The first Swiss Club was founded in May 1899 in Melbourne under the presidency of Mr M.L. Grasset. The committee consisted of the following members:
- President: Marc Louis Grasset (Geneva)
- Vice President: James Hebi
- Treasurer: Theodore Philip L Hardy (Neuchatel)
- Secretary: Charles Groener
The first address of the Swiss Club was 138 Elizabeth Street in Melbourne. Meetings took place at Mr Furlong’s Music Studio at the Royal Arcade in Melbourne every first Friday of the month. In the late 1890-1900, the vast majority of Swiss in Victoria were French speaking.
The first newsletter published by the Swiss Club of Victoria was called Edelweiss with the first issue being published in 1899. The Swiss Club of Victoria also had a book of rules, similar to our current constitution. Unfortunately, the first Swiss Club of Victoria dissolved in 1904 and the publication of Edelweiss ceased.
In the years of the Goldrush (1851 – 1860), the Swiss colony in Victoria was as large as 3,000 people. This number decreased rapidly as many left Victoria bitterly disappointed. In 1879, the Swiss population shrank to a mere 1,300 people of which there were approximately 10% German speaking and the rest of French (Wine growers) and Italian tongue (Goldfields and Hepburn Springs). This was also the year, the Swiss Society of Victoria was founded to assist the many Swiss in need during that time.
After the First World War the Swiss population in Victoria settled at approximately 400 permanent residents. It was in 1924 when there was a renewed interest and desire to form a new Swiss Club of Victoria. The foundation took place on the 20th September 1924 at the Manchester Unity Hall in Melbourne under the Presidency of Mr Ron Baenziger with a total of 48 founding members.
The meeting place was 10 St. Patricks Lane, Melbourne at the cost of 2.10 pounds per week. Due to the high cost, the meeting place was soon changed to 389 Flinders Lane, Melbourne at 1.10 pounds per week.
After 12 months the membership rose to 57 members and between 1926 and 1939 the membership varied between 97 and 60 full members.
In 1932 the location of the Swiss Club’s premises was again changed due to the cost factor of the rent. The new Swiss Club met at the house of Mrs. Roder in 60 Bourke Street, where a room for 31 pounds per year was rented.
Mr R. Baenziger remained president for 10 years and was succeeded in 1935 by Mr. F Martin. The following presidents followed; E. Schubiger 1941, W. Alder 1945, E. Goetz 1948, E. Buff 1951. For a full list of all presidents please see the display board at the Swiss Club of Victoria.
The above information was compiled by Max E. Ammann