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The Sallyman and Sallyma’am – serving those who serve

The RSDS truck accompanies the troops on location for weeks at a time.

The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Defence Services (RSDS) in Australia has long had a special relationship with the Australian Defence Force (ADF), offering practical, emotional and spiritual support in difficult situations, times of grief and in everyday life. As RSDS representatives and other Salvation Army personnel serve at ANZAC Day services around the country again this year, Salvos Online looks at this unique ministry. 


Cadets-in-training gather around the RSDS truck for drinks, snacks and catch-ups with the Salvos.



The history of the ‘Sallyman’ and ‘Sallyma’am’ (as they are affectionally called) in Australia dates back to the Second Boer War in 1899. William Booth, The Salvation Army’s co-founder, sent Adjutant Mary Murray to offer the troops a place of respite and someone to talk to. Mary did just that, setting up a tent that soldiers from both sides of the fighting could access, providing a hot cuppa, biscuits and a listening ear.


“This outreach continued through the two world wars, Korea and Vietnam – every conflict that involved the Australian Army,” said Major Brett Gallagher, Chief Commissioner of the RSDS. “And this is what we continue to do today – 125 years later. 


“We also have the report from the Royal Commission into Defence and Veterans Suicide being released later this year. We see this as a place where we can help those who are struggling due to their service. That’s our heart as a team and as The Salvation Army – to help others find wholeness.” 


Around the nation, RSDS representatives support ADF personnel and their families – on the bases, on exercises at various locations and occasionally overseas.


There are currently 13 RSDS representatives at five Army bases around Australia; three at Royal Military College, Duntroon; and one in Melbourne, who oversees veterans’ Ministries. 


In Canberra, Majors Joanne and Kenneth Delamore provide a valuable ministry at The Royal Military College, Duntroon, and the Australian Defence Force Academy. 

Majors Joanne and Kenneth Delamore are based at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in Canberra.

“We’re The Salvation Army officers, Sallyman and Sallyma’am,” says Kenneth. “We take our truck and provide a practical service of tea, coffee, lollies, biscuits ... all that practical good stuff, but also a listening ear. And when you’re out bush and doing it hard, as the cadets are more often than not, that service, when we come in for that five, 10 minutes, one hour, whatever it is, it’s a real morale booster.” 


Army Cadet Lawrence David backs this up: “Whenever I see the truck roll up, it always gives me this hope or this motivation. It’s a lift, a push, to my morale. So, in those stressful moments, in those hard days, whenever I see the truck, it’s always really encouraging to me, like, oh, there’s the truck, there’s someone to talk to.” 


More than a cuppa 


Joanne explains that there is more behind their ministry than just having a cuppa and a chat. “The cadets will often talk with us about some of their life struggles and concerns,” she says. “It’s a chance for us to support and encourage them and bring hope. “They also ask about any news, sports results and what’s happening in the world. We have a laugh and build relationships. This opens the door to deeper conversations.” 

 The growing number of females in the Army will often come to Joanne to talk. “As with the guys, it’s a chance for the women to chat to someone who is not in their chain of command about their lives and, at times, what they’re struggling with,” she says. 


Joanne often drops off batches of her famous Anzac biscuits at battalion headquarters, to families and different groups. “People see that you’re there for them, and it opens doors for our ministry,” she explains. 


“I love that we have the freedom within the defence structure, as part of The Salvation Army, to support people in their daily lives; and that we’re wanted in those spaces.” 


Long-term relationship


“The relationship between the broader Australian Army and The Salvation Army is one that goes back a long way, particularly at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, where we train the officers of the Australian Army,” explains the Army’s Lieutenant Colonel Brian Hickey. 


“The relationship between the two organisations is one of critical importance. It really assists the young trainees to understand the welfare benefits, the morale benefits organisations such as the RSDS provide – things they can take forward into their future careers to assist their soldiers.” 


Coming full circle 


At the Edinburgh Defence Precinct in South Australia, RSDS representative Auxiliary-Lieutenant Vaughan Agnew says his work revolves around “hanging out and doing life with people, having a chat and providing support.  

Aux-Lieut Vaughan Agnew, former Army soldier, is now serving others on base and location in South Australia.

“I am part of the welfare team, and I work heavily with the padre (chaplain) and the welfare officer.” 


Vaughan also takes his truck “out bush” for regular stints away with the 1st Armoured Regiment, part of the 9th Brigade. He is usually away around 13 weeks per year, with each stint varying from two to three weeks or slightly longer. 


When requested, he also helps support the Reserves, as well as cadet and other units. Vaughan supplies the Sallyman coffee, tea, cordial, lollies and biscuits on the barracks when asked. 


From time to time, when requested by the Australian Government, Vaughan and other RSDS representatives support flood and bushfire response efforts, both nationally and at state level. 


Vaughan grew up in The Salvation Army and served in Darwin in the 2nd Calvary Regiment from 2002-2006.  


“I understand what soldiers typically go through and the importance of just having a friendly sounding board – someone they can safely and comfortably have a chat to outside their chain of command – a civilian but who dresses and talks like them,” he says. “I also understand the Sallyman and the Salvos and all they can offer. 


“With my background, I am already connected to the soldiers. I’m a trusted person because of that situation, part of the brotherhood. It’s a level playing field and an amazing space to step into. 


“No matter what I do in this big organisation, God is in everything. He puts the right person in my path at the right time. All I have to do is be obedient and follow him.” 


Vaughan has worked with defence families on the base as well. This role is now covered by another RSDS representative, Major Mairi Mitchell. 



Leaning on Jesus 


“In all the good times and the really tough, I still love what I do,” said Major Sue May, who came out of an early retirement to serve for the third time as an RSDS representative at the Robertson Barracks, Darwin. 

Major Sue May loves her long-time role with the RSDS.

“The simple act of giving ‘a cup of cold water’, giving a little encouragement, sitting with people in their ‘stuff’, and sharing the journey with those I meet – it’s quite a privilege. I share my experience along the way so that people know I lean on Jesus to get through.  Hopefully, they will see Jesus in this Sallyma’am.” 


Sue began her RSDS work in Townsville with her husband, Henry, their two young boys and pregnant with their daughter. Henry was frequently away ‘out bush’ supporting the soldiers. He went to Cambodia for six months to serve with the RSDS, and Sue looked after their young family and supported the soldiers, their partners, and their families. 


Since then, Sue has served the RSDS in Singleton (NSW) and Edinburgh (SA) and in various other roles with the Salvos in between, including chaplaincy, corps officer and family ministries. 


“With this being my third time at Robertson, I know my way around and what it’s all about,” says Sue. “I’m not as young as I used to be, so I get support to set up the truck with its four 40-litre urns, hot water for tea and coffee, and other supplies. I spend time talking with those who come for their jube or a brew, wherever they are training, and that’s where we have a laugh, sort out the world, or occasionally find people who are doing it tough.


“Having done both the truck and family, I can bring both sides to the conversation. I know the conditions the soldiers work under and what it’s like to have three kids to look after when the partner is away. 


“We also see many nationalities and cultures, including Indigenous, and we treat all people the same. We bring non-judgemental caring to what we do out in the bush ...”

“I get great support from soldiers and officers here – they value the truck and the service we bring. We are the pseudo chaplain, the morale boosters; we listen to what people are saying and not saying, we keep an eye on those ‘loitering with intent to talk’ and suggest other services the Salvos or the Army can provide. These might include domestic violence shelters, playgroups, coffee catchups and many others. I am still in touch with many girls from my initial coffee group – we share a unique bond. They’re all survivors of being called on at a moment’s notice to look after the family and work while the partner is deployed or out bush.” 


Sue finds that being a Sallyma’am in this workplace adds, perhaps, a softer touch in a tough environment. “I see women in roles including leadership, logistics, signals, transport, military police, health – the list goes on. There are not as many females in infantry battalions, although there are some,” she said.   


“The Army is a very male-dominated workforce – only about 20 per cent of the Army workforce is female – but there are some very capable women working in significant roles.   


“Many women find it safer to talk to a female – they can talk about the stuff they need to talk about, as men need to talk to men. 


“Maybe because I have the ‘wisdom highlights’ in my hair, they look on me differently. I find it easy to chat to people of all ages. They respect RSDS reps for who we are and what we bring as Sallyman and Sallyma’am.  


“It’s the whole package, whether we’re male or female, we bring a little bit of home – around the truck, and especially in our ‘Hop Ins’ (recreational facilities on the base). They can relax and, perhaps, let their guard down if they need to. 


“We also see many nationalities and cultures, including Indigenous, and we treat all people the same. We bring non-judgemental caring to what we do out in the bush, in the ‘Hop In’ and wherever we are.” 

Cadets-in-training gather around the RSDS truck for drinks, snacks and catch-ups with the Salvos.










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