After the beginning of Modern Spiritualism in NY State USA there was a positive outpouring of contact with the world of spirit and for a world where there was no immediate form of media communication, very quickly indeed the word about spirit communication spread.All over the USA groups formed around people in who's presence psychic phenomena occurred and many people were found to be extremely mediumistic. Also of course it did not take long for the word to spread outside the USA and all over the western world mediumship and groups communicating with spirit sprang up.Likewise Australia experienced an upsurge of interest especially amongst professional people. Groups were formed in many places and as in the USA much of the results within the groups were of various physical phenomena. By 1869 a spiritualist newspaper was circulating from Wollongong in NSW.In some places in the absence of Mediums, discussion groups were formed to hear about what was being experienced in the USA. One such group formed in prior to 1870 in Melbourne with a group of 25 business men lead by William Terry a bookshop owner and including the American Ambassador of the time. This group called it self The Victorian Association of Progressive Spiritualists and met at Collins Street in Melbourne later moving to Swanston Street Melbourne. An early President of the Association was Alfred Deakin for many years who later became the Prime Minister of Australia.Initially only for men, later ladies were invited. After a time a piano was introduced for the singing of Hymns. Of course whenever the group could it entertained visiting mediums. Often at that time meetings were interrupted by children throwing up stones to rattle off of the corrugated iron roof.The budding church later moved to A'Beckett Street and still holds a church there today known as The Victorian Spiritualists Union Inc. Since this church has been continuously running through all the years since, it can claim to be the oldest continuously running spiritualist church in the world. Early on the Church was instrumental in starting a magazine 'The Harbinger of Light' this continued until 1947.At the same time as the V S U was established and grew there were spiritualist churches forming in other states. One early established church is at Boundary Street Brisbane which was opened by a great spiritualist Sir Arthur Connan Doyle. Another old church is that at London Street Enmore Sydney (Unfortunately this church is not operating at the time of writing).Although churches formed in many of the towns and cities in Australia the main drive of spiritualism in the country was in home circles and these for many years proliferated in a very large number of places. Unfortunately due to the nature of these circles being for families or just a group of friends records of nearly all have now disappeared.In the first years of the 20th century a number of overseas celebrities came to Australia to bring the message of spiritualism. Among these were Mrs Emma Hardinge Brittain and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Mrs Hardinge Brittain was a very famous writer and medium from Britain and the USA and Sir Conan Doyle was the author of the stories about Sherlock Holmes the detective who basically gave up his career to lecture on Spiritualism all over the world, for example he addressed packed meetings at the Sydney Town Hall where thousands of people were present and overlapping from the building onto George Street.The orthodox churches perhaps due to fear of loosing their congregations early on began to preach against spiritualism and often accused it and mediums of witchcraft and Satanism. They said it was evil and warned congregations against spiritualism on pain of going to hell etc etc.The result of this is that spiritualists and mediums were persecuted. Mediums as in the UK were imprisoned for 'fortune telling' and spiritualists often if it became known that they were spiritualists would arbitrarily be fired from their jobs.
This continued to a greater or lesser degree for many years. Even as recently as the 1970s the QLD police bought cases to court for fortune telling but mostly against people who read Taro cards.Incidentally at many spiritualist meetings of the time so many crowds of people attended that people who had been before were asked not to come again so that all the people who had not experienced the phenomena previously could get in.The first world war 1914 to 1918 seemed to only temporarily stop spiritualism and there was a resurgence to some extent afterwards but the second world war 1939 to 1945 reduced spiritualism to an extent that in some countries it has never recovered from.During the time of the Whitlam Government in the 1970s, groups of churches sought recognition as religious denominations for the purposes of the marriage act so that ordained ministers within the churches could perform marriages. N.B. Australia has no official state religion, recognises no religion and only recognises religious organisations for the purposes of the marriage act.The first to spiritualists to achieve this recognition was a group of churches under the auspices of the Victorian Spiritualists Union lead by its then long time president and deep trance medium the Rev George Eldred.In 1975 this was immediately followed by a group of churches in NSW and QLD called United Spiritualism of Australia under the leadership of Rev Anne McCanne also a fine medium.Later another group of churches in 1987 in Victoria called The Associated Christian Spiritual Churches of Australia was organised and now has many associated churches throughout Australia.However even with the formation of these 'denominations' the bulk of spiritualist churches in Australia remain independent. In fact it is sad to note that spiritualist churches do tend to come and go mainly with the availability of dedicated mediums to serve them and dedicated people to run them.In the late 1960s to early 1970s there was a intrastate organisation formed called the Australian Spiritualist Association but after a few meetings this folded no doubt because of the difficulty in getting people from different states to be able to travel to meetings.In approx 1983 An organisation was formed in NSW to bring spiritualists together called the Australian Spiritual Association (but then did not truly represent spiritualists or spiritualist churches). Later it changed names to The Australian Spiritualists Association and later to The Australian Spiritualists Union.Today Spiritualism continues but support varies greatly. There are still many churches especially in Victoria but not so many people are interested particularly among the professional people who perhaps don't want professional stigma by being recognised as a Spiritualist.The standard of mediumship has fallen somewhat - Physical mediums are rare today and commitment is lessened. Many good mediums are turning to stage productions where money seems to be a large factor although it must be said that there always was a faction of mediums who only appeared on stage like early on the physical mediums the Davenport Brothers.As in Spiritualist churches the vast majority of mediums today are not physical mediums but are mental mediums giving clairvoyantly and clairaudiently received information but of course when accurate and evidential this is very effective.There is of course much more to this history in Australia and this article will be updated from time to time.