Friends Farm: Australia’s First Quaker Commune
Australia has a long and rich history of religious groups trying to establish some
sort of utopia by removing themselves from urban centres to rural idylls. The ﬁrst
of these was Herrnhut, in western Victoria (1853–1889), and today there are many
such as Danthonia Bruderhof and New Govardhana, in NSW, Chenrezig,in
Queensland and Rocky Cape Hutterites in Tasmania. While Quakers in the UK and
USA have a tradition of forming rural communes starting from the seventeenth
century, the ﬁrst, and most important of such in Australia was Friends Farm, estab-
lished in 1869 on what is now Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. This group was led
by the charismatic Alfred Allen, a radical Quaker from Sydney. He believed that he
had been reborn, held Christ within him, and had achieved sin-free perfection. He
was disowned, twice, by Sydney Quakers after when he led his small band of
would-be communards to the “wilderness” of Queensland where they sought to
create a perfect society. Not surprisingly, it did not quite work out that way.
In A Question of Survival: Quakers in Australia in the Nineteenth Century, William
Oats wrote of how several Sydney-based Quakers, in 1869, “withdrew to set up in
Queensland what would now be described as a ‘commune’.” This, Oats stated,
was “a community experiment on the Mooloolah River. . . known as The Friends
While numerous Quaker communal settlements had been founded over-
seas, and non-Quaker communes, such as Herrnhut, preceded 1869 in Australia,
Friends Farm was the ﬁrst Quaker commune in Australia and, until now, little has
been known about it or its founder, Alfred Allen and other members.
Dr William J. Metcalf is an Adjunct Lecturer, Grifﬁth School of Environment Grifﬁth
University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
1. Wm. Oats, A Question of Survival: Quakers in Australia in the Nineteenth Century
(Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 1985), 274, 281, 283.
2. W. Metcalf and E. Huf, Herrnhut: Australia’s First Utopian Commune (Melbourne: Mel-
bourne University Press, 2002).
3. Many people have helped with this research project, most importantly Jenny Madeline,
Archivist for the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), NSW Regional Meeting, and Alfred
Allen’s great granddaughter. Others who helped, in alphabetical order, are Daryll Bellingham,
Helen Best, Lyall Cowell, Carol Hawley, Wilma Hiddins, Milli Kafcaloudis, Ray Kerkhove, Bill
Lavarack, Neil McGarvie, Tim Miller, Kaye Nardella, Judith Pembleton, Clive Plater, and Kate
© 2017 Religious History Association
Journal of Religious History
Vol. 42, No. 1, March 2018