Friendly Society seeks centenary stories

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Back in 1919, a small medical taskforce formed in Bundaberg, then a fledgling city struggling to cope with the return of its injured and traumatised citizens from the battlefields of Europe.

Nearly a century later, the Friendly Society is still looking after the health of the people in Central Queensland – and it is seeking help to compile and document the stories of its growth from a single pharmacy to a flourishing not-for-profit organisation with top hospital facilities.

“We have a good history and timeline of the hospital from the 1990s from our staff today and records we have kept,” The Friendlies' CEO Alan Cooper said. “Some of our staff have worked here for 30 years so they have seen the hospital go through its most significant expansion in the past few decades.

“But we do lack part of the timeline, stories and images from the early years of the institute, from opening up the Friendly Society Pharmacy to purchasing the hospital in 1946 and the growth from an old Queenslander as a 15-bed hospital to what The Friendlies has become today.”

This 15-bed Queenslander has become the modern-day Friendly Society Private Hospital.

The pharmacy was established in 1920, a year after a group of men pooled the resources of the local lodges to form the Bundaberg Friendly Society Medical Institute.

After World War II, the institute bought St Vincent’s Hospital, which has expanded into a 142-bed establishment with a team of more than 400 medical staff.

To mark the centenary of the pharmacy in 2020 and the 75th anniversary of the Friendly Society Private Hospital the following year, the organisation has launched a project to research, locate and display the history of its place in the heart of Bundaberg's community.

Oral historian Ross Peddlesden will be putting together the project in collaboration with the Bundaberg Regional Library and the Bundaberg Historical Society.

“There are some great stories in the community to tell and that is what we are looking for – not just of the hospital, but of the pharmacy and the organisation, which spans back almost 100 years,” Mr Peddlesden said.

Friendly Society CEO Alan Cooper (right) with oral history Ross Peddlesden in the grounds of the private hospital, which retains the 1946 building's original roof.

“Bringing this together will not only tell the story of the organisation but will be a story of the community during the past 100 years and what it was like as the city was growing,” he added.

If you have a Friendlies story to share, or old photographs and period artifacts, then contact the hospital by phone on 4331 1036 or Mr Peddelsden on 0417 603110 and via email.

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