The Salvo's Dooralong Transformation Centre gets down to the hard work of rehabilitation

GREAT WORK IN PROGRESS: Dooralong Transformation Centre participants take part in a Mission Trip to help a struggling farming family.
GREAT WORK IN PROGRESS: Dooralong Transformation Centre participants take part in a Mission Trip to help a struggling farming family.

Recently I had the privilege of reading a young man’s account of his experience on a group mission trip. A trip somewhere out the back of Bourke to help an injured farmer with some urgent fencing work. David’s summary of the trip was a thoughtfully worded recount of bloke-ish banter and antics coupled with intensely personal insight and learning. The sort of insight that’s sometimes only accessible to us when faced with fear and challenges.

David’s description of the steep learning curve he and his mates scaled as they were taught how to sink posts and wire fences was very entertaining, but it was his insight that touched my heart.

David and the men who joined him on this trip are participants at the Dooralong Transformation Centre – a residential drug, alcohol and gambling recovery service on the northern fringes of the Central Coast. The centre is run by The Salvation Army and has annual intake of a thousand-plus participants, many of whom are battling ice addiction.

Major Gavin runs the centre. He believes that along with intensive counselling sessions and dependency education workshops, simple acts of selflessness play an important role in recovery. It was Major Gavin and another staff member with a shared love of the land, who took the participants out west to help a family in need.

In his opening paragraph, David wrote that he was reluctant to step out of his comfort zone. To journey west with a bunch of blokes he barely knew, to do something he knew nothing about, was not his idea of fun. In his own words, he was selfish and scared.  However, it was the paragraphs to follow that offered a key message for all of us.

“Our first day, we split up and began repairing fences. We were each doing our part and pulling our weight and I soon had several open wounds to show for my hard work and clumsiness. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much being paid for it and that I was having a great time with the boys. 

“That evening we were invited to dinner at Rob and Narelle’s. They’d worked this station for more than 40 years, it was their home and their life. It was really nice of them to have us for dinner and we each took the opportunity to share what it meant for us to be on their property. For me it was remembering how much I love a good day’s work … and that helping is healing.”

On the ride back to Dooralong David wrote that he was grateful. He realised that doing something for nothing, simply to help another, was food for the soul and it was indeed healing.

Despite his personal struggles, David found selflessness, and turned what he believed would be a trial into a triumph. His story reminds us that we have so much to gain from helping others - for it is in the giving that we receive.

Dooralong Transformation Centre is Australia’s largest drug, alcohol and gambling rehabilitation facility. Last year 1036 people were referred to the service – 40 per cent of those participants were Hunter residents.

This financial year The Salvation Army will contribute over $3 million in Red Shield funding to Dooralong Transformation Centre, with an additional $1 million dedicated to other Hunter-based social services including Hunter Oasis and Moneycare Financial Counselling. Donations can be made online at, by calling 13 72 58, or in person at any Westpac branch.

Nicole Jenkinson is Public Relations and Fundraising Manager for the Salvation Army