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Our history

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Our history
Our story began more than 130 years ago

The foundations of RT Health were laid in 1889 when a group of railway workers at Sydney’s Eveleigh rail workshops got together to form a co-op. Each worker contributed a small part of their wages to help the workers and their families pay for medical treatment if they became ill or were injured.

This enterprising cooperative of workers sowed the seeds for what became Australia’s first registered health fund - the Railway and Tramway Hospital Fund (now RT Health).

In the 130+ years since, RT Health has helped its members through a lot.

We stood beside them during the Spanish Flu more than 100 years ago and again more recently during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

We also played a part during the first World War, by supporting RT Health members who worked on the railways.  

The railways have always played a huge part in the history of Australia. From 1855, when the first steam train in NSW set off from Redfern in Sydney to arrive at Parramatta just 40 minutes later, the railways have offered employment to thousands, economic growth for the country and finally, convenient public transport.

In 1926, Sydney’s first regular electric train service began operating and the following year Australia’s first traffic lights appeared in Melbourne.

World War II also took a major toll on Australia with thousands killed and injured. But Australian railway workers, many of them RT Health members, ‘did their bit’ contributing to the war effort producing weapons such as the ‘Brenn gun’, the ’23-pounder field gun’ and assembling tanks at Sydney’s Eveleigh workshops.

The fund survived the introduction of Medibank in 1975 by the Whitlam Labor Government and its replacement, Medicare in 1984, instituted by the Hawke Labor Government. This was despite membership decreasing as many Australians chose to rely on Medicare alone.

RT Health has been there through the highs and lows, the tears and the joys of two Olympic Games (Melbourne 1956 and Sydney 2000); the Granville train disaster in 1977, bushfires, floods as well as the introduction of Lifetime Health Cover loading (LHC).

When you have a long and proud history like we do, you’re able to call on experience when helping members plan for the future. We’re one of only a handful of health insurers able to say they are working from experience as we transition to dealing with day-to-day life living with COVID-19 and beyond.

We honour those who have touched RT Health over the years, their dedication and commitment have built RT Health to what it is today.

RT Health continues to stand for those Australian workers and their families who contribute to keeping the lights on and the country moving.

Our proud organisation last year began another chapter in our history with our merger with Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund, HCF.

We’ve put together this video as a salute to our rich history. Take a walk with us. It's an incredible history and one that our members can be justly proud of.