The life insurance industry in Australia has traditionally been an important source of long term finance for both the public and private sector. However, very little historical analysis has been undertaken into an industry that constitutes a fundamental part of the economy's financial sector. The present climate of deregulation has initiated an irrevocable process of change within the industry. To comprehend the full implications of this change it is necessary to have an understanding of how the industry has evolved. This paper seeks to provide a background account of the growth of the life insurance industry in Australia highlighting the influences that have determined the structure of the industry.