Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA)

The YMCA, part of an international movement for 'the Spiritual, Intellectual, Social, and Moral Improvement of all within its reach', reached Launceston in 1880 and Hobart in 1882. It was open to all boys and young men, irrespective of colour or creed, and promoted all-round development spirit, mind and body by providing appropriate activities: social meetings, concerts, debates, lectures, reading and games. It was particularly noted for encouraging sport, including boxing, soccer, gymnastics, swimming and walking, and although the organisation felt its prayer meetings, Bible classes and mission work were paramount, as in most places, Tasmanian YMCA centres became better known for their recreational activities.

During the First World War, ordinary activities were overshadowed by the important work of both the Field Service and Naval Departments in assisting the war effort. During the Depression, the YMCA aimed to lift morale by providing daily classes in carpentry, motor mechanics and commercial subjects. By 1931, the Hobart 'Y' had 443 members, comprising 1 in 50 of the entire male population of the city.

The Hobart YMCA opened its Glenorchy gym complex in 1971, and has managed the Clarence Aquatic Centre since 2003. The Launceston YMCA at Kings Meadows also offers a variety of sporting and recreational pursuits. Still a 'not for profit' organisation with no direct government links, the YMCA is managed by a voluntary board of directors.

Active in Hobart since 1885 and Launceston since 1888, the Young Women's Christian Association welcomed all women, particularly young workers, to its evangelistic activities. Its main achievement was running hostels, at a time when finding respectable accommodation was often a problem for women. Although retaining the name, it disaffiliated from the national movement in the mid-1930s, but rejoined the worldwide movement in 2000.

Further reading: M Dunn, The dauntless bunch, Melbourne, 1991; www.key.org.au/ymca; YMCA, 1 st Annual Report, Hobart, 1883; YMCA, 1 st Annual Report, Launceston, 1881; YMCA, Jubilee, Hobart, 1932.

Wendy Rimon