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Salvation Army International Leaders' Conference, Melbourne, Thursday, 12 March 1998: address on the occasion of the opening.

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It is a great pleasure for Helen and me to be here this evening to participate in this very special Gala Welcome Dinner for those attending The Salvation Arm y’ s International Leaders’ Conference

In particular may I, as Governor-General o f Australia, welcome to this country the Arm y’ s World Leader, General Paul Rader and Commissioner Kay Rader, World President o f the Arm y’ s Women’s Organisations, and say welcome home to Commissioner Earle Maxwell, The Chief o f the Staff, and Commissioner Wilma Maxwell

This is the first time that an International Leaders’ Conference has been held in Australia - indeed, I believe it is the first time it has met in the Southern Hemisphere And therefore, in welcoming each one o f you, from 103 countries and Salvation Army Commands around the world, let me express the hope that you find the Conference to be both fulfilling and inspirational as you contemplate the many aspects o f your theme, “ Open Road to the Future” . When the Conference is over I hope you w ill have time to visit other parts o f our country: to see something o f its beauty and its people; and that when you go home you w ill take with you fond memories o f our landscape, o f our hospitality, o f Australians, and o f the extraordinarily high regard in which the Salvation Army is held throughout this country As it has been since the first corps was established at Adelaide in

1880 - only 15 years after W illiam Booth founded the movement to serve the wretchedly poor o f London

It is true that in this, as in other, countries the movement began in the face o f some initial indifference, even hostility But here, as elsewhere, those who mocked were ultimately silenced - not so much by the incessant “ banging o f Booth’s Drum” o f which the Australian poet, Henry Lawson, wrote as by sheer goodness, sacrifice and achievement

Here in Australia, that goodness, that sacrifice and that achievement are reflected in the profoundly important work o f the Army among the poor and the disadvantaged: the homeless, the sick, the unemployed, the addicted, the lonely and the aged. While that work directly benefits the poor and the disadvantaged, its influence extends throughout the whole community in that it teaches, illustrates and emphasises that the mission o f outreach to the disadvantaged lies at the heart o f the universal Christian Church


Be that as it may, there are few Australians who, at some time or another, have not been assisted or influenced by the Salvation Army. Wherever there is a crisis, there is usually someone from the Army to be found, dispensing warmth and comfort both for the spirit as well as the body. It is true o f those human tragedies that so often appear in the news: at times o f terrible accidents and carnage I know, for example, that a team o f Salvation Army people was there to support and counsel those grievously affected by the massacre o f 35 people at Port Arthur, Tasmania, in 1996 And it is true o f those natural disasters that periodically visit a country such as Australia - the summer bushfires, the winter floods

We have a saying in this country, “ Thank God for the Salvos” . It is much more than a clever phrase developed for annual fund-raising appeals It reflects a truth that has been attested by many generations o f experience: by men and women and children in want; by those in crisis; by those who have found Salvationists there, ready to help by precept and by example when they are needed, at times both o f peace and war.

Here in Australia, the death o f the last o f the original Australian ANZACs has led many o f us to a renewed awareness o f the importance o f the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 to our national identity and national spirit.

One o f the true heroes o f the Australian diggers o f the First World War was the Chaplain to the 4th Battalion at Gallipoli, Salvation Army Brigadier W ill Mackenzie. He brought out the wounded under shellfire He prayed with the dying. He buried the dead He wrote to their families at home Barbara Bolton in her history o f the Salvation Arm y’ s first century in Australia, B ooth ’s Drum, says that before the troops went into battle \ Mackenzie would recite the 23rd psalm whenever possible “ And when the men went forward to fight,” she writes, “ Mac went too I ’ve preached to you and I ’ve prayed with you,’ he said. ‘Do you think I ’ m afraid to die with you?” ’

When W ill Mackenzie returned to this city in 1917, a crowd o f 6000 people welcomed him home. Indeed, he went on to further distinguished service with the Salvation Army. He was a territorial commander in China And he was the first Australian-trained officer to command both the Australia Southern and the Australia Eastern Territories.

This reputation o f the Salvation Army for courage on the battlefield irrespective o f self, was maintained throughout the Second World War Thus, the Salvationists were there to comfort and sustain the Australian troops during the siege o f Tobruk. Barbara Bolton records that “ The Red Shield hut was in such danger that the officers talked o f going out to the front for relaxation” And o f course, as those o f you here this evening who have served in Rwanda, in Bosnia, and those other contemporary scenes o f human conflict, human tragedy and human need well know, the Salvation Arm y’s spirit o f witness and service to others continues to the present day

I have in recent days been looking at some o f the international statistics o f the Salvation Arm y’ s work around the world. In the year to January last year, almost 10 million people were helped with general or emergency relief. The Arm y’ s hospitals and clinics treated over 2 m illion out-patients and 163,000 in-patients - and let me say how


aware I am o f the great contribution the Salvation Army is making in the international fight against the scourge o f HIV-AIDS, which is now affecting well over 30 m illion people

World wide, there were, in 1996, some 1700 primary, secondary, trade or teacherĀ­ training schools conducted by the Army Over half a million prisoners were visited or helped on their discharge. There were nearly 800 hostels for the homeless; centres for the elderly, the very young, those with physical disabilities, those suffering alcohol or drug dependence Over quarter o f a million people were assisted through your counselling services. And altogether over ten and a quarter m illion people were helped through your family welfare programs

This is a remarkable record o f achievement It is one o f which you can justly be proud even if, at the same time, we must all be conscious o f how much more there is to be done both at home and overseas

At the time when I accepted appointment as Governor-General, I expressed the hope that Helen and I might, during my term o f office, help draw attention to the plight o f the disadvantaged in our community In the little over two years since then we have tried to fulfil that hope We have visited or become associated with an extraordinarily large number o f Government and non-Government agencies and institutions serving the disadvantaged Those visits and that association have served to confirm what we already instinctively knew, namely, that the collective plight o f the disadvantaged is an overwhelming national problem Indeed, the gap between the haves and the have nots, the advantaged and the disadvantaged, seems to us to be widening rather than narrowing

What is common to so many areas o f disadvantage in this country, as in other parts \ o f the world, is the stark face o f poverty; material poverty in the form o f homelessness, inadequate clothing, sustenance, care or help which o f course can lead to other consequences and other disadvantage such as alcoholism, physical and sexual abuse and family break-down For so often the grim companion o f disadvantage is poverty o f the spirit - the absence o f hope, the deprivation o f self-esteem, and the loss o f confidence in one’s ability to do anything about it

It is my firm belief that the ultimate test o f the worth o f any truly democratic nation such as ours is how we treat our most disadvantaged and vulnerable And by “ we” I refer to all o f us, as members o f the community Certainly the collective assistance provided through government is essential Indispensable But inevitably, it is not always o f itself sufficient. And there are a great many human needs which require the personal compassion and vision and assistance that so often can only be found among committed men and women working individually or, more generally, through voluntary agencies such as those dedicated to the implementation o f the Christian message o f goodness and charity

It is that Christian message which underpins the history o f the Salvation Army in this country and around the world, and which inspires its members.

I would like to conclude my remarks this evening with a few words directed particularly to the leaders and members o f the Salvation Army in Australia Late last year you issued a statement calling for the hearts and hands o f this nation to be opened to the great purpose o f reconciliation with the indigenous peoples o f our country, and to seek unity before God in a spirit o f true fellow-citizenship Can 1, as one who profoundly believes in the fundamental importance o f that purpose, commend and express my support


for your message. True and lasting reconciliation is one o f the most important challenges - and at least arguably the most important challenge - facing us as we move to a new millennium and a new century - our second century - as a nation.

The qualities that have sustained the Salvation Army and its legions o f members and supporters over the years are the very qualities that the movement towards reconciliation requires from all o f us: the honesty to acknowledge and understand the past and what has flowed from it, the vision, the selfless service, the commonsense and the plain goodness necessary to address the present problems o f both the body and the spirit, the capacity to understand that problems such as alcoholism, domestic violence and inability to cope or to improve or to communicate effectively do not constitute justification for indifference or refusal to help but are, in truth, themselves part o f an overall disadvantage which is entrenched in its nature and heart-breaking in its extent

And let me also mention the goodwill and the companionship that is found within the ranks o f the Salvation Army For both are o f critical importance to the movement for reconciliation They w ill help us reach our ultimate objective, namely, o f walking together as friends and true equals They w ill help our Aboriginal fellow Australians accept that, notwithstanding there is so much further to go, much has truly been achieved in recent years. They w ill help us all to be conscious o f the fact that vast numbers o f Australians are now, in their different ways, committed to pursue the cause o f true justice and equality for our country’ s indigenous people And they w ill enable those o f us who are convinced o f the rightness o f that cause to speak more quietly, more tolerantly, more constructively and more persuasively to our fellow Australians I f we can do those things, I have no doubt that, however long and difficult the road ahead to true reconciliation may be, we w ill ultimately reach its end t

Ladies and gentlemen, all o f us here this evening are engaged in our own journeys along the open road to the future And equally, I have no doubt that the faith, the vision, the commitment and the courage that has sustained the men and women o f the Salvation Army over the generations w ill continue to inspire you to “ fight the good fight with all your might" down the long years ahead

Once again I welcome each and every one o f you I trust your stay in our country w ill be a happy and fulfilling one And it is with much pleasure that I officially open the Salvation Arm y’ s International Leaders’ Conference