Australia in the 1860s

Friendly societies

In the 1860s Friendly societies, such as the Ancient Order of Foresters, were set up to help members or their families during periods of financial distress resulting from unemployment, sickness, accidents or death. These societies were referred to as 'lodges' and members' subscriptions went into a common fund that could then be used to support a member in need. They differed in their requirements: some offered membership only to teetotallers, others attracted people from a particular religious group such as Catholics. On the whole, they were open to employed males of good health and character and offered friendship and brotherhood.

These societies held meetings in local halls, with some conducting secret rituals that were closed to the general public. Most societies were democratic and office bearers were rotated regularly. Banners were used in street parades in the 19th and early 20th century to attract interest among potential new members.

Other Friendly societies included the Oddfellows, Ancient Order of Druids, Protestant Alliance, Loyal Protestant Benefit Society of Australia, Independent Order of Rechabites, Sons and Daughters of Temperance, Order of Royal Foresters, Irish National Foresters, Australian Holy Catholic Guild, Hibernian Catholic Benefit Society and the Marine Benefit Society.

A snapshot of 1868

  • January
    • Transportation of convicts to Western Australia ended.

  • March
    • The Queensland Parliament passed the Polynesian Labourers Act 1868 (Qld) to regulate the employment of Pacific Islanders recruited through 'blackbirding'.
    • The attempted assassination of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, by Henry James O'Farrell at Clontarf, a suburb of Sydney.

  • May
    • An Indigenous Australian cricket team became the first Australian sports team to tour overseas.

  • September
    • John King, the only surviving member of the Burke and Wills exhibition, was found living with an Aboriginal group.
    • Public Schools Act introduced compulsory schooling in Tasmania.


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