The Australasian Pioneers’ Club was founded following a meeting on 2nd May 1910, which was convened by Mr Douglas Hope Johnston BA, a descendant of Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston, of the Marine Detachment which embarked with the First Fleet.
(Then) Lieutenant Johnston came to New South Wales in the ‘Lady Penrhyn’ (one of the transports of the First Fleet) and is reputed to have been the first officer ashore at Port Jackson on 26th January 1788.
The Club’s motto “Primi in Terras Australes” refers to British settlement in Australia and the Pacific Islands. The Club’s crest is an 18th Century Ploughshare over which the Rising Sun appears.
The first three objects of the Club, as listed in its memorandum of Association, are to foster mutual help and friendship amongst gentlemen who were the descendants of pioneers, to foster the pioneering spirit in Australasia, and to promote discussion of Australasian history.
Since its foundation in 1910 the Australasian Pioneers’ Club has continuously attracted a thriving membership. Its continued success is assured by the Members’ pride in Australia’s past, their active participation in its present and their unbounded faith in the Nation’s future.
The Founder of the Club was Douglas Hope Johnston, a leading barrister in the early 20th Century, who was well connected in the Sydney business and social scene. He saw the need for a club of pioneer descendants and called a meeting at his chambers on 2nd May 1910, determined to start the new club. By September, the club had 193 members.
Many members, past and present, have pioneer ancestors who are well known names in Australian history. Names like Bligh, Macarthur, King, Horden, Badgery, Ruse, Cox, Piper, Blaxland, Wentworth, Raine, Gore, Jamieson, Dawes, Darling, Lawson, Harris and O’Connell.
Distinguished members have included Governors-General and Governors, judges and many who have contributed greatly to the history of our nation. One such member, now deceased, was Judge Athol Moffitt QC.
He is best known as the Chairman of the 1973-74 Moffitt Royal Commission into organised crime in New South Wales. What is little known is his involvement with the war crimes trials of Japanese officers and soldiers who had taken part in the murders and brutality at the POW camp at Sandakan and the Sandakan death marches. As a result of these trials many Japanese soldiers were brought to justice, including the Sandakan camp commandment Captain Hoshijima Susumi, who was hanged.
There have been 32 Presidents of the Club since 1910. The first President was James Charles Cox. The current President is Grahame Pratt.
In keeping with tradition, the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, agreed to be our Vice Regal Patron in 2020.
Clockwise from top: The Founder of the Club Douglas Hope Johnston; the Governor of New South Wales, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley; Judge Athol Moffitt.
A deceased member of the Club left money to award an annual history prize at the University of Sydney in the name of the Australasian Pioneers’ Club. The writer of the best thesis on Australian history is awarded a cash prize to put towards further research and study.
The 2015 winner was Rohan Howitt. He examined the pre-Federation and pre-WW1 periods and the cultural threads that encouraged people to identify with the new Australian state, and to continue to do so despite the divisive force of war. He did so by focussing specifically on Antarctic exploration, a phenomenon that captured the Australian imagination and served as a unifying force from the 1880s through to the post-war era.
Membership of the Club is open to gentlemen over 18 years of age by nomination, who are descendant from the early pioneers. Pioneer qualification for membership calls for the tracing of one’s ancestry back to the early days of British settlement in Australasia and the Pacific Islands.