Boys' Brigade Uniforms: Australia

Figure 1.--.

Thee goal of the New Zealand Boys' Brigade is Developing Christian Lifeskills through a Children's and Youth Ministry within Churches in Austraklia. This is achieved through a programme that focus's on enhancement of Boys' Spiritual, Physical, adventure, Community and Personal Interests.



The Boys’ Brigade was first introduced into Australia well within a decade of the formation of the movement in Glasgow by the Founder. In 1890-91 a Company was formed at the St. Mark’s Church of England, Fitzroy, Melbourne. The next Company to be formed was at the Wesley Church, Perth in 1895 and this was very quickly followed by Companies in each of the other States on a fairly scattered basis. For instance in Queensland by the year 1899 there were Companies in Mackay, Townsville, Weipa, Aurukun, Charters Towers and Brisbane, whilst in New South Wales there were Companies in Richmond, Kurrajong, Bathurst and Cobar as well as in Sydney. In Tasmania by that year efficient Companies were operating in Launceston and Hobart.

Council formed

To provide a more coordinated basis for growth an Australian Council was formed at the turn of the century, based in Sydney. The first Annual Report in 1900 noted that the Secretary knew of 15 Companies functioning with a membership of 431 Boys and 41Officers. The first Battalion Council was formed in Adelaide in 1901 and comprised four Companies.

Naval units

In the beginning of this century several Companies of the Naval Boys’ Brigade were formed, mainly in Victoria, and in 1907 separate Battalions of Military and Naval Companies were formed in that State. It appears that most of these Companies merged with the Government scheme of Military Training for Boys of 12 and upwards introduced in July, 1911, and as a result of this scheme plus the drain on leadership into the Armed Forces, few Companies survived the First World War.

Inter-war years

There was one notable exception, in 1913 a new 1st Brisbane Company had been formed at the Ithaca Presbyterian Church, led by a Mr. George Orr a former Lieutenant of the 1st Glasgow Company under the Captaincy of Sir William Smith. The formation of this Company marked the commencement of the present era of The Boys’ Brigade in Australia. In the years following the First World War, a former Captain of the 5th Dublin (Ireland) Company, Rev. J. Wesley-Smith, who had migrated to Western Australia, after correspondence with Mr. Orr, was instrumental in the formation of the 1st and 2nd Fremantle Companies at Fremantle Baptist Church and Wesley Church, Fremantle, respectively, and the 1st Northam Company at Northam Presbyterian Church, W.A. It was not until 1929 that a new 1st Melbourne Company was formed at Armadale Baptist Church, Melbourne, and a new 1st Sydney Company was formed at Glebe Presbyterian Church, Sydney. Of these the 1st Brisbane is still active.

No further Companies were formed in Queensland or Victoria up to the outbreak of the Second World War and in New South Wales growth was extremely slow, there being 18 Companies active in Sydney at that time. However, the immediate post-war years saw a rapid spread of the Movement so that we now have Companies in all States and Territories.

Another point of interest relating to the pre-Second World War years is that upon the Brigade becoming more active in New South Wales during the early 1930s it was pointed out that other non-uniformed Boys’ Organisations had been operating in Sydney and Adelaide for many years under the name The Boys’ Brigade and had been incorporated in those States as Limited Companies. As a result, we no longer had the legal right to the use of the name The Boys’ Brigade in New South Wales and South Australia and ultimately agreed to use the name The British Empire Boys’ Brigade. In 1970 the Australian Council adopted the name The Boys’ Brigade Australia and the Movement is now known by that name in all States of Australia.

Post-war era

In 1948 the Overseas Committee of The Boys’ Brigade Executive Committee in London, appointed Mr. Robert McEwan (Captain 3rd Sydney Company) to act as Honorary Organiser for Australia and acting under this authority Mr. McEwan invited one Officer in each State to join him in what was called the Provisional Federal Advisory Committee (P.F.A.C.). This body continued to operate until 1955 when each State was invited to appoint two representatives to the Committee.

The enlarged P.F.A.C. paved the way for the formation of The Australian Council and on 1st January, 1958, The Boys’ Brigade Australian Council was formally constituted. A fitting tribute was paid at this time to the oldest Company in Australia, the 1st Brisbane Company, when its Captain, Mr. R.H. Tait, was elected the first President of the Australian Council.


Current Boys' Brigade levels are somewhat differenr that what HBU has noted before. I'm not sure when this system was adoted.

Anchor Boys (5 to 8 years of age)

Come and join in the fun! This is the start of fun and friendships, the start of learning to play together and indeed for many, the start of their time in The Boys' Brigade. The programme in the Anchor Boys offers them so much. A time packed with games and songs, crafts and stories expressly designed for their age. But there is more than they realise. They will find more because Anchor Boys offer many the first chance to work together, to co-operate in a joint activity, to work (or play) as a team. Have fun and begin to learn some important life skills.

No.1 Section (8 to 12 years of age)

The 8 year old is an established individual, looking to try new adventures and activities. He is usually one of a group of friends, although many still like to explore some interests on their own. The No.1 Section offers a lot of support and encourage this. This programme is a full and varied one, typically lasting one and a half hours with a few if any individual activities lasting more than ten minutes. There is certainly plenty of variety and little chance of becoming bored! Lots of Physical activities, music, crafts, games and competitions usually undertaken in groups rather than on an individual level to avoid exposing any lack of skill in an individual. The young boy has a world to discover, and early concentration on one small aspect can mean that much is missed in life. This is the time for a balanced all round programme - which includes spiritual and social input, as well as physical and adventure activities. Generally our staffing ratio is about one adult to every six boys - so there is opportunity for someone to chat and develop ideas with the quieter lad.

No.2 Section (12 to 18 years of age)

Boys in their early teens are usually looking to define themselves as individuals - and this in a world that often tries to force them into a mould. For many this is a key age where habits and life styles are formed; these can be ones that are socially acceptable or those that can lead to major problems in later life. Early teen years are difficult. How can you be an individual with your own interests, likes and personality while keeping up in today's ever changing fashions and retaining an identity with the group? It is a conflict which often leads to the confusions associated with adolescence. The No.2 Section allows individuals to take part in the activities and the decisions. A chance to make ones own point, a chance also to remain one of a group. A chance to build friendships, a chance to make mistakes that will not be thrown back at them, where skilled staff support can present challenges fitted to the individual. Successfully achieving one challenge is great practice for the next. Brigade awards provide incentive and ensure progression at a rate suitable to age and growing physical strength; there are leadership opportunities to release abundant energies in purposeful ways.


A full history of The Boys’ Brigade in Australia is published in Boys, Urchins, Men by M.E. Hoare.


The Boys Brigade fostered many Scout-like activities, but with a stronger Christian focus.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: September 12, 2000