Bundaberg 1919. Only a couple of years a city, a settlement of about nine thousand people, and its medical facilities stretched by the needs of men returning from the Great War with both physical and psychological injuries.
That was the context for the creation of one of Bundaberg’s health icons, the Friendly Society Private Hospital and Friendly Society Pharmacy. It was in October 1919 that a group of like-minded men, mostly representing the then flourishing lodges, met to try to make much-needed improvements to the city’s health facilities. Their idea was to pool the resources available to the lodges to create new facilities, and thus the Bundaberg Friendly Society Medical Institute was born. It began with the princely sum of 10 pounds and 10 shillings plus an annual levy of two shillings and sixpence per member.
And it began to make improvements straight away – by the following year in 1920 the first Friendly Society Pharmacy was established in Bourbong Street. The pharmacy has served the community ever since, and is still flourishing today.
In 1946 the Institute purchased St Vincent’s Hospital in Crofton Street, which has grown into the important and still-expanding Friendly Society Private Hospital we know today.
But if you stand in the right place in Crofton Street and know what to look for, you can still see the roofline of the old Queenslander that housed St Vincent’s. The history of the Friendlies lives on.
And now, to mark the centenary of the pharmacy in 2020, and the 75th anniversary of the hospital in 2021, The Friendlies has embarked on a project to research, locate and display its history as a vital part of the Bundaberg community. There are hundreds of people in Bundaberg and surrounding communities who have memories of the Friendlies and stories to tell, and we’re on a quest to find them and record them for posterity.
The history discovered will be proudly displayed within the hospital. Some of the best stories will be made into digital stories which will be used online. Resources will also be shared with the Bundaberg Regional Library and the Bundaberg Historical Society.
Oral historian Ross Peddlesden is looking for everyone with a Friendlies story to tell, or perhaps some old photographs to share, to begin to flesh out and bring alive the story of this vibrant Bundaberg not for profit organisation. Every story, no matter how brief or seemingly trivial, is important to bringing the detail and colour of the Friendlies story to life.
If you have a story to tell or any information to share, contact Ross directly on 07 4331 1026, 0417 603110 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or alternatively contact the hospital marketing coordinator Nikki Sorbello on 4331 1036 or email@example.com.