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Australian co-operative history
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Co-operatives Council of Australia Inc.

The Co-operatives Council of Australia was formed in 1944 under its former name, the Co-operative Federation of Australia (CFA). The members of CFA comprised the 5 state co-operative federations (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria), with each federation having one representative on the 5 person governing committee.

The operations of CFA were suspended in 1986 following the withdrawal of support from the Co-operative Federation of NSW. As the best resourced state federation, CFNSW had the goal of becoming the national body for Australian co-operatives. In that year, CFNSW changed its name to the Australian Association of Co-operatives and restructured its operations to establish state divisions.

From 1988 to 1996, the Co-operative Federation of Western Australia played a caretaker role for CFA, maintaining a "watching brief" over its registration, investment of funds and tax returns.

National Co-operative Congress

Following the closure of the Australian Association of Co-operatives in March 1993, a National Co-operatives Congress was held in Sydney in that year to discuss the future of the Australian co-operative sector. The congress resolved to establish an interim body called the National Co-operatives Council (NCC) to recommend a final structure for a national organisation. NCC comprised representatives from the 5 state federations and two co-operative service providers, the Australian Co-operative Development League and the Asia Pacific Co-operative Training Centre.

Working parties were established and met in various states over the next two years. At a conference in 1995, NCC decided to revive the Co-operative Federation of Australia entity and recommended a number of changes to update its constitution including changing its name to the Co-operatives Council of Australia.

Co-operative Federation of Australia revived

In 1996, the state federations revived CFA, changing its name to the Co-operatives Council of Australia and adopting a new constitution for the organisation. The Council meet on average two times a year between 1996 and 2000.

Between 1996 and 2000, the Council proved to be an effective political organisation with a number of major achievements including -

  • Successfully lobbied for the defeat in the Australian Senate in 1996 of Federal Government legislation to repeal an important co-operative tax concession.
  • Supported the establishment of the Australian Centre for Co-operative Research and Development (ACCORD).
  • Achieving federal and state governments' support for nationally consistent co-operatives legislation, which resulted in the Co-operatives Law Agreement being signed by the states, territories and the commonwealth.
  • Organised a national policy conference in Canberra in October 1998.
  • Put forward two submissions to the Ralph Review of Business Taxation, ensuring co-operatives and mutuals were recognised in federal government's "New Tax System".

From 2001 to 2006, the Council was in hiatus. Dissatisfaction grew among state federations about the effectiveness and direction of the Council, cumulating in the winding up of the corporation in 2006.

In 2008, delegates of the state federations met in Sydney and decided to form a new national body called Co-operatives Australia as an unincorporated group.

About the author

Tony Gill was an active participant in national co-operative affairs during the 1990's. In 1989, he was employed by the Australian Association of Co-operatives to revive the co-operative sector in Victoria after a period of decline. Following the closure of AAC in 1993, Tony was appointed secretary of the Co-operative Federation of Victoria and represented the federation on the National Co-operatives Council and the Co-operatives Council of Australia between 1994 and 1999.