For the overwhelming majority of friendly societies, customers of the societies are also the owners – meaning friendly societies directly benefit local communities.
Friendly societies operate under a unique “benefit fund” structure, where profits are reinvested back into friendly societies to continuously improve the services and support provided to members, customers and the community. This clearly distinguishes friendly societies from larger shareholder corporations.
While a small number of friendly societies have chosen to demutualise (or move away from member-based ownership), their commitment to benefitting local communities remains unchanged.
The history of friendly societies underlines the strong, ongoing commitment of the industry to local communities. From the 1830s, when friendly societies were first established on mutual self-help ideals, 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.
The products offered by friendly societies promote community self-reliance and help address inequality by complementing welfare support.
Friendly societies are committed to upholding core principles of mutual self-help, support and co-operation.