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A proud history dating back to 1840

Overview: Friendly society history

Australian Unity as an entity was formed by the merger of the Australian Natives’ Association Friendly Society (ANA) and the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows (Manchester Unity) in Victoria in 1993. We expanded in March 2005 through a merger with Grand United Friendly Society Limited, and in August 2009 with Lifeplan Australian Friendly Society. On the 1st March 2012, Big Sky Credit Union, with 34,000 customers, joined the Australian Unity group.

1840: Manchester Unity IOOF founded in Victoria

Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows (MUIOOF) is a fraternal order and was founded in Manchester, England in 1810.

In 1840 Manchester Unity IOOF was founded in Victoria and the first lodge was established in Adelaide.

In the late 1900s, Manchester Unity had an extensive network in Victoria. A key feature of Manchester Unity was the Annual Moveable Conference where the organisation’s directors for the coming year were elected. 

1846: Dr A F A Greeves becomes Manchester Unity's first Grand Master.

Dr Augustus Frederick Adolphus was one of the first medical men who arrived in Melbourne and held many prestigious positions including Mayor (1849-50), editor of the Port Phillip Gazette, the first regular newspaper published in Melbourne and the Melbourne Morning Herald.

Greeves was born in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, England and emigrated to the Port Phillip District in NSW in 1840.

He was a member of the Victorian Legislative Council in 1853-56 and served on the select committee which drafted the constitution. 

He died aged 69 at his home in Swanston Street on 23 May 1874, survived by his wife Elizabeth, née Milner. He was buried in the Melbourne general cemetery after an Anglican service and a litany read by the Oddfellows who also erected his headstone.

1848: Grand United Order of Odd Fellows founded in NSW

The Grand United Order of Oddfellows (GUOOF) was established in England in the late 18th century when groups of independent lodges merged to become branches of this larger organisation. Belonging to a brotherhood that had thousands of members around the world allowed members to feel more secure in their membership. In those early days, members typically met in Inns, where they gathered for social and business purposes.

The Grand United Order of Oddfellows was established in Australia in 1848, with the first Grand Master of the Order being Brother James Reid (1794-1869).

1860: United Friendly Society Dispensaries

There were concerns that some pharmacy dispensers were diluting the medicines and taking excess profits.  The friendly societies took matters into their own hands and started their own dispensaries, the United Friendly Society Dispensaries, and employed their own dispensers.

1870: Manchester Unity granted Crown land to establish homes for aged and disadvantaged members

Manchester Unity was granted Crown land to establish a home for aged and disadvantaged members.  Bounded by Newry, Station, Freeman and Canning Streets in Carlton, Melbourne, and approximately 1.25 acres, the land was to be used to build a facility for 'aged, infirm, decayed, distressed or indigent members'.

In 1935, the Order decided to dispose of the property and use the proceeds to build a convalescent home in Woodend, Victoria.

1871: Australian Natives Association Victoria (ANA) established

The Australian Natives’ Association (ANA) was established in Melbourne in 1871 for people born in Australia at a time when most administrative jobs were held by British born.

It offered financial support, such as sick pay and funeral benefits, and promoted moral, social and intellectual improvement of its members. It focused on influencing public thinking and government policy on issues related to Australian nationalism, including Federation and the establishment of Australia Day.
Australia Day newspaper 1918

1888: ANA assists with the formation of Australia Day

The 26 of January marked the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, NSW (1788).

Prior to 1888, 26 January was very much a New South Wales affair, as each of the colonies had their own commemorations for their founding. In Tasmania, Regatta Day occurred initially in December to mark the anniversary of the landing of Abel Tasman. South Australia celebrated Proclamation Day on 28 December. Western Australia had their own Foundation Day (now Western Australia Day) on 1 June.

In 1888, all colonial capitals except Adelaide celebrated "Anniversary Day".

Watch Australian Unity's video on the history of Australia Day (YouTube).

The ANA saw this as an opportunity to unite the country and form its own identity.

It was not until 1935 that all Australian states and territories had adopted the use of the term "Australia Day" to mark the date, and not until 1994 that the date was consistently marked by a public holiday by all states and territories.

Currently, Australian Unity is encouraging the conversation surrounding changing the date of Australia Day.  There is more information available on this topic in Australian Unity's Reconciliation Action Plan.

1932: Construction of the Manchester Unity building commences

The construction of the Manchester Unity Building in 1932 was the organisation's response to the need to create jobs for its members.  

The twelve-story Art Deco marvel provided not only employment but was one of the most modern buildings in the nation.

The basement restaurant, ground-floor arcade, first-floor shops and the rooftop cafe managed to defy the pit of economic woe that surrounded it.  

Air-conditioning, passenger and goods lifts, rubbish and letter chutes and Melbourne's first escalator were all enclosed in rose-hued terracotta tiles, glazed to an eggshell finish with a mother-of-pearl tint, and stood out dramatically in a decade of deprivation and dullness.

Australian Natives Association notice

1937: Tree Planting in Victoria

This poster promoting tree planting across Victoria was distributed through schools and local government agencies.  

It illustrates the breadth of national development the ANA sought to influence while remaining fiercely non-partisan.  

The poster describes the society as a 'benefit mutual non-party progressive national all-Australian association'.  

Published by the Australian Natives' Association in conjunction with the Forests Commission of Victoria in 1937.

1948: Grand United Centenary Centre – Homes for the Aged and War Memorial Nursing Home is opened

A permit was granted to the Centenary Centre in May of 1948 and was the third unit built on the land with 14 members living in the first two units.  The following paragraph was published in the "100 Grand United Years" Centenary publication, published in October 1948.

The Australian Gas Light Company went out of its way to install gas mains along Hammers Road in order to provide gas.  Bro. Hall very rapidly had a market garden for the use of the Centre, cows were donated by members in country districts and by the time the Centenary Centre is opened in October, 1948, it may safely be described as a going concern, which has already made much easier the eventide of the lives of a number of worth Grand United members.
Australian Unity

1961: ANA dental clinic opened in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne

The Australian Natives' Association opened their first clinic in 1961 after identifying a need to provide dental services to the community.  Today, Australian Unity operates a number of dental clinics within Victoria.

1962: Manchester Unity Aged Members’ Centre opens in suburban Glen Waverley, Victoria

When Manchester Unity opened its first Aged Members' Centre in 1962, it commenced a path along which the care for the older community has continued under the banner of Australian Unity into the present day.

2002: Australian Unity Financial Planning launches Australian Unity Personal Financial Services

2005: Grand United NSW merges with Australian Unity

Australian Unity accelerated its campaign to build its financial planning business in New South Wales after it took over the Grand United Friendly Society in 2005.

The merge allowed Australian Unity to further invest in the retirement living and healthcare client base of Grand United - one of Australia’s oldest companies.

2008: Australian Unity launches Remedy Healthcare

Remedy Healthcare is a leading provider of highly targeted, evidence-based self-management and health coaching programs. Their services are available to a range of clients across Australia, such as corporations through corporate health programs, health programs for members of private health funds, and specialty aged care health services for older clients living in their homes or in aged care centres.

2009: Lifeplan Australia Friendly Society merges with Australian Unity

In 2009 Lifeplan Australia Friendly Society (Lifeplan) merged with Australian Unity.

Lifeplan was a South Australian friendly society made up of an amalgamation of many other friendly societies including Manchester Unity IOOF, Mutual Community, Australian Natives’ Association, Druids, Foresters, Rechabites – District 81, Hibernians, Protestant Alliance, Free Gardeners, Investment Action, Stateguard, Norwich Union Friendly Society and Savings and Loans Friendly Society. Lifeplan's earliest antecedent company was Manchester Unity, established in South Australia in 1840.

From humble, yet important beginnings, Lifeplan has grown steadily to be a leading Australian specialist fund manager and provider of investment products.

In August 2009, Lifeplan merged with Australian Unity to create an even stronger mutual organisation.

2012: Big Sky Credit Union joins Australian Unity to form Big Sky Building Society

Big Sky began life back in 1971 as two individual employee credit unions – BP Credit Union and BHP Employee’s Credit Co-operative (BHPECC). It was initially based in the mining communities of Western Australia – Hedland, Mount Newman, and Kwinana before expanding to Queensland and South Australia. In 1995 BHPECC added Lysaght Credit Union to its business and in 2002 the business adopted the name Big Sky Credit Union. Further mergers followed - with BP Credit Union (2003), RACV Credit Union (2005), GMH Credit Union (2009) and Westwide Financial Services (2010).

In March 2012 Australian Unity joined with Big Sky Credit Union to form Big Sky Building Society.

Rathdowne Place Retirement Community

2014: Rathdowne Place Wellbeing Precinct opening

2015: Australian Unity Personal Financial Services acquires Flinders Australia Limited

The acquisition gave Australian Unity a broader platform of in-demand services for their clients and members as well as the clients of their financial advisers and accountants.

Flinders provides trust administration, agency, administrator, executor and estate planning services. Additionally, Flinders assists with the provision of services for native title trusts.

2016: Australian Unity announced as preferred tenderer to develop $1.1 billion Herston Quarter health precinct in Queensland

The Queensland Government confirmed Australian Unity as the preferred tenderer for the $1.1 billion Herston Quarter project in Brisbane authorising Australian Unity to develop and then take an ongoing role in an integrated health, ageing and research precinct, which would provide Queenslanders with access to leading health, hospital and aged care services. The new project, integrated within the existing Herston Health Precinct, is designed to attract, train and retain the best clinicians, health workers, researchers, academics and students.

The Herston Quarter is adjacent to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in inner suburban Brisbane. The masterplan for the five hectare site includes a public rehabilitation hospital; a private hospital; residential aged care; retirement living and student accommodation; health research; childcare; a co-working hub and education and training facilities.

2016: Australian Unity acquires Home Care Service of NSW

Australian Unity signed an agreement with the NSW Government to accept the transfer of the Home Care Service of NSW (Home Care) to Australian Unity.

Under the agreement, more than 50,000 clients across NSW and 4,000 employees transferred to Australian Unity in 2016.

Australian Unity’s Group Managing Director Rohan Mead said, “This is an opportunity for Australian Unity to fulfil its vision to create Australia’s leading home care business based on a true continuum of client-directed care.”

The transfer resulted in Home services becoming one of the largest areas of operation within the Australian Unity Group and one of the largest home care providers nationally.

Australian Unity has provided home care services for more than ten years and has accreditations across a number of federal, state government and external accreditation bodies.