100 Year History

At Travellers Aid Australia, we have a long and wonderful history of assisting travellers in need that spans more than a century.

How it all started (100 years ago)
In 1916, women’s lives were changing – and World War I was the catalyst. Men were leaving Australia to fight, which meant more women were travelling on their own, joining the workforce, and sometimes leaving life in the country and venturing into the city for the first time.

That year, a group of women formed the first Travellers Aid Society of Victoria, a multi-denominational group lead by volunteers of the YWCA.

Over the intervening years we have adapted to the changing needs of our society. One hundred years later, that group now Travellers Aid Australia is still operating in Victoria. The organisation now supports men, women and children as they travel. And Travellers Aid still depends on the support of volunteers to operate.

“It is quite remarkable that for more than half the life of our city and state, there has been a Travellers Aid, quietly going about its vital role.”
Trevor Huggard, AM. former Lord Mayor of Melbourne, former Travellers Aid Australia board member.


1916: The beginning

Travellers Aid Australia is formed in July 1916 to offer support and protection to women and girls arriving in Melbourne from overseas, interstate and rural Victoria. From 1916 Travellers Aid Australia volunteers begin to meet boats arriving at Station Pier and trains at Spencer and Flinders Street Stations.

1920: The migrant experience

Travellers Aid Australia volunteers begin to work tirelessly on applications for War Gratuity Pensions with great success. Travellers Aid Australia rest rooms are erected at Station Pier, Spencer Street Station and Victoria Doc k by 1921. The Travellers Aid Hostel is also built this year.

1939: World War Two

During World War II Travellers Aid experienceda huge demand for its services. The committee members’ knowledge of military camps is important as women often leave home with small children in tow to visit their husbands. Travellers Aid take on the role of assisting these women as it is difficult to find loved ones in the midst of thousands of troops with limited ways of making contact. 

1945: Post-war migration

No sooner than the cessation of war in 1945, Travellers Aid Australia is propelled into another intense and exciting period of Australia’s history post-war migration. Travellers Aid Australia begins to greet and accommodate these migrants, houses families on their way to rural reception centres, and reunites lost children with their parents.

1960: International students and the Colombo Plan

As the number of migrants arriving at Station Pier begins to dwindle, Travellers Aid Australia shifts its focus to the needs of young Asian students arriving to study as part of the Colombo Plan. The hostel once again becomes a flurry of inter-racial and multi-lingual interaction, as students from around the world mingle and share stories.

1972: Doors open for men

In 1972 Travellers Aid Australia diversifies and welcomes men, providing them with financial aid and other referral services. This paves the way for other Emergency Relief services, some of which have continued for 30 years.

1989: Encouraging independent lifestyles

The Travellers Aid Disability Service opens to provide support to people with disabilities. The service is an important step in encouraging people with disabilities to make use of the many facilities and resources available in the heart of Melbourne.

2005: New endeavours

Travellers Aid Australia successfully operates the Melbourne Mobility Centre on behalf of the City of Melbourne.

2006: A new and improved facility

Travellers Aid Australia at Southern Cross Station relocates to new purpose built facilities with extended operating hours. Travellers Aid Australia assists people with disabilities and visitors involved in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

2008: A triumphant return

Construction commences at Travellers Aid Australia at Flinders Street Station and the service returns after a 40 year absence.

2009: 20 years of service

Travellers Aid Personal Care Service is more successful than ever at Flinders Street Station and Southern Cross Station, celebrating its 20th birthday.

2014: Expanding to regional Victoria

Travellers Aid opens at Seymour Station with the Buggy Service.

2016: 100th Anniversary

Travellers Aid officially launched its 100 year celebration on Thursday 14 July at Southern Cross Station. In commemoration of a century of service Travellers Aid also launch the book ‘We are all travellers’, a collection of images and stories of the Travellers Aid journey.