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When officer training was fast and furious!

When officer training was fast and furious!

When officer training was fast and furious!

The Salvation Army Officers Training Home in Punt Rd, Richmond, Melbourne, in the late 1880s.

By Lauren Martin

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 Rd, 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 Rd 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 at 5am, which was followed by street meetings, the selling of the War Cry magazine, house work 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 principal, Staff-Captain Mary Shackson. The women would march to the men’s home in Punt Rd 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!

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.

Earlier this year, National Commander Commissioner Floyd Tidd announced the relocation of The Salvation Army’s School for Officer Training facility to Catherine Booth College in Melbourne. All residential cadets will begin their training at the national college from 2018 onwards. 

Read our story on the public welcome to The Messengers of Compassion at events in Sydney and Melbourne.

For more historical stories visit the Salvation Army Historical Society website or facebook page.



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