A short history of the Bahá’í Faith in Australia
The Byron Bahá’ís are active members of the Australian Bahá’í community which has its roots in the dedication of a small group of people nearly a century ago.
In 1920, Englishman John Henry Hyde Dunn, and his English-Irish wife, Clara, arrived in Australia from the United States, where they had both emigrated. They were the first Bahá’ís to settle in this country.
In 1922 the first Australians joined the Faith. They were Oswald Whitaker, a Sydney optometrist, who first met Hyde Dunn in Lismore and Effie Baker, a Melbourne photographer.
Soon Bahá’í groups sprang up around the country. By 1934 there were enough Bahá’ís to elect a national governing body, the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Australia and New Zealand (New Zealand later formed its own National Spiritual Assembly).
In 1955 Fred Murray of South Australia was among the first Aboriginal people to become a Bahá’í.
The Bahá’í Temple at Ingleside, in Sydney was opened in 1961 and became the public symbol of a growing Bahá’í community reaching out to the wider society. This place of worship is open to the public every day of the week for private meditation or public tours upon request, and public services are held every Sunday at 11am where Holy Scriptures are read and others are performed by the Choir.
The size and diversity of the community was boosted in the 1980s when Australia opened its doors to those fleeing the resurgence of persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran. Their subsequent settlement, integration and contribution to Australian life have been a major success story.
In recent years, the Faith has gained a higher profile through its activities for peace, human rights, interfaith harmony and gender equality, as well as the religious education we provide in many State schools in Australia.
Many Australians now encounter the Australian Bahá’í Community through the services we offer in neighbourhoods and other grassroots activities in many parts of Australia.