The formation of the very first “Australian American Association” was in 1941 in Brisbane. It was commenced by Sir Richard James Bower, a very successful grazier who had been wounded on the western front during WW1. The inaugural meeting was held at the Brisbane City Hall and was attended by 500 people. The first president elected was Mr A.W. Campbell, a successful primary producer in Queensland. Campbell was the first to use the caption “U.S. and US”.

Prior to that in 1936, a movement had been commenced in Sydney known as the “British and American Co-operation Movement”. This was established by two WW1 veterans, Brigadier General Henry Goddard CMG, DSO, VD and Captain Ernest White OBE, MC. They both saw a need for such an organisation as a means of ensuring ‘peace and security’ for our vast and defenceless country. It was inaugurated on 15 July 1936 at the Millions Club in Sydney. The concept and objectives of this ‘Movement’ are not unlike those in place today with the Australian American Association.

The Sydney ‘Movement’ was endorsed by the Prime Minister of Australia and it boasted 4,000 members at the time. At the outbreak of WW11 a secretariat was established in Sydney with a full time staff member. The government of the day provided the Movement with a grant of 1,650 pounds on the basis that it assist the Department of Information. As a proviso of that grant, the government requested there be a name change to “Australian-American Cooperation Movement”. The aim of the grant was for the Movement to provide support to the many US service personnel Sydney. Naturally, the name change was accepted.

It was in Melbourne in the same year (1941) that the Australian-American Co-operation Movement was formed by Sir Keith Murdoch, a wealthy grazier and newspaper editor. He was very keen to see the USA join the war and help Australia. Fortuitously, the very next year, General MacArthur set up his headquarters in Melbourne. As a consequence, the Movement rose to new heights and gained enormous support.
The first ‘Movement’, in the same name as that in Melbourne and Sydney was mirrored in Perth on 23 June 1942. Its prime aim was to organise hospitality for the many visiting US ships passing through Fremantle. On arrival to the dock all US personnel were provided with a copy of the Movement’s booklet, “Welcome to Australia”.

The very first Federal meeting of the various state groups was held on 10 November 1943 in Sydney and the first Federal President was Ernest K White, later to become Sir Ernest.

In 1947 the Federal Council changed the name to “Australian American Association” which then standardised the name on a national basis.
Article compiled by Richard Adams, Jan 2008