Australian Quaker Biographies
The Dictionary of Australian Quaker Biography was first compiled by William Oats in 1989 with the assistance of several Friends. Material was drawn mainly from testimonies and references in The Australian Friend, The British Friend, The Friend and the Proceedings of London Yearly Meeting. The first edition contained information about Quakers who died before 1989 and has since been updated each year.
There is now information about over 1,350 people on this website who have been significantly associated with Quakers in Australia, including both former members and others who have attended Quaker Meetings for a significant period in their lives.
The information included for each person may be very brief (the Minute of a Meeting recording their death) or more extensive. It may include a Testimony to the Grace of God in the person's life (“aspects of the Friend’s life that reveal the workings of the Spirit in the world, as an inspiration to others”) as well as newsletter articles about or by them and other biographical information, including photographs in some cases. There will also be a note if there is an entry for that person in the Biographical Index of Quakers in Australia before 1862 below.
The information is in text files on this website and the search option above can be used to access the files. The files are named using the person's Family Name at the date of death, but the search engine will bring up entries containing the maiden name or other previous names. It will also indicate people who are mentioned in another person's biographical information.
Additional information may be available about the people on this website and can be requested by contacting the Australia Yearly Meeting Secretary who may also have information about other Quakers not on this website. If you have any problems, comments or suggestions, please contact the Biographies coordinator.
Marjorie and William Oats carried out extensive research into the early Quakers in Australia for William's book A question of survival; Quakers in Australia in the nineteenth century (William Nicolle Oats, University of Queensland Press, 1985). One of the outcomes of that research was an unpublished Biographical Index of Quakers in Australia before 1862 (the "Pre-1862 Index"). All the people in that Index appear on this website with basic information and contain a reference to their presence in the Pre-1862 Index. They can be found by doing a search above. The pdf files below (based on the family name at the date of death) may contain additional information for that person. The pdf file Introduction, sources and references contains further background information about the Index.
The Index covers the early years of settlement of Quaker migrants in the Australian colonies up to and including the year 1861, when London Yearly Meeting gave formal recognition to the Monthly Meetings of Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart. The index contains the names of all those who had some defined relationship with the Society of Friends by membership, attendance or connection by family, schooling or burial and who spent some time in the colonies during this period. Numbers of these returned to England or Ireland and hence were not permanent settlers.
The sources used are basically Quaker. The information does not purport to be definitive or exhaustive, but in some cases is quite extensive. Where possible, the children of this first generation of Quaker migrants were listed if they were born before 1862 but it was not possible to follow these further in any detail.
An attempt was made to cover the following range of information:
Short biographies of some well-known Quakers were compiled by David Purnell (Canberra Regional Meeting). They were recorded for broadcasting on the Canberra Dove Talk radio program and/or published in the Canberra Quaker Newsletter.
You can listen to the broadcasts by clicking on the names below. Their year of birth is shown and the final column contains links to other information about the person. The text of all these talks is available here.