Australian Natives Association

The Australian Natives Association (ANA) began in Melbourne in 1871 as a benefit or friendly society to encourage thrift and educational improvement among those born in Australia, 'natives'. Non-sectarian and politically impartial, it later campaigned for political reform and patriotic causes. In Tasmania it operated briefly in the mid-1880s and supported political reform, and developed more strongly from the 1890s. ANA branches fervently supported federation. In 1904 a statewide conference resolved to form a Tasmanian Board of Directors with RJ Meagher, a prominent municipal reformer, as president. By 1908 membership totalled 901, higher pro rata than other states. In all, 26 Tasmanian branches were formed throughout the ANA's history, with sixteen the highest number at one time during 192930.

As well as providing medical, hospital, funeral and sick pay benefits, the ANA took up issues including national parks, teaching Australian history in schools, water conservation, afforestation, protecting native fish and fauna, town planning, immigration control and campaigns to buy Australian goods. It opposed intermarriage between Australians and Germans on racial purity grounds during the First World War, and secession in the 1930s. Some branches held annual musical and literary competitions and Wattle Days, and Launceston held an exhibition of Australian industries in 1908.

In 1952 the ANA overcame opposition to secure 26 January as the Australia Day holiday. In the late twentieth century, political and social causes were gradually abandoned and the ANA concentrated on paying benefits to members. It seems to have been closed down or subsumed by private health funds.

Further reading: J Menadue, A centenary history of the Australian Natives Association 18711971, Melbourne, 1971; Tasmanian Almanac 1978/79; A Young, 'The press and the federal campaign of 18971899 in Hobart and Launceston', Honours thesis, UT, 1971.

Stefan Petrow