Alcoholics Anonymous History In Your Area
History of Alcoholics Anonymous in Australia
Alcoholic Anonymous • Australia •
THE FIRST AA GROUP
On 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!!”
THE FIRST AA GROUP
It was a non-alcoholic, Father RJ Murphy SJ. who in the early 1940’s, played a principal organizing 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.
THE SPREAD OF AA THROUGHOUT AUSTRALIA 1945-1955
There 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).
THE STRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT
Our 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.
PUBLIC INFORMATION & TREATMENT AND CORRECTIONAL WORK IN THE AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITY
Two 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 prison facilities.
OUR PARTICIPATION ON THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE
The 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.
- Ron C. Past Archivist & Trustee
- John S. Current AOSM Delegate
- Bob J. Past AOSM Delegate
Excerpts and information has been taken from:
- Central Service Office records-Sydney
- The Australia General Service Manual
- Castle of Shadows by Archie McKinnon
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