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Graham finds refreshing life at The Waterhole

Graham finds refreshing life at The Waterhole

Graham finds refreshing life at The Waterhole

21 May 2018

The Salvation Army's Waterhole in Alice Springs has become a second home for Graham, and a place of support, stability and community.

After spending most of his adult life wandering around Central Australia looking for connection, Graham Wilfred has found stability at The Salvation Army’s Waterhole community care centre in Alice Springs. Graham shares his story with Others Online.

I grew up in foster care and headed back to my family community in the Roper River area (south-east of Katherine, NT) when I was about 17.

When I turned 20, I headed off to explore the world, but I soon found myself homeless in the township of Katherine. I heard that The Salvation Army was giving out food vouchers and helping people get off the streets. This was my first encounter with the Salvos. They got me a voucher and got me into a hostel. I stayed in Katherine as they had a drop-in centre, a place where people were able to stay for the day and have a cuppa and watch movies.

I then headed to Darwin, where I met my ex-carer. We went to Salvo Stores where I volunteered to help other people who were homeless. They also had a place that had been set up for people just to drop in.

Again, I got restless and I went down to Adelaide. Again, I was able to connect with The Salvation Army, this time at Westcare, volunteering to help serve meals. I stayed for a couple of months before heading back up north and stopping at Alice Springs.

And this is where I have remained. I heard about the Army’s drop-in centre, The Waterhole, from a friend, and I connected in there. I came in and sat around for a bit, but I soon found myself doing some volunteering, learning to paint and learning from the  Elders.

This place soon became my second home where I have found friends, support, and a network. Life is looking good and settled. I feel a lot better about myself.

The great news this year is that I have secured permanent accommodation, am studying visual arts and have casual employment at The Waterhole.

If I had not encountered The Salvation Army at The Waterhole, I would probably still be drifting and unsettled.

The Waterhole is an important place to have as it provides networking and facilities for people living rough or homeless or passing through Alice Springs.

It also provides a space where tourists and other visitors can visit and engage with local people. Come and visit us! 

The Waterhole 


The Waterhole is one of The Salvation Army’s major programs in Alice Springs, Australia’s famous “Red Centre”, 1500km south of Darwin. The program offers a welcoming place for people to come to relax, have a coffee or tea, cook themselves a meal, watch a movie, shower or wash their clothes.

Art is a significant activity at The Waterhole, with members and visitors coming to paint and draw, both as a personal creative outlet and a source of income when their paintings are sold, often via the centre’s small not-for-profit art gallery.

“Some of our members and visitors are Indigenous, but not all,” says Captain Nari McGifford, who is the Director of Social Program at Alice Springs and also the Corps Officer with her husband, Captain Stuart McGifford.

Art classes at The Waterhole are a significant part of the centre's programs.

“A lot of people come are transient, staying in hostels, sharing accommodation, sleeping rough, or need a space to stay in during the day. Others come and visit as they have found community and friendship, through our Waterhole.”

The Waterhole is also a safe space where people can get referrals, advocacy and find spiritual connection.

“These elements are across all our community development programs and social services – helping people connect with whatever they need,” said Captain Nari.

“Helping people connect spiritually is a focus area for us. We are still looking to connect and engage better with Indigenous elders in our church, providing meaningful Indigenous worship and theology for all our congregation. We are also looking for ways to journey right across the spectrum of our community and church and those who connect in.

“We want to walk alongside our people, to help them connect with God, and with the church, and not just have a cup of coffee.”

The Salvation Army's 2018 Red Shield Appeal will be held 26-27 May. 



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