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Q: Family "lottery" ( Answered 3 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Family "lottery"
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: dan_zap-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 11 Sep 2002 13:21 PDT
Expires: 11 Oct 2002 13:21 PDT
Question ID: 63993
I remember reading in James Michener's "Hawaii" about an interesting
sort of lottery -- every family member would donate a certain amount
each month, and each month one member would get all of it. Every month
a different family member would be chosen to receive the kitty until
all of them had received it at least once. In this way, family members
were able to start businesses quickly, without saving.

What is the name of this concept, what culture did it originate in,
and what other information is available on how well this concept
worked, and whether it is still practiced?
Subject: Re: Family "lottery"
Answered By: angy-ga on 11 Sep 2002 23:16 PDT
Rated:3 out of 5 stars
Hi, Dan-Zapp !

The funding scheme you mention is almost certainly a variation on the
Starr-Bowkett Societies, which still operate successfully in New South
Wales, Australia. Most of the Web references to the societies are to
legislation governing them, but I have spoken to  Karen of the North
Sydney Starr-Bowkett Co-Op Home Loans Society,
Ph +61 2 9923 2777
Suite6/3Ward St.
North Sydney
NSW 2060

and Tina of the Statewide Starr Bowkett Societies
+61 9557 1898
43, Enmore Rd.
NSW 2043

 to piece together some information for you.


In 1840 in England Dr. Thomas Edward Bowkett founded a co-operative
society for self help. A few years later he was joined by Richard
Benjamin Starr and the first housing co-operative was started.

In 1868 the first Sydney, Australia, Starr-Bowkett society was
registered. In 1901 Government legislation was brought in to regulate
the societies, and in 1923 comprehensive legislation was passed.
(Source: Tina.)

A historical website at:


"1897-The smelters at Broken Hill were gradually being phased out of
the local industry in favour of the seaboard site at Port Pirie. Tree
men died when overcome by fumes from a fire which broke out in the
Proprietary Company's block 12 lease. A Starr Bowkett Society was
formed to assist in the purchase of homes. A new Post Office was
opened at North Broken Hill, adjoining the Police Station. On 18
November, the corner stone for a Masonic Hall was laid on the site of
the former York Hotel. "

And the Newcastle Permanent Building Society site at:


"The first General Meeting of the No.1 Starr-Bowkett (Newcastle, OZ)
was held on Monday 2nd February 1903. Its first allocation for home
construction was made in June that year to Mr Harry Gilbert of Wickham
and Mr Fames Forgie of Islington.....

The Starr-Bowkett system continued on into the late 1930's but as the
call for housing increased, it became obvious that this simple system
would prove inadequate to meet the demand. In 1939 the first
Terminating Society was formed where institutions invested lump sums
with the Society for the purpose of providing home finance."

In May 1904 the Newtown based group was formed, making it the oldest
established group in Australia still operating today. (Source: Tina.)

How does it work?

Each group is set up slightly differently, but basically a registered
society is formed with a limited number of memberships available -
usually around 500 nowadays. As people apply to join they are assigned
a number. They select the size of the loan thay wish to apply for -
for Newtown it is a minimum of $10,000 and a maximum of $100,000. They
then pay in a monthly sub. based on the amount of the proposed loan -
$25.00 a month for each $10,000 required.  (Source: Tina.)

This sub. is paid in over a limited period of time - say 200 months.
Once there are sufficient funds in the kitty, a ballot meeting is held
monthly, and load recipients chosen at random. They then pay back the
loan and their original commitment if it is still owing. When
everybody has had the opportunity to take out a loan, the society is
wound up and the original capital returned to the members.  (Source:

North Sydney offers interest free loans and loans at 4%, whereas the
Newtown group only offers interest free loans. Each group may run
several societies in parallel.

Co-operative housing societies and building societies were
developments of this concept which have developed into big business
with all kinds of qualifying requirements for getting a loan.

Societies did operate in other states, especially South Australia,but
no longer seem to exist there. In New South Wales they are popular
with parents or grandparents wanting to give the children a start -
real estate prices are extremely high in Sydney, and it is difficult
for people to save the initial deposit for a home.

Some legal information is at:


Schedule 3---Matters to be provided for in rules of Starr-Bowkett

I hope this is useful.

Search terms:

co-operative housing Starr Bowkett

Request for Answer Clarification by dan_zap-ga on 12 Sep 2002 06:24 PDT
I appreciate your research, but this isn't the answer I was looking
for. In Michener's "Hawaii", this system is described within the
context of a large, extended family of Chinese immigrants as a custom
they brought over with them from China. It has a single word name and
it's in the book -- I just don't have a copy of it anymore, and can't
remember what the name is. :) If this sparks a research idea in your
mind, that'd be great. (Or if anyone out there actually has a copy of
Michener's "Hawaii" they could look in?) But obviously $2.00 isn't a
lot of dough, and I appreciate the work you've done, even though it's
not the answer I was looking for.

Clarification of Answer by angy-ga on 13 Sep 2002 01:18 PDT
Hi !

I'm sorry, I thought you wanted to know how this kind of funding
works, perhaps with a view to accessing one yourself. From the
comments by bobbie7-ga and suzyq-ga, I think they took the same angle.
And I hadn't gathered from your uestion that it was specifically a
Chinese scheme you were after.

I've searched under "China cooperative loans" and also "Hawaii
cooperative loans" but only traced modern systems. I've also looked
for a searchable text of "Hawaii" on-line, with no success.

Perhaps someone else will have better luck.

Clarification of Answer by angy-ga on 13 Sep 2002 23:44 PDT
Hi, again !

I asked my fellow researchers for some help on this - I'd got curious
- and Omniverous-ga kindly provided this quote from the novel:

"..From the end of the chapter "From the Starving Village" in
Michener's Hawaii:

"Actually, the specific title to these buildings was of little
consequence, for although to outward appearances it was Asia Kee who
owned the profitable restaurant on Hotel Street, it was really owned
by the Kees as a family. Under Nyuk Tsin's guidance, the 5 brothers
had formed a combination known in Hawaii by the expressive term hui,
pronounced hooey -- 'Them Kees got a hui workin' -- and it was this
informal corporation, the great Kee hui, that effectively controlled
the family income. If Australia's lovel wife, the Ching girl, acquired
from her family a small inheritance, it did not go to Australia or to
his children. It went into the hui, for no member of the Kee family
could begin to identify the benefits he himself had already drawn from
the hui. His clothes, his educaiton, the education of his sons, his
home, his start in business: all these things had been paid for by the
hui; and if he were willing to hand over everything he was to earn for
the rest of his life, he could still never discharge his debt to the

My subsequent search under "hui Hawaii" suggests that the word "hui"
is simply a Hawaiian word meaning "club". It's used for Arts Centres,
cultural clubs, and the like.

digsalot-ga also contibuted some comments:

"I have no idea what it is called, but something similar has taken
place in Los Angeles. That city has a large Koreatown that is growing
steadily down Western Avenue and into the Pico, Normandy area. They
have taken neighborhoods that werre failing and brought them back to
life in a rather spectacular way. (good people to have as neighbors)

From a handful of people I knew in that community, I have heard the
stories of "family cooperatives" where income from individuals belongs
to the family as a whole. They invest, buy property, start businesses,
etc, and The individuals draw what they need from a central fund.

As fast as that neighborhood is exploding with new business and
investment, (including the reconstruction after the riots and fires)
it seems to be working quite well."

I hope this clarifies things for you.
dan_zap-ga rated this answer:3 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Family "lottery"
From: bobbie7-ga on 11 Sep 2002 15:00 PDT

I live in Chile, and I found out about this “lottery” about two years
ago. This lottery was organized by and for some women from Peru who
are working in Chile as charwomen. This lottery must have come from
Peru as I never heard of it again in Chile.

Subject: Re: Family "lottery"
From: suzyq-ga on 11 Sep 2002 20:48 PDT
I've heard of a similar scheme operating in the USA and Australia.
This was referred to as "gifting". Women would join a 'gifting club',
and give money (usually around $10K) to a designated member. Once
you'd made your contribution, you were eligible to move up to the next

Problem was, as the article illustrated, this was little more than a
pyramid scheme, and demand soon outstripped reply...
Subject: attn: angy-ga
From: dan_zap-ga on 15 Sep 2002 15:54 PDT
angy, many thanks for going way beyond the call of duty. I don't
suppose there's some way I can change my answer rating for this
question? I'd like to give you 5 stars if it's at all possible..
Subject: Re: Family "lottery"
From: angy-ga on 09 Oct 2002 20:26 PDT
Thank you, dan-zap.

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