Friendly Societies

Friendly societies are welfare organisations that have existed since the 1700s. They were the first organisations that resemble modern co-operatives and mutuals. 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 of those established, 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.


AFSPA - Australian Friendly Societies Pharmacies Association logo

Australian Friendly Societies Pharmacies Association

AFSPA represents Friendly Society Pharmacies, community pharmacies owned by not-for-profit Friendly Societies rather than pharmacists. Friendly Societies in Australia began providing community services in primary health care in the 1830s. The Association has members covering some 900,000 individuals.

Year established: 1990

Type: Friendly Societies

Industry: Healthcare


KeyInvest is a mutual Friendly Society originally emanating from the IOOF (SA) which was established in 1878. Today, KeyInvest is a provider of retirement, finance and investment services, predominantly in Investment Bonds and Property, including developing and managing Retirement Villages.

Year established: 1878

Type: Friendly Societies

Industry: Banking & Financial Services

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