Australia’s earliest surviving life insurance policy and the insurance claim for the destruction of the Glenrowan Inn by the Victorian Police are some of the historical riches to be found in the Suncorp Insurance Archive, donated to the State Library of Victoria today.

Speaking at the State Library, Treasurer Kim Wells said the archive chronicles the insurance industry in Australia from 1833 to 1970 and is a boon for researchers and historians.

‘This generous gift continues the great tradition of philanthropy in this state and marks a new chapter in the story of our State Library. The archive is a nationally significant part of our collective history and heritage and I thank Suncorp for its generosity and foresight in donating it to the people of Victoria.’

John Cain, President of the Library Board of Victoria received the archive on the Library’s behalf.

‘The more than 3,000 items in this archive provide a remarkable and detailed insight into the life and times – particularly the hard times – of generations of Australians.

Anyone who thinks insurance archives are boring doesn’t understand what a valuable historical resource they are.  This archive tells the story of Australia through a unique lens. It is the story of loss and renewal that is so much a part of life in Australia.

The Kelly gang story comes to its tragic conclusion in these papers. The story of the 1889 ‘Georges’ fire that destroyed the Melbourne retail icon is here; our many natural disasters are detailed in clinical but often heartbreaking detail and thousands of other less well known events that make up the mosaic of our national history.’

Suncorp Group CEO Patrick Snowball said the archive demonstrated the important role insurance companies have played in protecting private and business property in Australia since the early 1800s.

‘It is fascinating to look at these records and see how many Australians, in so many ways, have used insurance to protect their possessions, livelihoods and families. We are delighted to donate this important archive to the State Library of Victoria so that everyone can explore it for themselves.’

Interesting documents and objects from the archive.

Policy Certificate: George Walter Cartwright (1833)

Possibly the oldest surviving insurance policy certificate issued in Australia.

George Cartwright (b 1792-1866) was the first formally trained lawyer to migrate from England, in 1820. He and Hugh Cokely Ross formed the first legal partnership in 1823. He married Sarah Ann ALVIREZ in 1826 in Hobart. They had nine children.

Derwent and Tamar Fire Assurance Policy Register (1838-1843)

Derwent and Tamar was formed in Hobart in 1838 and is regarded as the first Australian originated insurance company. Royal Insurance acquired Derwent and Tamar and London and Lancashire Group in 1961. The archive contains handwritten entries for the first fire covers offered by the company.

Derwent and Tamar Fire Mark circa. 1850

The copper sheeting ‘trademark’ or fire mark of the Derwent and Tamar Fire, Life and Marine Assurance Company was affixed to properties to indicate they were insured by Derwent and Tamar and protected by their private fire fighters before the formation of the Hobart Fire Brigade in 1883.

Isaac Wood correspondence (1846-47): First consumer complaint in financial services

Contains correspondence between Isaac Wood to Samuel Moore (Agent for Australasian Colonial and General Life Assurance and Annuity Co). A letter dated 13 July 1847 makes two suggestions for improvement:

1. Suggests that claim moneys be made available locally rather than have to wait 12 months from England.

2. Suggests higher prominence to clauses that voids claims where death is caused by an ‘Aboriginal native’. Suggests that the existence of a clause that inhibits Perth based people like Wood insuring. Policy clause inserted following Gellibrand disappearance in 183os. Note on envelope suggests Perth suburb of Woodlands named after Isaac Wood.

Minute Book: Colonial Mutual Fire Insurance Co Limited: Board Minute Book 1878-1880 re Ned Kelly Pub fire

Contains a report on the Ned Kelly siege at Glenrowan and destruction of the Glenrowan Inn operated by Mrs Ann Jones. The claim shows £100 was paid with a request for reimbursement forwarded to Victorian colonial Chief Secretary.

Fire Loss: George & George and WH Glen (1889)

Contains two claims. George and George: Federal Emporium (later ‘Georges’ upmarket department store) and adjoining property WH Glen. A fireman was killed in fire. The insured sum of £2000 was pounds exhausted. The archive contains the George and George policy certificate, claim declaration and assessor reports on both fires.

RACV Pool Agreement (1933)

Contract between Automobile Association and AA of Victoria Pty Ltd and Club Motor Insurance Agency dated 30/1/1934; The Accident Underwriters Association of Victoria: RACV Pool Agreement dated 30/1/1934. The cartel agreement was the genesis of AAMI Insurance.

Glenrowan Inn fire claim documents, 1880

Glenrowan Inn fire claim documents, 1880

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