What is a co-operative?

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A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily join together to meet common business, social and cultural needs through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

Co-operatives play an important role in our economy and community. They are diverse organisations and are often regionally based supporting a wide range of industries including retail, agriculture, water distribution, manufacturing, taxi services and arts and crafts.

In Western Australia all co-operatives must be registered with Consumer Proteciton.

Types of co-operatives

Two types of co-operatives operate in Western Australia:

Distributing co-operatives

This structure allows returns or distributions to members on surplus other than the nominal value of any shares at the time of winding-up. Distributing cooperatives must have share capital.

Non-distributing co-operatives

This structure does not allow returns or distributions on surplus other than the nominal value of any shares at the time of winding-up. Non-distributing co-operatives can choose whether to have share capital.

Is becoming a co-operative the right choice?

The following seven guiding principles distinguish a co-operative from other business structures:

  1. Voluntary and open membership to anyone willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
  2. Democratic member control. Members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote).
  3. Economic participation. Members contribute and control the capital of their co-operative in an equitable and democratic way.
  4. Autonomy and independence. Co-operatives are autonomous organisations controlled by their members.
  5. Education, training and information is often provided to members so that they can contribute effectively to the organisation.
  6. Co-operation among co-operatives helps to reinforce co-operative ideals and further the co-operative business structure.
  7. Concern for the community. Co-operatives also the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.

You may wish to investigate other forms of organisation including forming an association, a partnership or a limited liability (pty ltd) company before deciding which legal structure to use.

Co-operatives National Law

As a result of the implementation of the Co-operatives National Law in Western Australia on 1 January 2017, co-operatives registered in this state can operate in any participating jurisdiction without any additional registration or reporting requirements. As at 1 January 2017, all Australian States and Territories with the exception of Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory are participating jurisdictions.  

Contact Us

If you require any information about co-operatives please do not hesitate to contact the staff in the co-operatives unit.

Telephone: 1300 304 074
Postal Address: Locked Bag 100, EAST PERTH WA 6892
Physical Address: Gordon Stephenson House, 140 William Street, Perth 6000

Email co-operatives unit

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