What are mutuals?
A mutual is a member-owned organisation where people come together to meet their shared needs. The members of a mutual are its customers who do not usually contribute to the capital of the organisation through direct investment. Instead, they support the mutual through using its services.
A mutual is a co-operative when each member has one vote and the organisation is guided by the seven co-operative principles.
Defining Mutuality explains what co-ops and mutuals are and how they fit together as a unified sector.
Friendly Societies are organisations designed to support people’s welfare through mutual aide. They have existed since the 1700s. Based on the principle of mutual reliance between equals, friendly societies ensured a person’s welfare could be guaranteed by regular contributions to a common fund that would be drawn from in times of need.
The first arrival of free workers in Australia in the 1830s and 1840s provided the preconditions for the transplantation of Friendly Societies to Australia. One, the Independent Order of Oddfellows, evolved into what is now Australian Unity, one of Australia’s largest private health insurers.
Read the University of Melbourne’s history of Australia’s friendly societies.