Westfund’s history is inextricably linked with the history of private health insurance in Australia, and it’s impossible to tell the story of one without the other.
From the coalfields of western NSW to locations across the country, Westfund has had a long and colourful history. We can trace our origins back to 1881, when a group of like-minded miners banded together to form what was essentially a precursor to the fund as it exists today. One thing that hasn’t changed in that time, however, is our commitment to our members and our Westfund community.
The Westfund Story
Members of the Vale of Clwydd Lodge of miners negotiates with Bathurst Hospital to set up a designated bed for its members.1900 – NSW Parliament passes the Miners’ Accident Relief Act. This Act provided for a fund, contributed equally to by miners, the coalmining companies and the government, which could make payments in the case of death or disability.
Labor Premier of New South Wales, Jack Lang, legislates that Ambulance Officers and a Doctor are to be readily accessible at all mining sites. At this time, a group of miners in Lithgow come together to organise weekly pay deductions – a subscription of ‘a ‘couple of bob’ a week collected by the union. This meant miners were able to join a ‘medical club’. These subscriptions funded contracted doctors and ambulance services to members.
Country Party stalwart Dr Earl Page introduces voluntary health insurance in the National Health Act, which subsidises hospital and medical fees through registered funds. The Miner’s Fund is registered under this Act by union official Jim Wilson in November 1953 as the ‘Western District Mineworkers Medical Benefits Fund’ – today’s Westfund.
The Fund becomes ‘Western District Medical Benefit Fund’ to reflect the change to a new fee-for-service system of medical cover for the then 5000 members.
Australia’s federal government, led by Prime Minister Bob Hawke, introduces Medicare, universal health cover for all Australians. Medicare revolutionises Australia’s healthcare landscape.
The Fund becomes registered as a hospital fund and renamed ‘Western District Health Fund’ to broaden markets and grows to 12,000 members. The first Dental and Eye Care Centres open.
The Fund launches into regional Queensland with the opening of the Emerald Care Centre.
A Queensland state office opens in Maroochydore.
The ‘King Building’ – the fund’s new head office administrative headquarters is opened in Read Avenue, Lithgow. The offices, located on the site of the former Lithgow RSL building, were named as such in honour of long-time Lithgow RSL Club Secretary – Manager James Wesley King (Wes).
The late Mr King was Secretary – Manager of the Lithgow RSL Club for 25 years throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s and was extremely well respected by RSL members and the community in general. He also served 25 years as Honorary Secretary of the Lithgow RSL Sub-Branch and deserves particular mention for his input as Pensions and Welfare Officer, where his sympathetic and kindly approach were most valued.
Westfund Health Insurance, as the fund is known today, is proud to provide cover for over 100,000 individuals across the country (figure correct as at 30 September 2018).