Road to Coles Bay
100 years

25 moments that defined RACT

A lot can change over a century. Cars certainly have. Road rules, too. Even our name has changed twice. Like many Tasmanian roads, our story has a few twists and turns, and detours into important parts of the social, political, and cultural history of Tasmania. It's a story of a community of people, a 'Club', who share a common interest in a common place. Our home.


Starting up

It was Wednesday 21 March 1923, to be exact, when we first legally came into existence. It all started when two Tasmanians wanted to elevate the voice of motorists. The pair responsible for our inception were Raymond John Shield, a well-connected local accountant, and Allen Crisp, a lawyer who had served as a military officer in Gallipoli and on the Western Front with distinction.

Safety first

Born of the last few decades of motoring experience, we became a leading advocate for driver safety matters across all of Tasmania. We saw the introduction of road signs that alerted drivers of upcoming turns, intersections and approaching schools. Meanwhile, we wrote to local councils across Tasmania to erect town signage at their boundaries to inform motorists of where they were.

Our scout mechanics

The ‘20s saw our next revolution, with Australia’s first ‘scout mechanics’ hitting the road in Tasmania. In late 1923, John C. Oldham and John Murray Philp became our first on-road mechanics. They carried tools, a little petrol and a supply of club application forms for any drivers nursing a broken-down vehicle who weren’t yet members.

Car crashes into fence circa 1927 showing need for driver education

Credit: Tasmanian Archives

Scout mechanic George Miller

Rubbing shoulders

Tasmania's Governor, James O'Grady, became our first patron in 1925.

A place to call home

With a rapidly growing membership, it was time for us to find our first home. In June 1925, we acquired space on the first floor of a centrally located building at 130 Collins Street, Hobart.

Corner of Elizabeth and Collins Street, Hobart

Credit: Tasmanian Archives


Connecting Tasmania

Early in 1931, we received a letter from a Mr G. Hayton requesting a branch of the club at Queenstown. At the time, there were about 50 car owners in the area. Thinking the suggestion an excellent one, the idea was approved immediately. Not only did we advocate and help build the West Coast Road, but we actively raised funds.

Becoming a touring destination

In early 1931, following the success of a members’ picnic in southern Tasmania, we lobbied for more respite spots across the state. The push to improve touring facilities was matched by our continuing interest in helping facilitate air travel. We played an integral role in growing public interest and subsequent government action to build an airport outside of Hobart.

Commemorating a King

On Saturday 15 May 1937, our patron, Sir Ernest Clarke, in his capacity as Governor of Tasmania, planted an acorn sourced by the Club in the grounds of Fitzroy Gardens in Hobart.

West Coast Road

Credit: Tasmanian Archives

Aviators Bill Lancaster and Jessie Miller
The Duke and Duchess visiting Tasmania, 1927

Credit: Tasmanian Archives


Wartime activities

After a large fundraising effort, in 1941 we donated an ambulance to the war effort. We also introduced the ‘R.A.C.T Emergency Transport Corp’ in 1940. It was a register of members willing to help transport military personnel in the event of a local emergency. Fortunately, it was never activated.

Franklin Square air raid shelter

Credit: Tasmanian Archives

Digging trenches

Credit: Tasmanian Archives


Driving membership

Despite petrol shortages and city congestion, Tasmanians were driving more than ever. With busier roads and a higher demand on roadside patrols than ever before, we established a new ‘Service Membership’, a less expensive tier than previously offered.

Advocating for the ferry

We had been pushing for a modern Bass Strait ferry service and by the end of the decade this dream was becoming a reality. With the introduction of the Princess of Tasmania, the days when cars had to be drained of their fluids, have their batteries disconnected, and be lifted aboard the ships were over.

Car being lifted aboard the Princess of Tasmania ferry

Credit: Tasmanian Archives


New to the road

In the early 1960s, the Tasmanian Government’s education department authorised driver training for schoolchildren, sponsored by various motor industry companies. We helped provide the driving instructors, before developing our own driver training in 1961.

Journeys as we know it

In July 1965, we acquired full ownership of Tasmanian Motor News, allowing even greater control over messaging. This would later go on to become Journeys in 2011.

Driver training instructor and student
First issue of the RACT owned Tasmanian Motor News

Credit: Tasmanian Archives


Environmental movement

The issue of beautification cut across to the ‘70s with the swelling popular environmental movement. The Club drew attention to the importance for those who travel by car to co-operate more fully in protecting the numerous lakes, rivers and streams from pollution.

Rebuilding a bridge

When the Tasman Bridge was struck in January 1975, we were there to assist in reducing the impact on motorists and were among the leading advocates for repairing the bridge as quickly as possible. We also helped communicate and assist with the implementation of alternative transportation.

The road to Coles Bay

Credit: Tasmanian Archives

The collapse of the Tasman Bridge caused significant transport issues

Credit: National Archive of Australia


The insurance gambit

Moving into the insurance industry was arguably one of the most important single developments in our history since the roadside emergency service was introduced. It had been observed that insurance services were the key factor ensuring the financial vitality of mainland clubs. So, a decision was taken to shift from acting as an insurance agent to being wholly into the insurance industry; this came into effect in 1985.

Customer service desk at RACT Insurance


Product growth

We continued adapting to suburban demand during the early ‘90s with more moves and products. A premium roadside service, RACT Plus, was introduced, as well as our own battery replacement service.

Show your card and save

To make it easier to prove membership and introduce new ways to reward members, we rolled out member cards. A scheme called ‘Show Your Card and Save’ was introduced in mid-1994, which gave members the opportunity to earn discounted consumer services and shopping opportunities around Tasmania. At its launch, the program had almost 30 different services and benefits. By 1996, there were over 220 businesses taking part in the program statewide.

Things to celebrate

Jean Trethewey was elected our first female president in October 1997. In addition to being our first female president, Jean was “the first woman in Australia to head a state automobile association”.

!980s driver training car
Jean Tretheway, our first female president


Help when you need it most

In line with the new millennium, we updated our wider branding look, most notably our logo. This was the most public sign of a two-year process of review into operations, community perception and strategic rethinking.


In February 2004, we began a series of acquisitions and partnerships that saw us become one of Tasmania’s major travel businesses, forming RACT Travelworld. With nine retail branches located around the state, we were Tasmania’s largest locally-owned travel agency.

Our updated logo from the start of the new millenium
RACT Travelworld helped members access great travel benefits


Here to help

One of the first things we did after bushfires ravaged the state in 2012-13 was to provide support for victims. Many of our members were, of course, among those who suffered loss through this disaster, so we immediately swung into action.

The place to be

We ventured into the tourism market with the purchase of Freycinet Lodge, Cradle Mountain Hotel, Strahan Village, Gordon River Cruises and the RACV/RACT Hobart Hotel.

RACT marquee during the bushfires


Investing in insurance

We moved out of the tourism industry and provided further investment into insurance through the acquisition of the remaining 50 percent share of RACT Insurance from Suncorp.

Driving into the future

With more than an echo of our founding days, we are firmly focused on progress in Tasmania. It's local issues that most concern us, because it's local issues that most affect you, our members.

Reinvesting into RACT Insurance has allowed greater collaboration within RACT
Our focus will always be on helping Tasmanians