History of St John Ambulance in Victoria

Since 1883, St John has been providing services to humanity...




A public meeting founded St John Ambulance Association to teach public First Aid classes in Victoria


St John commences the first ambulance service in Melbourne, using Ashford Litters


St John begins horse-drawn ambulance service from Eastern Hill Fire Station


First Aid Volunteers Association (St John medallion-holders) undertake the first public First Aid duty for the visit of the Great White Fleet


During World War 1 many members enlisted in Australian Army Medical Corps Field Ambulances whilst St John and Australian Red Cross jointly administered the Voluntary Aid Detachments at home


St John transfers responsibility for ambulance transport to the newly-formed Victorian Civil Ambulance Service (later to become Ambulance Service Victoria).


During World War 2, just as they had in the first War, many members enlisted in Australian Army Medical Corps Field Ambulances whilst St John and Australian Red Cross jointly administered the Voluntary Aid Detachments at home


The Melbourne Olympic Games becomes the largest public duty ever undertaken by St John in Australia to that date


First Search and Rescue Squad formed in Victoria


Emergency call-out for the Southern Aurora train derailment at Violet Town


Emergency call-out for the Westgate Bridge collapse
First Australian edition of “First Aid”


Emergency call-out for the Faraday School kidnapping
Emergency call-out search for child lost at Toorongo Falls, Noojee


First Aid post and field hospital support for Sunbury Pop Festivals


Emergency call-out for the search for missing Prime Minister Harold Holt


Centenary of St John in Australia


Emergency call-out for the Ash Wednesday bushfires


Melbourne contingent to Sydney NSW bushfires
Melbourne contingent to Motorcycle Grand Prix at Eastern Creek NSW


Melbourne contingent to Sydney Olympic Games


Melbourne hosts the Commonwealth Games


Emergency call-out for the Black Saturday bushfires


Centenary of volunteer First Aid services in Victoria


St John launches Heart Start community defib program & First Aid in Schools Program


At no cost to school or parent St John First Aid in Schools Program trains more than 70,000 Victorian school children in First Aid


St John First Aid in Schools Program trains 103,000 Victorian primary school children in First Aid


St John First Aid in Schools Program aims to train 150,000 Victorian primary school children in First Aid At no cost to school or parent




When Jerusalem fell to the first Crusaders in 1099, they found in the Holy City a hospice where the monks of St Mary's abbey cared for weary pilgrims, the sick and the injured. The hospice, established by Christian merchants from Amalfi, chose St John the Baptist as its Patron Saint and adopted the eight-pointed White Cross of Amalfi as its emblem. It became known as the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.

Today the Maltese Cross, as it became known, is seen worldwide on ambulances. The four arms of this emblem represent the four cardinal virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude and its eight points represent the Eight Beatitudes: the blessedness of the merciful, the pure, the peacemakers, the persecuted, the humble, the comforters, the meek and the righteous. The cross is coloured white to represent purity.

For centuries St John was headquartered in Rhodes and later in Malta where it continued its role operating major hospitals and protecting the sick and the poor. The religious Order continued to be based in Rome, where it remains to this day. The Order of St. John flourished across Europe. In about 1140, its Knights in Britain built their headquarters in Clerkenwell, London. The Order continued to prosper in Britain until Henry VIII's time when he confiscated all the lands and property that had been donated to St John over the years, and dissolved the Order. However, devoted St John knights vowed to continue their work.

In early 19th century England St John followers re-established an active St John presence. Soon afterwards volunteers provided ambulance and First Aid services, especially during regal processions and important public occasions. As a result, a Royal Charter was granted to the Order in 1888 by Queen Victoria, thus bestowing on St John the status of a Royal Order of Chivalry. Today St John is active in many countries around the world.

Our official title is The Priory in Australia of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. Each year at Government House the Governor presides over the annual Investiture ceremony when new members of the Order are acknowledged. There are more than 450 Knights, Dames and serving Brothers and Sisters of the St John Order in Victoria.

The fundamental role of St John Ambulance is like that of the Good Samaritan: offering assistance without thought of reward. Nowhere is this more evident than in the work of the First Aid Volunteers who provide First Aid at many sporting events, festivals and other public occasions, where they treat hundreds of people. The care we give ranges from a simple band aid to life saving work CPR and defibrillation.

Throughout Victoria and its regional centres there are more than 2,000 trained First Aid Volunteers who attend over 4,000 events, treating more than 23,000 casualties annually.

St John is largely self-funded, a fact not generally known. Thus we greatly appreciate the enlightened generosity of corporate and philanthropic sponsors and private donors to maintain our ambulance fleet and to keep our Volunteers properly trained, so that they are available for any emergency or service to the Victorian community.


St John Ambulance Australia is a Priory of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. The Order of St John has more than 2,500 members in Australia, around 450 of whom come from Victoria. It is headed by the Queen's representatives in Australia - the Governor General, and the Governors of each State.


  • Pro Utilitate Hominum (In the Service of Humanity)
  • Pro Fide (For the Faith)