Type of entity
Legal Status Text
Authorized form of name
Other form(s) of name
Dates of existence
The Friendly Societies Office was established as a sub-department of the Attorney-General's Department (later it was transferred to the Chief Secretary's Department) and Edgar T. Owen was appointed its first Registrar on 31 December 1894. Owen became Commissioner of Taxation on 1 February 1908 but continued simultaneously with his work as Registrar until the appointment of Samuel Bennett on 17 August 1909 as the new Registrar. Bennett held office until he was appointed Manager of the State Insurance Office on 1 August 1940.
The Friendly Societies Office handled a great number of applications for registrations of Friendly Societies in the 1890's after the passing of the Friendly Societies Act of 1894, and later, of Trade Unions after the passing of the Trade Union Act. (1)
A Department of Labour was created in August 1904, the Secretary of the Department being the Registrar of Friendly Societies. (2) Some fourteen Acts dealing with industrial matters were administered by his Department at this time.
Other important duties devolved upon the Registrar as Government Actuary. He had much to do with working out the financial effects Federation would have on Western Australia. He was Secretary to the Western Australian delegation to the Federal convention of 1898. He answered specific enquiries from MP's and heads of departments. In later years, much of the actuarial work concerned particular persons' estates.
Mr Owen was also for a brief time the Government Statistician.
In the early years, the Registrar's duties involved approving and suggesting amendments to proposed rules of societies and unions before their registration. The draft rules are mostly in the form of printed booklets. These were attached to files but were later removed and now form a separate series (see Record Series No. 3015). In later years many of the files consist simply of notifications of changes in trustees. These files show the establishment of societies and unions in particular towns (especially on the goldfields and at timber stations) and what men were active in them.
(1) "The West Australian" of 10 April 1895 provides an explanation of the Act of 1894 and "The Morning Herald" of 4, 6 and 7 April 1896 provides additional information on the early history of the Friendly Societies.
(2) "Western Australian Year Book", 1902-04, p. 1015ff.