Friendly societies in Australia were first established by community groups in the 1830s – well before the advent of the modern-day social security system – with the aim of pooling community funds to benefit local communities.
Societies grew as average Australians, such as labourers, miners, carpenters, bricklayers, stonemasons, blacksmiths, shop workers and railway workers, formed co-operatives to help them to access essential services which they otherwise might not have been able to afford.
Since then, friendly societies have evolved into member/customer-focused providers of specialist financial services which help Australians become financially independent and better prepared for events which come up during the course of people’s lives through the provision of savings, investment and insurance products.
The focus of friendly societies is to assist and encourage Australians to:
- Fund future common and foreseeable life events, such as home deposits and ownership, raising and educating children, sinking funds to pay debt, health and aged care, job-loss provisions, private child-care funding and support for aged parents or family members with disabilities;
- Better prepare for difficult financial times which inevitably arise at some point in people’s lives; and
- To improve and sustain financial and social standards via self-reliance and a savings culture that does not rely on government social welfare dependency in the first instance.
To promote this ethos and personal savings culture, friendly societies are committed to:
- Providing low-fee savings products which represent good value, are easily understood, meet an express customer need and are inclusive of all levels of society;
- Maintaining exceptionally high standards for members, centred around honesty, integrity and ease of access;
- Furthering the financial literacy of Australian consumers and educating them about the benefits of prudent medium-term savings and the need for financial security derived from self-generated financial provisions; and
- Upholding core principles of mutual self-help, support and co-operation.