Co-ops in Australia & New South Wales (1995)

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 

                       19 October 1995


The total number of co-operatives in Australia was 2,120 on
15th April 1995. This number does not include financial
co-operatives, i.e. co-operatives providing finance to members
such as credit unions, building societies, friendly societies,
etc. The turnover of all co-operatives in Australia was
estimated at $ 5.4 billion in 1992/93. The assets base of all
Australian co-operatives at the end of 1992/93 was estimated
at $ 3.7 billion.  

There were 19 co-operatives among the top 500 exporters in
1991/92 according to an article in the Australian Business
Monthly of August 1992. The total revenue of the 19
co-operatives was $ 1.53 billion.  

The co-operative sector in the State of New South Wales (NSW)
consisted of 835 co-operatives (excluding financial
co-operatives) on 5th April 1995. Of these co-operatives, 801
were operative in their fields of activity. During 1993/94,
the sector generated a turnover of $ 2.6 billion and had an
assets' base of $ 1.66 billion. Members' funds in
co-operatives amounted to $ 713.8 million. Co-operatives
earned over half a billion dollars through exports during the
past financial year. In terms of human resources, the sector
had nearly a million members and 13,500 employees. The
membership continued the increasing trend exhibited since
1987; rising by 5% during the year. The sector also generated
more employment during the year, recording over 50% more
employees at the end of 1993/94.  

The first general co-operative in NSW was formed in 1859. In
1865, co-operatives were brought under the administration of
the Industrial and Provident Societies Act passed by
Parliament. The Act was replaced by Friendly Societies Act in
1873, which also created a Registry for societies. The first
report of the Registry was issued in 1895, which listed 60
registered co-operatives operating in NSW.  

In 1924, Co-operation Act was passed by the NSW Parliament,
which empowered a Registrar of Co-operatives to administer
co-operatives, including Building Societies and Credit Unions.

Co-operatives became a separate Ministerial portfolio in 1949.

The Co-operation Act of 1923 was replaced by the Co-operatives
Act in 1992, with administration of financial co-operatives
being undertaken by the Australian Financial Institutions
Commission. The growth in the number of co-operatives in NSW
and in Australia has been erratic over the years. There seems
to be no apparent pattern in the growth of the sector. Growth
periods appear to have been stimulated by national economic
trends, legislative changes, social conditions and initiatives
of various organisations. The availability of more resources
and development strategies adopted by the Governments seems to
have a large impact on the overall growth of the sector. The
number of co-operative formed has increased significantly
since 1988 in NSW. From 757 co-operatives in 1987/88 , the
number grew to 825 in 1993/94. The number of 46 formed in
1992/93 was the highest since 1946, when the end of the second
world war generated increased interest in co-operatives. 

Co-operative formation activities in the past five years have
also been significant as many strategic co-operatives have
been formed apart from the increases in the number of
co-operatives. The co-operative concepts have been
innovatively applied in some cases, developing co-operative
models that can be adapted consistently for other similar
activities. In addition, the areas in which co-operatives were
formed have been of great economic importance to the NSW and
Australia. Co-operatives were formed for value added
production, export development, for wool processing, for
marketing and promotion of major commodities, as well as for
self-regulation of industries. Another significant factor was
the joint ventures undertaken on a co-operative basis with
overseas co-operatives. 

Co-operatives in Australia are involved in a wide range of
economic and social activities. The activities include
providing services to agriculture, manufacturing meat
products, manufacturing dairy products, milled rice, raw or
unrefined sugar, processing fish or other seafood, ginning
cotton, processing wool, manufacturing garments, printing and
publishing books, distribution of water or operating
irrigation systems, in the wholesale and retail industries, in
freight transport services and taxi services, in housing,
legal services, providing business or management consultancy
services, marketing arts and crafts, providing hospital
facilities and medical services, in preschool education and
post-school education, providing welfare and charitable
services, radio broadcasting and in the recreation industry.
Co-operatives are dominant in several industries, viz. dairy
industry, rice-milling industry and cotton industry. They are
also significant players in the fishing industry,
fruit/vegetables industry, entertainment/recreation industry
and the taxi industry. The most number of co-operatives (211)
in NSW are in the recreation industry. Housing co-operatives
are next with 51. Broadly, the larger proportion of
co-operatives are engaged in community advancement activities.
As could be expected, a higher percentage of turnover of the
sector is generated by co-operatives engaged in trading or
manufacturing activities. Dairy co-operatives in NSW alone had
a turnover of $ 603.4 million which grain co-operatives had a
turnover of 421.6 million last year. An analysis of financial
data classified by geographical area shows that nearly 70% of
the total co-operatives in NSW operate in rural areas, that is
areas outside the greater Sydney metropolitan area, with 71%
of the turnover generated by the co-operative sector being
originated in rural areas. 

Some highlights of the NSW Co-operatives sector are : 

* The NSW Register listed 835 co-operatives on 5 April 1995. 
* There were 975,480 members at the end of the 1993/94
financial year. 
* The turnover of co-operatives in NSW was $ 2,61 billion in
1993/94, increasing by 9% over the past year. The assets base
was $ 1.66 billion at the end of the 1993/94, a 14% increase
over 1992/93. 
* Members' share capital in co-operatives was $ 114.5 million
at the end of the 1993/94 financial year. Members' funds in
co-operatives had risen to $ 713.8 million by the end of the
financial year. 
* Co-operatives made operating profits of $ 82.4 million in
1993/94 and profits attributed to members amounted to $ 78.8
* Co-operatives in NSW exported $ 585.3 million worth of goods
during 1993/94. 
* The sector reported 13,524 paid employees at the end of
* Co-operatives continued to be dominant in the dairy
industry, rice-milling industry and cotton industry. 
* 151 new co-operatives have been formed during the past five
financial years. A record number of new co-operatives were
formed during 1992/93. 
* The average number of years in operation of the
co-operatives in NSW was 20.8 years on 5 April 1995. 
* Only around 8.75% of co-operatives fail in the first five
years of operation. 
* There are 102 agricultural co-operatives in NSW with a
membership of over 50,000 at the end of 1993/94. The assets
base of the agricultural co-operatives was 1.3 billion at the
end of the 1993/94 financial year. The agricultural
co-operatives generated nearly 2.4 billion turnover during
* There are 54 housing co-operatives in NSW with a membership
of over 3,800 at the end of 1993/94. The turnover generated by
the housing co-operatives in 1993/94 was $ 13.4 million and
the total assets amounted to $ 22.0 million at the end of the
financial year. 
* There are 27 aboriginal co-operatives in NSW with a
membership of over 3,200. 

More details about Australian Co-operatives could be obtained
from : Garry Cronan NSW Registry of Co-operatives Locked bag
1500 Bankstown NSW 2200 Tel : (61 2) 793 0525 Fax : (61 2) 793
0567 Email :