A History of Friendly Society Pharmacies

Friendly Society Dispensaries were first established in Australia in the 1840s. They were set up to manage concerns from working communities and their Friendly Societies around the high cost of medicines and the fact that many apothecaries commonly adulterated their drugs†.

By establishing their own Dispensaries, the Friendly Societies were able to ensure that their members had access to quality medicines at an affordable price. The Dispensaries continue to operate on not-for-profit, co-operative principles with the payment of an annual membership contribution to the Friendly Society, a member obtains rebates/discounts on their pharmacy purchases. Before the introduction of the PBS, this provided significant support for those who could not have afforded their medication.

In today’s community pharmacy environment, with the PBS providing medication access for all Australians, Friendly Society Pharmacies offer members rebates or discounts on other purchases in the pharmacy, but importantly, continue to direct funds and resources to supporting their local communities, maintaining the cooperative spirit of their founders.

The number of Friendly Society pharmacies operating in each State or Territory is controlled by relevant jurisdictional legislation and they no longer operate in all parts of Australia.

With a model of mutuality that remains relevant today, Friendly Society pharmacies continue to flourish and deliver more affordable services to their members. Several Societies also operate more broadly within healthcare They operate hospitals, medical centres, nursing services and mobility centres, with their focus always on delivering the highest possible service to their members and the local community.

Friendly Societies are proud to be the longest, continuous operators of the practice of community pharmacy in Australia.

READ MORE: Click here for an extract about Friendly Society Dispensaries from the book Mutual Aid or Welfare State: Australia’s Friendly Societies

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