The Religious Society of Friends is commonly referred to as Quakers and consists of the members of the Society and many others who worship and are involved with the Society. Quakers have been active in Australia since the 1830s and are referred to as Friends. The organisation was founded by George Fox in 1648 in England and is committed to working for equality and peace and believes firmly in religious tolerance.
The national body is Quakers Australia and, under its formal name, The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia Inc, is incorporated in the ACT. It consists of a number of regional groups called Regional Meetings (or Queensland Quakers, Victorian Quakers etc) and Local Meetings or Worshipping Groups and the Australia Yearly Meeting (or AYM).
The term Yearly Meeting is used by Quakers around the world to refer to a group of Quaker Meetings which come together on an annual basis for business and spiritual purposes (eg Britain Yearly Meeting, New England Yearly Meeting, etc).
Culturally, Quaker heritage is Christian, British, however it is open to many ideas and believes in social and cultural diversity and inclusivity.
Mandates/Sources of authority
Each of the Regional Meetings is incorporated under their local legislation, as are some Local Meetings. Regional Meetings are autonomous with a (usually brief) set of rules. More importantly, they are guided by the Handbook of Practice and Procedure which is a national publication produced by the Yearly Meeting. This explains the details of the administration arrangements. All meetings in Australia are also governed by national policies.
Each of the Regional Meetings owns one or more Meeting Houses, as do two of the Local Meetings. The only property owned by Quakers Australia is the Sanctuary, which is a domestic rental property in Sydney.
Records held by Quakers Australia (The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Australian Yearly Meeting) include:
- Agendas, minutes, reports and correspondence of the AYM
- Policies and public statements.
Records created by Regional Meetings include:
- Agendas and minutes
- Marriage registers
- Annual financial reports (audited)
- Lists of members and attenders
- Lists of officer bearers
- Testimonies (to the life of) and Australian Quaker Dictionary of Biography entries (relevant to each Regional Meeting)
- Miscellaneous historical material
The Tasmanian Meeting also holds records relating to The Friends School, Hobart, opened in 1887.