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Protestant Hall (fmr), Perth

Protestant Hall (1901) is a distinctive building on Beaufort Street with its relief of William of Orange on horseback, with the date 1690. For many years this was the home of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society, which provided social security for members before the government took over these responsibilities.

The first Western Australian branch of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society was formed in Perth in 1892. Forty founding members were initiated, two of whom were only seventeen years old. The constitution of the Society declared it to be a “Society for Protestants and loyal subjects to the Protestant Crown of England”. The Society’s motto was ‘Fear God, Love the Brotherhood, Honour the King’.

City of Perth Lodge No. 1 met at various locations in Perth and Northbridge through the 1890s, before finally building its own meeting hall in Beaufort Street. The two-storey building included two ground-floor shops to Beaufort Street, a main hall behind, and living quarters above the shops. The building was completed and available for hire by February 1901.

The Depression years resulted in a sharp decline in membership of Friendly Societies. Although membership numbers climbed again as the economy stabilised, many Friendly Societies never recovered from this slump. As government provision of health care improved, membership of Friendly Societies declined. Today, Protestant Hall is privately owned and provides office space for commercial businesses.

Detailed Description

Protestant Hall (1901) is a distinctive building on Beaufort Street with its relief of William of Orange on horseback, with the date 1690. For many years this was the home of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society, which provided social security for members before the government took over these responsibilities.

The first Friendly Society in Australia was founded in New South Wales in 1830. Friendly Societies were voluntary associations for mutual aid. They flourished, becoming the main health providers for less affluent sections of the community. By the 1860s, most Australian towns had at least one active Friendly Society. They organised medical services, provided sick pay, arranged help for members in hard times, and provided one of the few available sources of organised social activities.

The first Western Australian branch of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society was formed in Perth in 1892. A ceremony of initiation and installation took place at the Working Men’s Institute on 26 April. Forty founding members were initiated, two of whom were only seventeen years old. The majority identified as Church of England, but Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Salvation Army and Lutheran Churches were also represented. The constitution of the Society declared it to be a “Society for Protestants and loyal subjects to the Protestant Crown of England”. The Society’s motto was ‘Fear God, Love the Brotherhood, Honour the King’.

City of Perth Lodge No. 1 met at various locations in Perth and Northbridge through the 1890s, before finally building its own meeting hall in Beaufort Street. The two-storey building included two ground-floor shops to Beaufort Street, a main hall behind, and living quarters above the shops. The building was completed and available for hire by February 1901.

In the early years, the ‘Protestant cause’ was a significant part of the business of the Lodge. For example, minutes of Grand Lodge meetings in 1903 include resolutions to protest

Catholics having burnt Protestant Bibles in Fiji, and to protest the upcoming visit to the Pope by the reigning King. The Grand Master of the Lodge also declared that a member who sent his children to a Roman Catholic school was breaking his obligation to the Society.

Membership of the Society was restricted to men until 1912, with the exception of the ‘ladies lodges’. Three women joined in 1913, and women gradually progressed through the various officers’ chairs of the organisation. In 1930, the first woman to head up a Lodge in Western Australia was appointed ‘Worshipful Mistress’ of City of Perth Lodge No. 1.

The Depression years resulted in a sharp decline in membership of Friendly Societies. Although membership numbers climbed again as the economy stabilised, many Friendly Societies never recovered from this slump. As government provision of health care improved, membership of Friendly Societies declined.

The Protestant Alliance Friendly Society vacated Protestant Hall in 1981. It was acknowledged that social changes, such as the introduction of Medicare and the proliferation of private health insurance providers, had rendered the purpose of the Friendly Society obsolete. Today, Protestant Hall is privately owned and provides office space for commercial businesses.

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