A History of Friendly Society Pharmacies

Friendly Society Dispensaries were first established in Australia by Friendly Societies in the 1840s. Their establishment then was in direct response to two significant problems of the day:

• The high cost of medicines for their mainly poor members; and
• The fact that many chemists commonly adulterated their drugs†.

The purpose of Friendly Societies in establishing their own Dispensaries was to ensure the supply to their members of quality medicines as prescribed and at an affordable price. They were able to do this because the Dispensaries were established and operated by the Friendly Societies on a true not-for-profit, co-operative principle. For the payment of an annual membership contribution to a Friendly Society pharmacy, a member obtains rebates/discounts on their pharmacy purchases (for other than PBS items).

The number of Friendly Society pharmacies able to operate in each State or Territory is governed by relevant jurisdictional legislation.

In the past it has been argued that the development of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme by the Commonwealth meant that, as all members of the community would have access to subsidised medicines, there was no longer a role for the not-for-profit pharmacies.

However, Friendly Society pharmacies continue to flourish and deliver more affordable pharmaceuticals to their members as well as competitive professional services to the broader community. They provide the best possible range and quality of pharmaceutical products at the most affordable prices.

With a model of mutuality that remains relevant today, Friendly Society pharmacies are the longest, continuous operators of the practice of pharmacy in Australia.

† Mutual Aid or Welfare State Australia’s Friendly Societies, David Green & Lawrence Cromwell ISBN 086861 6567