Remembering ‘Griff’ – an angel in Salvation Army uniform
Brigadier Doreen Evelyn Griffiths, better known as ‘Griff’ to all who knew and loved her, was one of The Salvation Army’s most gracious and caring officers.
Admitted to the Order of the Founder by General John Gowans on 24 February 2002, Doreen’s commitment as a family and welfare officer over several decades exemplified her overwhelming love and compassion for everyone she met.
Compliments flow whenever Doreen is remembered. A recent Facebook post on The Salvation Army Museum site is a great example. “She was a real angel,” was one comment. Other comments included: “Lovely, gracious lady”, “A beautiful lady inside and out”, “Always willing to help anybody” and “A beautiful Christian.”
Doreen Evelyn Griffiths was born in Melbourne on 3 March 1921. She came from a large family and, early in life, made links with The Salvation Army, giving her life to Jesus as a teenager.
She worked in domestic service until she was 18, after which she entered Officer Training College from the Dandenong Corps in Victoria.
She was commissioned in 1940 as a probationary-lieutenant and served at various Salvation Army corps and community centres in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania over the next 25 years.
In 1966, she commenced 14 years of distinguished service in the Family Welfare Service, based at 69 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
Doreen’s work for families in crisis was unceasing. She was non-judgemental and positive in her response and had a remarkable capacity for expressing compassion. Her service was practical, sometimes needing to shovel filth and dirt off the floor for people who simply did not know how to cope. Then there was the unforgettable day when she embraced a premature baby born to heroin-addicted parents just before he died.
Her love was not given sparingly, time was not counted, and her financial rewards were small, but she brought hope to many. She was awarded The Salvation Army’s Long Service Award in 1965 and the Long Service Star in 1975.
In 1980, Doreen took up an appointment as the Children’s Court Welfare Officer in Melbourne. In this role, she gave selfless service to the young people coming before the courts and their families who often need guidance and support at a traumatic time in their lives.
The magistrates, court officials and departmental officers also found the Brigadier unfailing support to them. She became an honorary probation officer in 1980, and this position was gazetted in 1981. She continued in her appointment at the Children’s Court until her official retirement on 1 January 1983.
Many letters of appreciation for her work were read at her retirement, and Commissioner (later General) Eva Burrows paid a personal tribute to Doreen.
However, because of the effectiveness of her ministry, many requests were made for her to continue with her work of love and compassion, so the Brigadier gladly agreed to continue in retirement. She often worked 80 hours a week, meeting the needs of children and teenagers caught in the legal process. Often, they needed clothes, some had not eaten for days, but most of all, they required personal and emotional support. She continued to work in the Children's Court until she was limited by ill health in 2000.
At her final farewell in 2001, Judge Jennifer Coate unveiled a plaque naming the children’s playroom after Brigadier Doreen Griffiths.
Other awards handed to Doreen included the Victorian Employers Federation Community Services Award (1988), the Advance Australia Award (1989), Inaugural Inductee to the Victorian Honour Roll for Women (2001) and the Medal of Australia (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours (2003).
Brigadier Doreen Griffith was promoted to glory on 9 October 2003.
Article courtesy of the vic.gov.au website, with extra information provided by Barry Gittins of The Salvation Army Museum