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A Loud call for reform

17 November 2015

Netty Horton
Netty Horton delivered the Australia Southern Territory’s annual James Barker Oration on Monday, 17 August 2015.

Last year I visited every one of our divisions, or regions, and met with our major social program providers. The key issue identified by each director, regardless of program, was access to accommodation.

Imagine if we were in a position to provide people with housing that could be afforded.

Imagine the stress that would be removed from people’s lives if they had more than $18.00 per day to buy everything else they need. 

Imagine the benefits to individuals, families and children if they felt they could participate in a community in which they felt accepted and to which they belonged? 

There is no other way to achieve this other than by providing funds, in whichever way they are found.

It is expensive, but the benefits to the community are long term and must surely outweigh the costs?

In summary, our message to government and to the community is we have to spend the money.

The Salvation Army has a strong and unique role to play in persuading government and the community of the benefits and the necessities of providing housing.

As the largest provider of homeless services in the country, we understand the needs of the people who come to us for assistance on a daily, weekly and annual basis.

We have evidence in our data collections and in the stories and experiences of our clients.

We need to be telling and hearing their stories loudly and often.

We need to hear those stories and of those needs in our churches, in our local communities, in our media and in our parliaments.

We need our uniforms and our people to be proudly evident and we need to be clear, and not cautious, in our call for social justice and reform.

We need to follow the example set by James and Alice Barker all those years ago.

The launch of Salvation Army Housing is a strong indication of our commitment to providing disadvantaged and homeless people in Australia with a way out – or should we say a way in?

I think James Barker would be very proud of this. And while he may be disappointed that we continue to face so many and so complex a range of social issues, I think he would be mostly proud of our efforts, programs and people following on from the strong foundations he and Alice laid so many years ago.

Finally, I will end with a small story of my own.

I was appointed to my role with The Salvation Army some three years ago. The new homeless aged care facility was opened shortly afterwards.

I visited the service and was shown around the truly beautiful accommodation. I was introduced to a resident who I had met many years before at the Gill, The Salvation Army’s long-closed crisis accommodation facility. At that time, I would not have given him much chance of survival, what, almost 30 years later. 

He told me that the aged care facility was simply the nicest place he had ever lived. How fitting, that The Salvation Army had been able to provide this man the best quality of life towards the end of his life.

The facility, of course, is James Barker House. I think its namesake would be very proud of that.

Click here for the article
Click here for a youtube clip from the James Barker Oration