7 of Australia’s oldest companies
Australia itself is a country of contrasts, being one of the worlds’ oldest and youngest countries, respectfully. In terms of its independence from Britain, Australia is a young independent country, having been federated and pronounced separate from Britan on 1 January 1901. The truth is, however, is that many well-known and respected Australian businesses have been around for much longer!
The companies listed below have survived wars, financial disasters, and more recently, a global pandemic that has shaken the business world.
#1 Oldest Australian company on record
Topping off our list today is Australia Post, whom most historians consider to be the longest-running business in Aus, a short 39 years after Captain Cook first arrived in Australia.
In 1809, Isaac Nichols, a former convict, was appointed as Australias’ first postmaster general and presided over the distribution of mail throughout the young colony, and the establishment of Australias’ first post office.
In 1901, the position was transformed into the Postmaster-General’s Department (PMG), which was responsible for coordinating mail and telephone correspondence throughout the country. It was the largest government department at the time of Federation, employing over 18,000 staff across the nation.
Today, Australia Post remains as one of Australia’s largest businesses, employing approximate 36,000 persons across Australia and having delivered around 3 billion items in 2019.
Image Credit: ABC News
#2 Oldest Family owned business in Australia
The title of oldest Australian business is one that has been debated in the past. However, the title of Australias’ oldest continually run family business goes to Somerville farms. Founded in 1811 by Daniel Stanfield, a mariner who arrived in Australia as a part of the First Fleet in 1788, and established only a few short years after the founding of Hobart itself.
To put this into perspective, it would be a further 43 years until the first train line was established in Australia, and an additional 90 years until the first petrol car would be built in Australia.
Today, Somerville Farm is based on the banks of the Jordan river, 26km North of Hobart and is under the management of 7th generation family members, Walter & Peter.
#3 Oldest bank in Australia
Year founded: 1817
Number of employees: 33,000
Previously known as the Bank of New South Wales, Westpac first began its operations back in 1817 and was established as the first bank in Australia. This came into being under a charter of incorporation provided by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, as developing the then-colony of Australia required access to funds to promote economic growth.
Having begun its life initially in New South Wales, Westpac expanded into Queensland in 1850, and shortly after that into Victoria in 1851. Today, Westpac is an enormous banking conglomerate with over $22 billion in revenue, approximately 1,200 branches and 33,000 staff. Not only is it one of the largest companies within Australia, but it is also the oldest company that is still active and operating on the Australian Stock exchange.
Credit: ABC News: Gregor Salmon
#4 Oldest Brewery
Year Founded: 1824
Not to be confused with the topic of Australias’ First brewer (That title goes to James Squire, a convict-turned brewer who was active at the turn of the 18th century), the title of the oldest brewery in Australia goes to Cascade Brewery, whose origins date back to 1824 at the foothills of Mt Wellington, Tasmania.
Unfortunately, the brewery was destroyed by bushfires in 1967 that swept across much of the Tasmanian countryside that same year. Due to the hard work and perseverance of the Cascade team, the brewery was rebuilt and operational in no time. Three months and one day later, brewing re-commenced at the Cascade Brewery.
You can still visit their heritage beer garden on your next trip to Tasmania;
For more about the Cascade Brewery, check out the following article:
Credit: Sadleirs Transport
#5 Australias second-oldest family business
Year Founded: 1829
As Australia’s second-oldest family business, Sadleirs has been around since before the founding the city of Melbourne by John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner, and only nine years before anyone had ever sighted Antarctica.
The company was founded in 1829 (coinciding with the Foundation of Perth) by brothers Lionel & William Sampson, who started a merchant liquor and import-export business in Freemantle. Today, Sadleirs’ operates as one of Western Australia’s largest freight, packaging and warehousing providers and services many clients who are global household names.
Credit: Sydney Morning Herald
#6: Oldest newspaper still in circulation
Year founded: 1831
Australia has had a long and storied association with newspapers and the press, dating back as early as 1803 with the printing and circulation of the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. The printing run of these papers included government orders for the new colony, with the government often censoring its publications at the time.
In 1831, three former employees of the Gazette, Ward Stevens, Frederick Stokes and William McGarvie banded together to form the Syndey Morning Herald. To this day, the Sydney Morning Herald remains Australias’s oldest continuously published newspaper and remains to be one of the worlds’ largest newspapers by readership and circulation.
For more reading, check out their Wikipedia article here:
#7 Australias’ oldest continually operating bakery
Year founded: 1864
Bakeries have been, and continue to be, places of great social significance within the towns and suburbs they inhabit. No bakery lives up to this more than the Gundagai Bakery, which has continuously served the Riverina for over 150 years. Located on Sheridan Street, Gundagai, the bakery was first opened by German immigrant and baker William Bibo, who later went on to become mayor of the young and growing town.
In 1976, facing pressure to close amid challenging conditions, fifty Gunagai locals rallied together and purchased the business to avoid its closure. Present baker John Caitling has operated the successful bakery for the past 23 years, selling a variety of baked goods and his signature pies and sausage rolls.
Should your travels take you through Gundagai, be sure to stop in for a treat!