Real Life

Ray Meagher on why the beloved Salvation Army charity will never stop helping Aussies

"Whatever you can afford to give, please give."
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Ray Meagher is one of most loved, famous and busiest of all actors – even at age 79. Yet Ray always makes time to help The Salvation Army because he knows only too well how much care and love they bring to any community.

“I’ve met some people who have been helped by the Salvos, and they’ve definitely had a positive impact on their lives,” he tells Woman’s Day in an exclusive interview on the eve of The Salvos annual Red Shield Appeal.

“The people I met were at various stages of the help they needed from The Salvos. Some were just learning what it was like to be helped and encouraged to try and fix their lives.”

Ray Meagher and Salvos' Chief Miriam Gluyas smile in front of red brick wall with salvation army emblem between them
Ray Meagher and Salvos’ Chief Miriam Gluyas say the Salvation Army will always help Aussies. (Image: Supplied)

LIFESAVING WORK

“Others had been there for a while and were quite comfortable about the fact they were going forward in the care of the Salvos. And still others were about to leave and go and have a crack on their own because they had been repaired, for want of a better word.”

Ray, who this year notches 35 years playing loveable ‘Alf Stewart’ on Home And Away and has no immediate plans to hang up his Akubra, acknowledges he’s had a fortunate life. But he also admits that he didn’t always know where the next meal was coming from.

“I haven’t [needed The Salvos] touch wood. And that’s a bit of good luck more than anything,” he says, admitting that early in his career he lived pay cheque to pay cheque just like so many Aussies are forced to do today.

A nostalgic black-and-white image of the first Red Shield, with two women smiling and kicking up their heels, hitting tambourines
The first Red Shield was run in Sydney as a doorknock. (Image: Supplied)

It’s a big part of why he loves The Salvos and the work they do to help people doing it tough. He’s visited their treatment and outreach centres to see first-hand just what lifesaving work they do.

“It just seems to me that whenever there has been any sort of crisis, any sort of drama, anything where people were in need, The Salvos are always there,” Ray says.

THOSE IN NEED

“The Salvos are such a fair dinkum, straight up and down charity that really does help people out there. And while things are tough for everybody at the moment, whatever you can afford to give, please give to the Salvos.

“It doesn’t stay with the Salvos. It’s given on and passed onto people who have a need in the community. I find it very difficult to say no to the Salvos, and I never have! I’d just encourage people to do that – to support the Salvos.”

An early, black and white, photo of Miriam, smiling in her Salvos uniform
Miriam has served for more than 40 years. (Image: Supplied)

“I’M A THIRD-GENERATION SALVO!”

Miriam Gluyas had her heart set on becoming a professional golfer until she encountered an older woman who grew up in foster care. She had never experienced a loving family Christmas.

“I call it my defining moment,” shares Miriam who is now the head of The Salvation Army and responsible for 17,000 officers and 8000 employees in 400 centres around Australia – that provide help to millions of Aussies.

“She told us the story of being born and above her crib was no name. No-one ever wanted her, and she went from foster family to foster family and never had a real Christmas.

Miriam smiles with her family
Miriam was inspired by her parents and grandmother. (Image: Supplied)

“We invited her to lunch and gave her some little gifts, and she just cried. That was my defining moment in life. I thought I never wanted someone to go without … the Salvation Army has to be there for anyone in need.”

Miriam grew up steeped in a tradition of service with parents and three grandparents who were devoted Salvos. With the current cost-of-living crisis impacting millions with poverty, and homelessness and domestic violence on the rise, she is asking Australians to dig deep this year if they can.

Visit www.salvationarmy.org.au and help the Salvos deliver food, shelter and services.  The doorknock appeal runs from May 25-26.

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