New Salvation Army leader discusses alcohol-fuelled violence in communities

A lack of empathy in society is a concern which stands out for the new Salvation Army division leader. 

Major Geoff Webb and his wife Kalie Webb moved to Ballarat last week to take up the roles of division leaders and told The Courier yesterday alcohol-fuelled violence was one example which showed the problem. 

“It is that lack of empathy towards others that we are seeing in Australia which concerns me most,” he said. 

“That is a lack of empathy, whether it is a person who decides to king-hit someone else, or it is a lack of empathy for asylum seekers, or a lack of empathy for people who are vulnerable in our society.” 

The couple’s previous post was at the Salvation Army Training College in Melbourne, however Major Webb said he spent some of his youth growing up in the Ballarat area. 

Major Webb said The Salvation Army was not against drinking responsibly but stressed binge drinking was one problem communities often faced. 

“The responsible use of alcohol becomes incredibly important, when people are binge drinking and particularly when people drink at home and then go out and they have a skinful before they even start, that is a problem,” he said. 

“Responsible use of alcohol is a different thing entirely, when there is binge drinking there is a tendency amongst some people to just get off their face and that is a problem because ... we are talking about adolescents, their brains are not finalised until they are 25. 

“Therefore they are doing all kinds of damage before that time and they don’t even realise.”

Major Webb said he and his wife were still getting used to some of the specific problems Ballarat would face but said he knew some of the things to expect.

“It is early days for us to be giving an authoritative comment, but as in most places there are always the same kind of things that would pop up,” he said. 

“My hunch is there is a measure of economic depression in the area and therefore people are doing it tough. 

“It is always a problem because it means that when people are in need then they have fewer resources and fewer choices available to them.”