Australian Natives Association

Australian Natives Association

The Australian Natives' Association (ANA), a mutual society was founded in Melbourne, Australia in April 1871. The Association played a leading role in the movement for Australian federation in the last 20 years of the 19th century. In 1900 it had a membership of 17,000, mainly in Victoria.

The ANA provided sickness, medical and funeral cover. However, it threw off the secrecy and ritual of British friendly societies which also provided such insurance cover.

Membership in the ANA was restricted to men born in Australia, at a time when native-born people of European descent (not including Indigenous Australians) were rising to power in place of an older generation born in Britain. In the 1890s, for the first time, they became the majority of the population. The ANA consisted mainly of energetic middle-class men aged under 50 - a perfect base for a forward-looking, idealistic movement such as federation.

In 1880 the ANA committed itself to the federation of the Australian colonies, and provided much of the organisational and financial support for the Federation Leagues which led the campaign, particularly in Victoria. It avoided party politics, but they soon adopted the rising liberal politician and ANA member Alfred Deakin as their candidate for leadership of the federal movement.

In 1891, when the Victorian Parliament was considering the federation bill, it was the ANA which organised public meetings around the colony to rally support for the bill, many of them addressed by Deakin. After the failure of the 1891 bill, it was the ANA which kept the federal cause alive. When the movement revived after 1897, the ANA campaigned vigorously for the referendums to approve the proposed constitution.

With federation achieved in 1901, the ANA withdrew from political activity, although it continued patriotic activity such as promoting the observance of Australia Day. Other nationalistic issues supported by the ANA included afforestation, an Australian-made goods policy, water conservation, Aboriginal welfare, the celebration of proper and meaningful citizenship ceremonies following the increased levels of migration after World War II and the adoption of the wattle as the national floral emblem in 1912.Together with the Returned and Services League, it was one of the last Australian pressure groups to support the White Australia Policy. It maintained this support until the 1970s.

The ANA continued to prosper, operating a private health fund, a building society, general insurance company and small-scale life insurance and fund management activities. In 1993, it merged these operations with Manchester Unity of Victoria to create the company Australian Unity, then the largest friendly society in Australia by number of members.

As of 2007, only the WA branch exists, and this is winding down, although Australian Unity attempts to maintain a modicum of activity in the Victoria-based ANA fraternal society. []

External reference

* [ Australian Unity Company History]
* [ White natives fold their tent]

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