The Victoria District of Rechabites (District No. 82) was established in the 28th January 1861 with the transfer of Star of Australia Felix Tent No. 4 of the Tasmania District (which was established in Melbourne on the 25th January 1847) and Mount Alexander Tent No. 9 of the Tasmania District (began in Castlemaine on the 26th January 1860).
These two Rechabite Tents went on to become the first Tents of the new Victorian District with the Star of Australia Felix becoming Tent No. 1 and Mount Alexander Tent being Tent No. 2. It is interesting to note that Star of Felix Tent No.1 still meets today and is the oldest surviving Rechabite Tent of any Friendly Society in Australasia.
It is also interesting to note that from Victorian District, the South Australian District, known as Albert District No. 83 was formed on the 17th February 1865, and New South Wales District No. 85 was formed but the foundation collapsed and was reformed six years later on 24th September 1884. Also from Victoria District, Western Australia District No. 88 was established on the 29th January 1872 and the Queensland District No. 87 was established on the 18th May 1872.
In its heyday the Victoria Rechabites’ membership numbers grew and grew to the extent that there were at one stage in excess of 36,000 members associated with the Victorian Rechabites in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s covering approximately 250 operating Tents.
Sadly this is not the case today as with age and infirmity, membership has declined to the level that there are now only 700 registered members here in Victoria who endeavour to keep the Rechabite ideals and traditions alive by attending the regular quarterly Tent and Region meetings held. Certainly we have had some new members sign a “Pledge” agreeing to abstain from drinking alcohol, but not enough to make an impact on membership numbers.
As of now there are 17 tents and 5 Regions of the Victorian Rechabites still actively operating today upholding the ideals of an alcohol free lifestyle.
In 1920 the decision was made to purchase a building to house the Victorian Rechabite operation. This building still stands today and is directly diagonally opposite the Victorian Markets in Elizabeth Street Melbourne.
Even though each State had its own benefit funds, in April 1991 the States merged their health funds and under the National Health Act registered its own health fund known as IOR Australia Pty Ltd and this operated successfully until 2005 when it was taken over by the Hospital Contribution Fund, more commonly known as HCF.
In 1986 / 87 the Victorian State Board made the decision to purchase 25 acres of land in Wantirna to create a retirement village for Rechabite members with accommodation in 2 bed room units as well as 120 bed hostel and 30 bed nursing home accommodation. This village was somewhat of a first here in Victoria, where all three levels of accommodation were available on the one site.
However as the years progressed, in 2001 all State based organisations merged into one National body based in Melbourne when the IOR Friendly Society Ltd was formed, and when further Government legislation was pressed upon us in August 2007, the decision was made to demutualise, and a new organisation known as IOR Group Ltd was formed. The new organisation however had no provision for fraternal activities and it was necessary for those States who wished to continue in their own right could do so with a financial grant as part of the demutualisation process, and from this the Independent Order of Rechabites Fraternity (Victoria) Inc. was formed.
During 2011 the Victoria Rechabites helped celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Rechabite Fraternity with celebrations being held around the State at Tent and Region meetings and as mentioned above that the membership has declined, there are still 17 Tents and 5 Regions still actively operating today.
The Victorian Fraternity also have and maintain connections with the Dalgarno Institute (Coalition of Alcohol & Drug Educators), Melbourne Total Abstinence Society, Women’s Christian Temperance Union and more recently the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol.
The Victoria District No. 82 was established in the 28th January 1861 with the transfer of Star of Australia Felix Tent No. 4 of the Tasmania District and Mount Alexander Tent No. 9 of the Tasmania District.