While 2014 marked the end of an era for the Commercial Travellers' Association of Victoria as it ceased operation, the Association continues to support future generations of the Melbourne community with the establishment of a charitable fund account with Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation.
Since its inception in 1880, the Commercial Travellers' Association has demonstrated a long tradition of supporting the community.
John Coustley, outgoing President of the Association, proudly recalled the organisation's giving spirit, "We've always had that [a culture of philanthropy] for as far back as I can remember. We always had causes for members including a superannuation scheme, mortuary benefits and scholarships awarded to members' children. We also made charitable donations to Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation and several hospitals together with academic prizes for outstanding commerce students at The University of Melbourne and LaTrobe University."
The Association's benevolent heritage has similar origins to that of Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation as hospitals during the turn of the century relied heavily on the generosity of the public and philanthropic contributions. In 1903, on the occasion of the clearing of the debt on its club premises, one of the first the Association's first philanthropic efforts was to establish a charitable fund for the Melbourne Children's Hospital. It was just 20 years later, in 1923, that the Foundation was established by Lord Mayor of the Day, Sir John Swanson. Initially known as the Lord Mayor's Fund for Metropolitan Hospitals and Charities, the fund aimed to assist the fundraising efforts of Melbourne hospitals.
The Commercial Travellers' Association played a critical role in the development of the colony of Victoria; its members referred to as 'the great pioneers of civilisation' by the London Commercial Travellers' Association – a sentiment that was similarly echoed by the Bishop of Melbourne in 1885, who referred to them as 'missionaries of civilisation'. For over 130 years, the Association aimed to improve conditions for its member salesmen; lobbying the railways and steamship companies for better facilities, concession fares for travel and discounted rates at hotels.
Its influence, however, also extended beyond its Association membership base to the broader Victorian community; establishing its own system of hotel accreditation widely used by the travelling public and developing a secondary membership scheme that provided access to its exclusive club premises located on Flinders Street, the present day Rendezvous Hotel.
As a regular and significant donor to the Foundation for 45 years, John notes that the Association's decision to establish a charitable fund account was natural, "We've been donating to Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation for as long as I can remember...Establishing a charitable fund account is a way to ensure the Association's name continues in perpetuity."
Funds from the Commercial Travellers' Association of Victoria charitable fund account will support homelessness initiatives in the Melbourne community.