A helping hand and 80 years of solidarity

Great occasion: Maryvale Friendly Society has been running for 80 years. Pictured is company secretary Stuart Passalaqua, life member Tony Bailey (holding an original minute book) and chairman Paul Grieve. photograph liam durkin



THERE aren’t many of these left anymore.

Maryvale Friendly Society, which operates out of the Opal Australia mill at Maryvale, celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.

The society was founded in 1942 by employees of the then Australian Paper Maryvale Mill.

A meeting on Friday, September 18 laid the foundations for the society, which is still going to this day.

It is believed to be one of the few friendly societies left in existence in Victoria, if not Australia.

Friendly societies act as a conduit between employees and give access to a range of support services.

For instance, members of the Maryvale Friendly Society who fall ill are provided support to help find appropriate medical care.

The society’s mission is: To support out members and their families. To provide them with financial assistance in times of need. To help them balance their work life with the needs of their family, during sickness and injury, and especially during traumatic and unfortunate events.

Membership to Maryvale Friendly Society is predicated on employment at the mill.

The majority, if not all employees at the Maryvale mill are in the Maryvale Friendly Society. At last count, there were more than 700 member families.

Membership benefits include coverage for a range of life events, including birth of children, where the society will help by alleviating travel and furniture costs.

Reflecting on the milestone, Maryvale Friendly Society life member, Tony Bailey, said the society had been one of the cornerstones of the mill.

“Eighty years is incredible, for an organisation to hold together for that long and still be relevant today,” he said.

“We help out members who are sick and inured, not just physically but mentally. We’re able to do simple things like a baby bonus, a $500 voucher to go and buy a cot or a pram, that sort of thing.”

Mr Bailey, who still has an original minute book from the 1940, said the bond created by people not only working together, but being in the society, created a great spirit among the workforce.

“You couldn’t work with your crew without somebody on that crew having been a beneficiary of the society,” he said.

“There is a lot of goodwill out there; if somebody has circumstances, one of their mates will say ‘Why don’t you give the friendly society a call?’

“There is a lot of camaradery among the members, they push it as much as the board members.”

Maryvale Friendly Society has been there for countless members in the past 80 years, and with generations of families working at the mill in that time, one can only imagine how many have benefited from their membership.

For those who have worked at the mill most of their life, there is a good chance the society has been the one constant in their life.

Archives: Work at the mill in 1946.
photograph supplied
Long time ago. Eastern Road, looking north where the mill is. photograph supplied