Friendly or mutual benefit societies developed in Great Britain in the seventeenth century, generally based around communities of interest. They first appeared in Australia in the 1840s - 1850s. The Australian Natives' Association was established in Melbourne in 1871 as a non-partisan and non-sectarian friendly society for Australian-born, white men seeking to shape Australia's nationhood and identity. The ANA was a strong advocate for Federation and became an advocate for White Australia. It was a staunch supporter of trade protection and immigration restriction, and Prime Minister Alfred Deakin was a member. The ANA aimed to develop a direction for Australia that was independent of Britain, and to develop quality educational facilities for native Australians who appeared to be disadvantaged by a lack of British education. It was a vocal supporter of Federation. The ANA spread to all Australian states and eventually New Zealand. Its non-political activities came to include cultural events, personal sponsorships and support for the development of Australian football. Following Federation it adopted causes including national defence, the White Australia policy, railway expansion and nature conservation.

Williams, Melvin, 'A Very Australian Friendly Society', NMAA Journal, 8, pp.59-64.

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