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Benevolent Society's home for the less fortunate

In January 1895 the Launceston Benevolent Society offered to take over management of the Invalid Depot in Paterson Street which was home to about 150 destitute and aged men and women.

By the 1890s it was home to a wider community of aged men and women and when the Examiner visited the Invalid Depot on October 27, 1893, it was full of praise for the care being provided to its residents.

“A state that did not make provision for the housing of the destitute aged would, in a certain sense, be open to the imputation of barbarity.”

The Examiner said it would be an inhumane and cruel society that neglected its members who were no longer capable of supporting themselves or had family or friends to provide for them.

“Meals and a good bed are the requirements of those whose misfortunes or faults have rendered them helpless, homeless, and without friends in their old age, and state-assisted refuges have their proper place in every Christian land.”

The Launceston Benevolent Society was committed to continuing that work. The society was founded in 1834 and is one of the oldest charitable organisations in Australia.

Funds were raised by voluntary subscriptions, donations and legacies and the money used to buy food and other comforts that were then delivered to the poor.

The early records of the society have been lost and its viability fluctuated with the generosity of the community.

It wasn’t until the society took over the Invalid Depot in 1895 that it had a permanent home. The government paid the society £2,000 a year to run the Invalid Depot and it became known as the Launceston Benevolent Asylum.

The society managed the aging former military buildings and looked after its residents until June 1912 when the Government again took over responsibility for aged care.

The asylum buildings were demolished as part of the development of Royal Park and in 1913 the Launceston

Benevolent Society had a two-storey brick building constructed at the Kingsway.

The Examiner said the society was now able to give relief to those requiring it in a manner that was not too public. It said the building, although convenient, was not in a public thoroughfare.

As the society approached its centenary, The Examiner of 14 August 1935, reported that it had distributed many thousands of pounds worth of food, to say nothing of clothing and fuel, since its inception.

For nearly a century the society discretely provided food and support for Launceston’s needy from its premises at 4 Kingsway. In 2012 it moved to a new home at Kings Meadows where it continues to help people in need.

Images -- TOP: Residents at the Launceston Invalid Depot, Paterson Street. Picture: Allport Library. MIDDLE: The Launceston Benevolent Society building in the Kingsway.

(Written for the Launceston Historical Society and published in the Sunday Examiner on 4 September 2022)


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