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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



In its objects, organisations, customs, and methods, the Priory in New Zealand of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem follows the Grand Priory of the Order in England (itself the inheritor of objects and customs of the voluntary confraternity founded at the end of the eleventh century); and although the widest practicable degree of autonomy is conferred on the Order in New Zealand, it remains subject to the statutes approved in the Grand Priory's royal charter. All members of the order must be citizens or nationals of New Zealand or its dependencies, must profess the Christian faith, and must have performed, or be prepared to perform, good service for the order and for its work in accordance with its mottoes – Pro Fide (For the Faith) and Pro Utilitate Hominum (For the Service of Mankind). All admissions to or promotions within the order are sanctioned by Her Majesty the Queen, as sovereign head of the order.

The first New Zealand centre of the St. John Ambulance Association was formed in Christchurch in 1885, followed later in the same year by Wellington. The Dunedin Ambulance Division, formed in 1892, was the first St. John Brigade unit organised in New Zealand and the first to be established outside the United Kingdom. The first nursing division in New Zealand (and only the second outside the United Kingdom) was formed in 1895, and in 1904 the first brigade district was constituted. The first cadet division was formed at Wanganui in 1927.

On 7 January 1910 administration of the order's work was undertaken by a Dominion executive. A commandery was established in 1931 and became a priory on 16 September 1946. The Governor-General is prior of the order in New Zealand, which is administered by a Priory Chapter and Priory Council. The three foundations of the order are the St. John Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem, the St. John Ambulance Association, and the St. John Ambulance Brigade.

The objects of the St. John Ambulance Association are instruction in first aid and the provision of necessary equipment, and instruction in home nursing, child welfare, and hygiene. Lecturers in first aid and nursing are registered medical practitioners and State registered nurses. The association issues about 7,000 certificates of proficiency each year. Its ambulances, representing about 60 per cent of all ambulance transport in the Dominion, travel more than a million miles a year in transporting over 100,000 cases. Most of the drivers are unpaid volunteers. Roadside first-aid posts, mobile clinics, and linen guilds are among other St. John activities.

The St. John Ambulance Brigade trains and maintains a body of men and women thoroughly efficient in first aid and auxiliary nursing. It provides reserves for the medical services of the armed forces and public hospitals (through trained voluntary aids) and is ready for any emergency. All service is voluntary. Members must pass annual examinations and must attend not less than 12 practices each year to remain efficient. Cadet divisions afford boys and girls the opportunity to learn and practise first aid, home nursing, and other subjects conducive to the training of good citizens. The distinctive uniform of the St. John members are seen at all public gatherings.

by G.M.