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History of Alcoholics Anonymous in Australia
FIRST AA GROUP
the 7th December 1942, the Medical Superintendent of Rydalmere
Hospital in Sydney NSW, Dr. Sylvester. Minogue, wrote to
The Editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry in the
USA requesting further information regarding the formation
of a '.....Branch of Alcoholics Anonymous in NSW...."
This expression of interest was passed on to the office
Secretary of the fledgling movement Alcoholics Anonymous,
which then numbered some 8000 members, in New York. The
Secretary of the U.S.AA Central Office Bobby B. wrote back
to Dr. Minogue, and included in the reply was the promise
to send a complimentary copy of the book Alcoholics Anonymous.
So the first Big Book arrived on Australia's shores free
of charge. On the 17th March 1943 Dr. Minogue contacted
the office again in the USA stating that the Book Alcoholics
Anonymous had arrived and was proving to be a mine of information
for him. He commented also on the fact that after some 20
years of treating alcoholics in this country, there was
only a small percentage of recoveries, and a great proportion
of failures." He also made the observation that"
..Acute alcoholics recover rapidly in hospital, and relapse
just as rapidly on their discharge!!"
FIRST AA GROUP
was a non-alcoholic, Father RJ Murphy SJ. who in the early
1940's, played a principal organising part in getting the
first Group to come together. He invited Dr Minogue and
the late Father Tom Dunlea to join him in helping to bring
about a better way of life to the suffering alcoholic. They
did this by means of preaching, concerts, gifts of money,
and clothing. These were the ways in which the three tried
to get through to the unfortunates who huddled in the camps
where the food was scarce, but alcohol plentiful. The result
was a dismal failure. Then in 1945 Father Murphy introduced
Dr. Minogue to Archie McKinnon a non-alcoholic, and an attendant
at a reception house, who often dealt with the suffering
alcoholic, Archie helped establish a small AA Group which
met at Dr. Minogues residence at Rydalmere NSW. This first
Group was a mix of both non-alcoholic and alcoholic members,
they numbered eleven.
SPREAD OF AA THROUGHOUT AUSTRALIA 1945-1955
were very few books available in this country in those earlier
days which was a major problem in transmitting the message
of our Fellowship, this then had to be done by word of mouth.
Then came the first brochure entitled "The Basic Principles
of AA" which was put together by those early pioneers
and was described as an instructive little booklet. It was
all they had. In October 1946, Archie was then invited down
to Melbourne to visit and advise the Brotherhood of St Laurence
there to speak on his work with alcoholics. This was AA's
First move interstate and a Group was started by a clergyman
of the St Laurence Order. In June 1947 Meredith, an alcoholic,
and a wine merchant from Adelaide traveled to Sydney to
learn about the AA way of life, he founded the first Group
in Adelaide, in that same year the actress Lillian R. visited
Australia and was very instrumental in giving AA a kick-start
by speaking at Public Meetings wherever she and her husband
Bert M. went. Jim from Western Australia, also traveled
to Sydney, he returned home to form the first Group there.
In Queensland, a group was started in Brisbane by Dan, and
in 1949, a group was started in Hobart Tasmania, the inaugural
meeting in Darwin was held in 1955 (As a matter of interest
regarding AA worldwide, Father Tom Dunlea, on a visit to
Ireland in 1946 spoke so much about AA in Dublin that it
started a chain of inquiries which resulted in a group being
formed in that city - the first one in the British Isles).
first Central Service Office opened in Sydney. In 1954 it
was proposed that the states come together for a national
forum discussion, ideas from this forum which culminated
in the First National Convention being held in Melbourne
in 1959. It was at this Convention that a resolution was
made to establish a federal body of AA. The resolution contained
a proviso that it would not become effective until confirmed
by the various states. This confirmation was forthcoming,
and it was decided to hold a second National Convention
in Sydney in 1961; the first one held under the auspices
of the Australian Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous.
In the meantime, over a period of years, the General Service
Board situated in New York, was encouraging the Australian
Service Conference to establish a General Service Board,
and following a recommendation from the 1972 Conference,
a General Service Office was opened in Sydney the same year.
The General Service Board was incorporated in 1979, and
is operated by twelve Trustees, eight alcoholics and four
non-alcoholics. This Board carries out the work of the General
Service Conference between conferences.
INFORMATION & TREATEMENT AND CORRECTIONAL WORK IN THE
significant events in AA's early days, set the scene for
the young Fellowships' entrance into the field of Public
Information. The first was when the Secretary to the first
group Rex, became frustrated at the poor press reports outlining
what AA really meant,. He wrote a lengthy ...", reasoned
and authentic account of AA" and submitted it to the
Sydney Morning Herald. The 'Herald' accepted the article,
and printed it in its' entirety. The second came when Frank
Sturge Harty, a well known Sydney radio personality and
non-alcoholic, was asked if he could help carry the message
of AA via radio 2UE, he was only too pleased to help. To
this day, many AA members labour in the field of friends
who include journalists, writers, radio announcers etc.
protected by our Tradition of Anonymity at the level of
Press, Radio and Films, we can continue to transmit AA's
message of hope. Our break into Treatment and Correctional
fields is likewise documented. During those early days an
invitation was extended to a Long Bay goal Officer to attend
some meetings, quite good results were achieved. After release,
quite a few previous inmates began turning up for meetings.
Once again, radio stations regularly featured on-air references
to AA. This valuable 12th Step work is still attracting
new members. Today AA carries the message into most Australian
PARTICIPATION ON THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE
aim of International Service meetings is to carry the message
to the suffering alcoholic.
Australia first became officially involved in the International
arena in 1969 when the first World Service Meeting was held.
We have participated in each biannual meeting since.
In 1980 'Zonal' meetings were formed in Europe and South
America, and met in alternate years to the WSM.
The Asia/Oceania Service Meeting (AOSM) had its first meeting
in Japan in 1995 but Australia did not attend due to financial
constraints. We have been very active since and hosted the
3rd AOSM in Sydney in 1999. The AOSM Secretariat is currently
located in Australia, with Delegates from around the AOSM
Zone keen to further both sponsorship and communication
ties with our neighboring countries.
Further information regarding both the AOSM and the WSM
activities are published quarterly in the AOSM newsletter
and in the quarterly editions of AA Around Australia. AOSM
Directories of meetings and contacts together with the World
Service Directory are available from our General Service
Office in Sydney.
C. Past Archivist & Trustee
S. Current AOSM Delegate
J. Past AOSM Delegate
and information has been taken from:
Service Office records-Sydney
Australia General Service Manual
of Shadows by Archie McKinnon