A look back in history shows that problems are not new! The Society for the Promotion of Morality was established in Ballarat in 1870. As a measure of civic maturity the city’s civic fathers were active in combating the scourge of vice in the community. Through a deputation to the Chief Secretary they impressed upon the Government the ‘urgent necessity for adopting a means to suppress the existing immorality in some of the large centers of population’. Over the next 100 or so years some things have certainly changed (and for the better) while I leave it to you, the reader, to judge the rest!
The prospectus of the Society for the Promotion of Morality indicates that it was founded at a meeting held in the Alfred Hall, Ballarat on 14 July 1870. The ‘common sins of licentiousness, intemperance, profane swearing, gambling, the desecration of the Lord’s Day, and whatever other debasing and profligate habits are prevalent among the people, and especially the youth of this district’ were to be opposed. The committee that were present at some of the first meetings comprised mainly the clergy of Ballarat and included Reverends John Watsford, R. T. Cummins, J. J. Halley, W. H. Adeney, McCutcheon, J. Watson, T. Williams, J. McMichael, J. G. Wilson, S. Williams, Drs. Embling and Jakins, Mr. James and Mr. Gladstone.
Many young women were targeted by the Society in an effort to make a better community, and efforts were made for the ‘better protection of female immigrants and young women … against the perils to virtue incidental to their respective positions in life’. The reclamation of fallen women claimed a ‘large share of the society’s attention’ and the establishment of Ragged schools, amendments to the Publican’s Act and the ‘social, moral and religious condition of the Chinese’ were urged.