Historical information

Friendly Societies originated in the industrial areas of the United Kingdom. The first society in Victoria was formed in 1839 and by 1913 more than half of the Victorian population was insured by Friendly Societies in some fashion. The societies were financed by Members' subscriptions and offered health benefits and other welfare services, before these services were provided by the government. Doctors were paid by the societies to treat members free of charge, and Dispensaries were established to provide members with subsidised quality medicines.

The Sunshine and District Friendly Societies Dispensary was established on the 1st of March 1930 with a membership of 896, and it was located in Sun Crescent Sunshine. The membership grew to 1052 within 4.5 years, and the number of prescriptions dispensed in the 6 months prior to November 30,1935 totalled 10,535. The Dispenser was Mr. C. H. Semmens.

Most Friendly Societies operated democratically with office bearers changed regularly to prevent power cliques. The Sunshine Dispensary appears to have operated in the same way as the societies that owned it. The Advocate of 10 July 1936 reports that the seven newly elected office bearers or delagates were from the Friendly Societies; A.N.A., M.U.I.O.O.F., P.A.F.S., and G.U.O.O.F. The names of all the seven people can be found on the Honour Board, indicating that they each have served at least one term as President of the Sunshine Dispensary.

The health professions and the Labour Governments of the 1940's wanted to see the involvement of Friendly Societies in health care broken. The Commonwealth Free Medicine Plan appears to have been drawing customers away from Friendly Societies Dispensaries in general. The Sunshine Dispensary placed several advertisements in the Sunshine Advocate during late 1950 urging members to remain loyal to it.

By the 1980's the increase in entrepreneurial clinics and the availability of take away medicine helped to vastly diminish the involvement of Friendly Societies in health care provision.

The 1936 Sunshine Advocate refers to the Sunshine and District United Friendly Societies Dispensary, with the same office bearers as the Presidents on the Honour Board but on which the 'United' is missing from the name of the Dispensary. The 1950 advertisements were placed by Sunshine U.F.S. Dispensary of 23 Sun Crescent. It is thought that all three names refer to the same business, but the writer stands to be corrected.

The above is a compilation of information sourced from Sunshine Advocates published in January and July 1936, and in September, October and November 1950. It also draws on an article written by Elizabeth Willis and published online by the the Department of History (University of Melbourne), and on an article written by Mr. Bill Kelly of the Australian Friendly Societies Pharmacies Association, and also on an article by Museum Victoria Australia.
Corrections to what has been written are welcome from interested readers.


The Honour Board provides a historical record of the Presidents that served 61 terms on the Board of the Sunshine and District Friendly Societies Dispensary. It also provides a reminder that when a government does not adequately look after the welfare needs of its citizens, the people can band together to find ways of helping each other. The Sunshine Dispensary no longer exists, and a more recently established Community Pharmacy which operated in Hampshire Road could not compete against the discount pharmacies that have taken over. These new pharmacies sell a wide range of profitable product lines, as well as dispensing traditional prescription medications.

Physical description

Brown stained wood particle board with picture frame type edging. The board has six straight sides however it is not typical hexagon shaped. The top is composed of three straight short edges to give an almost rounded edge to an otherwise oblong shaped bottom section.

Inscriptions & markings

On the board in gold coloured lettering are the names of 'brothers' and 'sisters' who served a total of 61 terms as PRESIDENTS of the SUNSHINE AND DISTRICT FRIENDLY SOCIETIES DISPENSARY, which was established on the 1st of March 1930.

Eight of the men served more than one term with BRO. I. MILLER serving four terms, and BRO. F. RICHER serving three. The three women SISTER. I. REWELL, SISTER. C. JOHNSON, and SISTER. M.S. ARMSTRONG served one term each. There is no indication of when each person served, but it is believed that the term length was around six months and that the list is in chronological order. This conclusion results from seeing that BRO. W. ROONEY is the 11th listed President, and that the Sunshine Advocate of 10 July 1936 states that he was elected as the new President.