The Salvation Army’s Major Campbell Roberts

Around a century ago, a baby was left on the doorstep of a Salvation Army children’s home, bundled in newspapers.

Taken in by the Sallies, that child grew up to become Alf Roberts, father of Major Campbell Roberts.

“His parenting was really done by the Salvation Army,” Campbell Roberts says, sitting at the desk in his South Auckland office.

His dad wasn’t the only one supported by the Sallies.

Before his mother met Alf, she too had turned to the organisation for help.

She “became an unmarried mother, and went to a Salvation Army hospital in Dunedin, and had her baby, and the baby (girl) was adopted out.

“Both sides of my family were assisted by the Salvation Army in one way or another, so it’s part of my heritage and parentage, really.”

Roberts has spent the better part of his life fighting injustice in New Zealand.

He was the founding director of the Salvation Army’s social policy and parliamentary unit, and is a trusted voice advocating for those in need.

“I think as a society we often want to blame people because they’re poor,” he says.

“I always find it really difficult to sit down in our reception room and talk to some of these families, and see the difficulties they go through.”

Roberts himself did not have a privileged upbringing.

“My father was a carpenter, and my mother was a seamstress in a shirt factory, so they came from fairly humble beginnings,” he says.

“But I was fortunate to have a happy childhood with two sisters, and it was a very loving family.”

Roberts was born in February 1947 in Arrowtown, Central Otago.

After stints in Invercargill and Hamilton, the family ended up in Christchurch, where Roberts left school and began working in accounting for a grocery wholesale company in the mid-1960s.

“But within me,” he says, “there had always been that desire to do something greater than just make money.”

By the age of about 20, he was drawn to the Salvation Army training college in Wellington. Continue reading


  • Stuff article by Craig Hoyle, a Senior Reporter with Fairfax NZ
  • Image: TVNZ


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