Celebrating 70 years of Teachers Health

Celebrating 70 years of Teachers Health

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When it comes to health and wellbeing, we’re with you all the way

As we celebrate our 70th anniversary, 2024 is a very special year for Teachers Health. While many things have changed dramatically over the decades, one thing remains the same. And that is being there to support our members’ health and wellbeing – in everyday ways, and when it matters most.

1950s – the first health fund for the education community

Our story begins in 1954 when the NSW Teachers Federation Health Society was created to provide affordable healthcare for teachers and their families in response to the changing needs of Australians post World War 2. 

The 1950s brought new and serious health challenges as Australia experienced rapid population growth and responded to the public health crisis of the polio epidemic. With over 4 million cases of polio infection between 1930 and 1960, greater support was needed for those affected by this debilitating disease, which was often fatal, and left many people receiving treatment in “iron lungs” and disabled for life.

Education in 1950s image

A typical 1950s Australian classroom

Iron lung image

Iron lungs were used to treat polio before vaccination reduced cases

Without private health insurance, access to medical treatment was dependent on being able to pay for these treatments personally. Hospital treatment could be expensive, and not everyone was able to afford the care they needed.

In response to the growing need for affordable health support, Harry Heath – former headmaster and union leader, along with Sam Lewis and Harry Norrington, established the NSW Teachers Federation Health Society in February 1954. Teachers Federation Health was popular from the start, with a foundation membership of 2,600 and growing to 4,600 by the end of 1954.

The 1950s were also a significant time of medical breakthroughs as the nature of health and medical treatment in Australia began to change. This included the discovery and rollout of a polio vaccine that reduced polio cases by 97%.

1960s-1980s – growing and changing to meet teachers’ needs

During the 1960s, there was increasing dissatisfaction with the difficulty of getting access to hospital and medical care. Throughout this time, the reputation of the NSW Teachers Federation Health Society continued to grow, with thousands of teachers and their families relying on us for support in times of need. Membership continued to grow by about 10% every year, and by 1974, over 35,740 NSW teachers were members.

1960s nurses

Healthcare workers in Australia circa 1960

Road education

Look Left and Right road safety campaign in the 50s and 60s

Our ongoing commitment to supporting our members' health and wellbeing with value-for-money health cover saw us navigate the challenges across the healthcare industry in the 70s and 80s.

This included growing wait times and lack of funding in the public system, which led to increased investment in private hospitals and presented new options for Australians seeking care. 

With the introduction of universal healthcare through Medibank by the Whitlam government in 1975 (which became Medicare in 1984), the landscape changed again. As well as supplementing medical expenses that weren’t covered by Medicare, private health insurers looked to offer something "extra" compared to the public system.

As a result, ancillary cover (now known as Extras cover) was adopted across the industry. This was a way to help our members keep on top of their everyday health needs including dental, optical and other similar expenses.

Opening of the school library in the 1970s

Opening of a typical school library in the 1970s

Teachers Health eyecare

Optical testing at a Teachers Health Centre

1990s – continuing to add value for members

By 1990, Teachers Federation Health had grown to become the 10th largest health fund in Australia, covering over 100,000 lives. As the health fund grew, so did our capacity to provide additional services, increasing the value to our members.

More milestones were reached that helped us cater to the needs of our members and their families. In November 1993, we established our first Teachers Eyecare Centre in Bathurst St, in the Sydney CBD.  The centre featured modern optometry equipment, and helped hundreds of adults and children care for their vision, and get the glasses they needed to see more clearly.

2000s – incorporation as a
not-for-profit company

In 2001, Teachers Federation Health marked a key milestone by incorporating as a not-for-profit company. This continued our ethos of putting members first and ensuring any surplus is reinvested in the health fund for the benefit of members.

The second half of the 2000s saw a rapid increase in the health fund's growth, particularly in our expansion into other Australian states and territories. 

By 2006, to accommodate our growing workforce, the fund moved to newly built premises in Reservoir Street Surry Hills, where our flagship Teachers Health Centre remains. Throughout the later 2000s, we celebrated the opening of several Health Centres across NSW and Victoria – all of which featured the latest equipment, friendly faces and provided our members with quality dental and optometry services. 

1960s nurses

Teacher, mother and Teachers Health member, Melissa and her daughter

Dentist care

Mental Health Nurse Andrew and Midwife Robynne

2010s – caring for nurses, midwives and tertiary educators

In 2010, we began to trade as Teachers Health Fund and introduced dental care at our Surry Hills Health Centre. The second half of the 2010s heralded a period of rapid growth for the health fund, with several significant achievements including the celebration of 60 years of caring for teachers and their families in 2014.


The Teachers Health family has expanded over time – firstly with the creation of UniHealth in 2014, to provide quality healthcare for members of the tertiary education community.

Then in 2016, building on our strong union relationships and community ties, we established Nurses & Midwives Health to care for nurses, midwives and their families.

Bringing the same level of understanding and support that we have provided the education community, Nurses & Midwives Health was created to provide affordable health cover to those who care for us – our nurses, midwives, and hospital staff across Australia.   

1960s nurses

Nurses & Midwives Health member Andrew and his family

Teachers Health staff

Teachers Health staff visiting the work of UNHCR in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

2010s-2020s – supporting the communities we live and work in

Throughout our history, we have always put our members' health and wellbeing first and sought ways to support the communities from where our education and nursing and midwifery members are drawn.

Foundational to the creation of Teachers Health as well as Nurses & Midwives Health and UniHealth, our union partnerships continue to be pivotal to the ongoing success of the fund and a source of strength for their vital role in protecting the needs of Australia's educators, school staff, nurses, midwives and carers.

In 2014, the Teachers Health Foundation was established in conjunction with our 60-year celebration to provide funding for research into issues impacting educators and teachers nationwide.

We also expanded our support for the education and nursing and midwifery communities. This included maximising our partnerships to provide scholarships to outstanding teachers and nurses through the Public Education Foundation, supporting the wellbeing of vulnerable children through Stewart House, and having a global impact through our ongoing support of UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency).

2015 saw the launch of Teachers Healthcare Services, offering eligible members access to health professionals including dietitians and other experts to help them achieve better health outcomes at no extra cost.

2022 saw us become the Teachers Health Group, with Teachers Health, Nurses & Midwives Health and UniHealth joining together as a single health fund. 

Guy and Allana

Teachers Health members Guy, Allana and their daughter

Support unit teacher Jessica

Support Unit Classroom Teacher Jessica in her classroom

2024 and beyond – 70 years of caring for members

Celebrating 70 years of caring for members in 2024, Teachers Health remains Australia's largest industry-based health fund and is now the 6th largest health insurer in Australia, covering over 400,000 lives.

While a lot has changed since 1954, the core of who we are has stayed the same. We're for people, not for profit, and as we look to the future, our members will always be at the heart of everything we do.