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When officer training was fast and furious

Male cadets and staff outside The Salvation Army Officers Training Home in Punt Rd, Richmond, Melbourne, in the late 1880s.

Just three years after The Salvation Army began in Australia, moves were made to train new officers.

In the early 1880s, a small training centre was set up in a corner shop in Adelaide, and cadets in Sydney were taught from a room at headquarters.

The first dedicated training centre was established in South Melbourne in June 1883, and by March 1888 a new men’s training school was opened in Punt Road, Richmond.

Training of officers at the time matched the spread of The Salvation Army across the nation in those early days – fast and furious! The Punt Road training college accepted 20 cadets at a time, with a total of 80 trained in the first year, which equates to about three months’ training time for each session.

The program was mostly practical rather than theological or academic. Each day would start with a long march to ‘knee drill’ (prayer) at 5am, which was followed by street meetings, the selling of the War Cry, housework and a public meeting at night.

In 1889, the first training home for women opened in Richmond. This was run much like a religious order under the watch of the principal, Staff-Captain Mary Shackson. The women would march to the men’s home in Punt Road for lectures and conduct practical training at the North Richmond Corps.

Both training homes were affected by floods in 1891, and in 1900 the men’s training centre was destroyed by fire, prompting the Army to rethink its training as it constructed a new purpose-built centre.

The new centre – The Federal Training College – was opened on 16 July 1901. It could house 160 male and female cadets from across Australia and New Zealand. Although the college was co-ed, the male and female cadets were kept separate – even the library was used by men and women on alternate days!

The training college at Petersham, Sydney, that opened in 1921 and closed in 1980.

This college continued to function as the Australian National College until the division of Australia into two territories in 1921, when a new training college was built in Petersham, Sydney, for Australia Eastern Territory cadets.

Little more than 10 years later, however, the Great Depression forced the amalgamation of training again, with Eastern Territory cadets travelling to Melbourne for training. Both the Australia Eastern and the Australia Southern territories upgraded their buildings in the late 1970s, with a multi-story motel in Parkville, Melbourne, purchased for the Southern Territory Training College, and a Sydney campus relocation to Bexley North, the site of a former boys’ home.

Over the ensuing years, the colleges began offering a range of courses with a choice of qualifications from research degrees to certificate and short one-day courses.

The Southern Territory site was renamed Catherine Booth College in 2012, and the Eastern Territory facility was renamed Booth College in 2007.

In 2017, when the two territories became one national territory, National Commander Commissioner Floyd Tidd announced the relocation of The Salvation Army’s School for Officer Training facility to Catherine Booth College in Melbourne.

On 13 September 2017, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Divinity, Professor Peter Sherlock met with Commissioner Tidd and Colonel Mark Campbell (then Chief Secretary) in Sydney to sign a new collegiate agreement between the University of Divinity and The Salvation Army. The signing of this important document in effect marked the birth of Eva Burrows College.

Eva Burrows College, located in the Melbourne eastern suburb of Ringwood, is now The Salvation Army’s national college in Australia, born out of the unification of Booth College in Sydney and Catherine Booth College in Melbourne. All residential cadets began their training at the national college in 2018.

* Some information taken from the Eva Burrows College website

Catherine Booth College (Melbourne) timeline

  • 1883: Training of Salvation Army officers commenced in Richmond.

  • 1901: A new officer training college was opened in Victoria Parade, East Melbourne. Its facade can be seen today opposite St Vincent’s Hospital.

  • 1921: A second college in Australia was opened in Sydney to train officers for the Australia Eastern Territory.

  • 1960: An Education Department commenced within Territorial Headquarters (69 Bourke St) to address other learning needs of the territory.

  • 1979: The college moved from Victoria Parade to 303 Royal Parade Parkville.

  • 1993: The Geelong Conference Centre was acquired to foster in-service training. The Education Department moved to Geelong.

  • 1995: Government-accredited training was offered for cadets within the vocational sector. Prior to that training was internally accredited.

  • 2002: Salvation Army Education and Training Services was established in Geelong as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) to provide accredited vocational training across Southern Australia.

  • 2006: Officer training made the transition into the higher education sector. The college became a Recognised Teaching Institution within the Melbourne College of Divinity (now the University of Divinity), a leading body of theological and ministry education in Australia.

  • 2010: The General of the Salvation Army gave in-principle approval for setting up an integrated faculty for all education and training within the territory.

  • 2012: Catherine Booth College became a reality.

  • 2015: In January the college moved to the new Campus at 100 Maidstone Street, Ringwood.

  • 2018: On 10 January Catherine Booth College and Booth College combined to form the new Eva Burrows College.

Booth College (Sydney) timeline

  • 1921: The Australia Eastern Territory Training College was opened at 55 Livingstone Road in Petersham, Sydney. Here, Salvation Army officers-in-training, undertook a ten-month residential course, which was extended to two years in 1965.

  • 1980: The Salvation Army Officer Training College moved from its Petersham location to Bexley North.

  • 1995: The college was named The College of Further Education.

  • 1995: The college provided accredited vocational courses as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).

  • 1996: The college opened a campus at Lake Munmorah with an emphasis on leadership and discipleship for young adults (this campus later moved to Berkeley Vale.)

  • 1997: Theological education opened to all, not just those preparing to become Salvation Army officers.

  • 1999: The new college of Further Education building opened at Bexley North with modern classrooms and an updated library.

  • 2001: The college becomes a Member Institution of the Sydney College of Divinity.

  • 2007: The College of Further Education was renamed Booth College.

  • 2018: On 10 January, Booth College and Catherine Booth College combined to form the new Eva Burrows College in Melbourne.

The Eva Burrows College campus in Ringwood, Melbourne.


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