Brisbane Freethought Association

Brisbane Freethought Association

Name: Brisbane Freethought Association

Group: Institutional Location

Type: Scholarly Society

Years at Location: 1876-1886

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The history of ‘Free-Thought’ has been poorly written up in Australia. One of the significant reasons for the oversight is the lack of philosophical investigation into the thinking. The terms, or ‘freethought’, ‘secular’, ‘rationalist’, and occasionally ‘progressive’ and/or ‘spiritualist’, reflected different beliefs and motivations but the original organisers, and later amateur historians, tended to take an ecumenical view of those who rejected conventional religion. The effort to hide the polemics of thought is an attempt to de-emphasis the large number of schisms and ‘backdoor’ exiting which were occurring among members. The problem did not stop until dissent was rounded up into the more conventional and better organised British Rationalist Association (originally the Rationalist Press Association, 1885).

Impact on Brisbane Society

Brisbane Freethought Association was founded in 1884, and was the renamed Freethought Literary & Debating Society in 1886.


Dahlitz, Ray. Secular Who’s Who: a Biographical Directory of Freethinkers, Secularists, Rationalists, Humanists and Others involved in Australia’s Secular Movement from 1850 onwards, R. Dahlitz, Balwyn, Vic, 1994.

Shaw, Barry; Metcalf, William James. (ed) Brisbane: Training, Teaching and Turmoil: Tertiary Education 1825-2018, Brisbane History Group, Salisbury, Qld, Boolarong Press, Moorooka, Qld, 2018.

Further research is underway.

Image Citations

Queensland Insurance Company Building, 1884. From The Lost Heritage of Eagle Street by John W. East []