The Friendly Society movement came to Australia with immigrants from Britain in the 19th century. Societies such as the Loyal Prince of Wales Lodge of Oddfellows were formed in many Australian towns and cities to provide financial and social support for members of the community who were experiencing hardship and difficult circumstances. Members paid a small fortnightly contribution and, in return, received free medical care for their whole family, a funeral benefit and sick pay if they were unable to work. The regular meetings, social events and entertainments which were important in rural Australia and fostered a sense of community within the district.
The movement began to die out as governments began to provide welfare such as health and unemployment benefits and the role of the Friendly Society became diminished. Some societies such as Australian Unity continued on and developed into providers of health insurance. The Friendly Society movement was not connected with Freemasonry although similar regalia and meeting protocols were observed in both types of organisations.
Records of Friendly Societies in NSW are held by State Archives and Records in Kingswood, NSW - www.records.nsw.gov.au
Here are some websites which provide general information on the history of Friendly Societies in Australia.
Australian Unity - https://www.australianunity.com.au/about-us/our-history
Museums Victoria website - https://collections.museumsvictoria.com.au/articles/13394
Cessnock NSW History Library - https://cessnocklocalhistory.vpweb.com.au/FRIENDLY-SOCIETIES.html
The plain and fancy dress social promoted by the members of the Prince of Wales Lodge of Oddfellows takes place in the Union Hall on Wednesday evening next, the 17th instant. Messrs J Brown and W Hofflick, the hon secretaries are working hard to make the affair a success. An efficient string band has been engaged and lovers of dancing are looking forward to a good time.
Mr Peter Mottram, a former resident of the district has been visiting his son, Mr Alf Mottram and attended the annual meeting of the Loyal Prince of Wales Lodge of Oddfellows on Monday night.
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