus’. As The Salvation Army’s Policy and Advocacy team marks its five-year anniversary, it prepares to serve that vision for many more years to come.


“The Salvation Army has been here for 140 years,” Jennifer says. “We don’t do six-month horizons or three-year terms. The Salvation Army will be here when the government changes, and then changes again. Our job is to be ready to respond at any time – when an opportunity to transform Australia presents itself, we are here and ready to seize it.”



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