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Australian Service Manual

Enquiries from Australia about Alcoholics Anonymous first reached the GSO in New York in the year 1942; but it was 1945 before AA was functioning in Sydney, NSW, on an established Group basis, making Australia the first country outside of North America, to accept Alcoholics Anonymous as a means of recovery from the ravages of alcoholism.

During the next two years, the message of Alcoholics Anonymous spread to other States and the year  1947  saw  Group  meetings  established  in  Victoria,  South  Australia,  Western  Australia  and Queensland.  It took a further two years for the Fellowship to reach Tasmania and the first meeting was held in Hobart in 1949.    Perhaps, by reason of its geographical isolation, it was much later before  the  Northern  Territory  was  to  experience  the  impact  of  Alcoholics  Anonymous.                                                                                          The inaugural meeting was held in Darwin in 1955.

By now meetings were springing up all over the continent and several Central Service Offices were opened in various capital cities, the first being in Sydney.

In 1954 the suggestion, emanating from NSW, was proposed that the States get together for a national forum discussion. This resulted in subsequent pooling of ideas which culminated in the first “National Convention” being held in Melbourne in 1959. At this Convention a resolution  to establish a federal AA body, to be known as the “Australian General Service Conference”, was passed by an overwhelming majority of the conventioneers.  The resolution contained a proviso that it would not become effective until confirmed by the various states.

This confirmation was forthcoming and it was decided to hold a second  National Convention in Sydney over the Easter weekend of 1961; and the first one under the auspices of the Australian General Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous.

During this Convention, elected representatives from the various States met in session for the first Australian General Service Conference meeting. The Australian General Service Conference was then, and is now, an all Australian body in which Australian AA can act on its administrative side at the national level of General Service. Among many other things, it was resolved at this first Conference to explore the possibility of establishing an Australian publishing body and an Australian magazine, along the lines of the  similar  services  within  the parent  movement  in  the USA. It was also agreed to recommend for adoption, this short summary of the purposes of the Australian General Service Conference:

The Australian General Service Conference is a part of the AA Fellowship in which all Groups throughout Australia join together for unity in service to alcoholics who seek recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous is more than a set of principles, it is a society of recovered alcoholics in action. AA’s Twelfth Step, carrying the message, is the basic service that our Fellowship gives. The Australian General Service Conference exists to further our collective Twelfth Step work at the nation-wide level.

Further Conferences were held annually in the various capital cities on a rotation basis and, on some occasions, there have been two Conferences in the one year. At the Conference in 1976, it was resolved that future Conferences ought to be conducted in Sydney.

Over a period of years, the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous situated in New York encouraged the Australian General Service Conference to establish a General Service Board and a publishing operation along the same lines as had occurred in North America.

The year 1967 saw the emergence of AA Publishing, Pty. Ltd. which then began to supply most of the literature needs of Australia and other nearby countries. (AA Publishing Pty. Ltd. ceased operations on January 5, 1979. The General Service Board of AA Australia is now responsible for the literature needs of Australia).

Advice was received from America that the First World Service Meeting was scheduled to be held in New York in 1969 and, on the invitation of the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous in that city, the Australian General Service Conference was represented by two delegates at that meeting in 1969. A second World Service Meeting was held in 1972. Further meetings have been held every two years and Australia has been represented on each occasion.

At the Conference held in Sydney in 1970, a plan known  as  “Operation  ‘76”  was  designed  to achieve progress towards the formation of the Australian General Service Board by the year 1976. This plan was carried out and all necessary preliminary procedures were completed as scheduled. At the same Conference, on March 29, 1970, it was resolved that the Australian General Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous should become, as of that date, “the guardian of  the traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, the perpetuators of the Australian services of our Society, the voice of the Group Conscience of our entire Australian Fellowship. This Resolution (following) is adapted from, and proffered in the spirit of, the classic Resolution passed at the Twentieth General Service Conference, St Louis, Missouri, July 3, 1955. It is hoped it will serve the interests of AA in Australia as faithfully as it has done in America.

Following a recommendation from the 1972 Conference a General Service Office was opened in Sydney in the same year. This made it possible more smoothly and effectively to operate the General Service function. In 2001 the GSO in Sydney was renamed the ‘National Office’ of AA Australia because of confusion in the Fellowship between Central Service  and  General Service offices (eg ‘CSO’ and ‘GSO’ sound very similar, and the distinct national role of GSOs was thereby emphasised).

The General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, Australia, was incorporated in 1979, and is operated by twelve Trustees, eight alcoholic and four non-alcoholic. This Board carries out the work of the Australian General Service Conference between conferences, is essentially custodial in its character, and truly reflects the voice of the “Group Conscience” of AA in Australia.

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