Australian Credit Unions

Picture Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues AGM, 1970

The first serious talk of an Australia wide association of credit unions occurred in 1965 during the running of the first Australia-wide credit union school administered by the NSW Credit Union League (NSWCUL) in conjunction with CUNA Mutual, the international credit union body based in the United States. It was during the running of the credit union school in 1965 that the man who would eventually go on to be the first leader of AFCUL, Stan Arneil, would lecture on the importance of a Federal Credit Union Act and also the need for the state leagues to be affiliated with CUNA. The matter was discussed frequently during the remainder of the school and it was agreed that a Federation must be formed as quickly as possible”. The Queensland and NSW Leagues took the ball and ran with it and submitted draft constitutions for a national association to their boards for consideration. Things moved quickly from there, after draft constitutions for a national body were presented to the Queensland and NSW Leagues in April 1966, the Inaugural Conference of the Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues was held just a month later on the 7th May 1966 in Sydney.

Credit Unions in Australia

The formation of Australia’s first authentic credit union in 1946 was the Catholic Thrift and Loan Co-Operative (renamed in 1948 as Universal Credit Union), Sydney NSW.

1948 Co-operative Thrift & Loan Society was the first credit union in Queensland and in1949 the first credit society registered in South Australia – SA Public Service Savings & Loans Society Ltd. and the postal Workers Co-op Credit Society also in 1949.

In the 1950s Approximately 40 credit unions registered in NSW, also, credit union chapters in ’51 the Australian Antigonish Movement launched (parish based) by Fr. Jack (John) Gallagher. YCW Central Co-operative Credit Society was the first credit union registered in Victoria in ‘54 and the first credit societies registered in Tasmania and Victoria. The first inclusive credit union representative body in Australia, NSW Savings & Loans Co-operative Associations was in ’56. In March ‘57 North Canberra Credit Union Co=operative and in April South Canberra Credit Union Co-operative were established. The first credit union registered in Tasmania Glenorchy Credit Union Co-operative Society, then Launceston Central Co-operative Credit Society followed by Hobart & District Credit Co-operative Society in1958.

The’ 60 was when the first credit union registered in Western Australia – ABC Staff Association (WA) Co-operative Credit Society. 1963 Queensland Co-operative Credit Union League (QCUL) launched and 1965 Tasmanian Credit Union League (TASCUL) formed. 1966 Victorian Credit Co-op Association (VCCA) formed Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues (AFCUL) formed, Credit Union League of South Australia (CULSA) formed, Western Australia Credit Union League (WACUL) formed.

The 1970s First credit union registered in Northern Territory, Credit Union Foundation Australia (CUFA) formed by AFCUL. Savings Protection Fund set up by NSW Credit Union League and cash withdrawals permitted in NSW. Queensland Teachers Credit Union installed the first 24-hour ATM in a retail outlet in Australia. Credit Union Association of Western Australia (CUAWA) formed. The Institute of Credit Union Directors (ICUD) was formed in NSW in 1978 followed by the Australian Council of CUES, and the Federation of Queensland Credit Unions.

The 1980s Australian Institute of Credit Union Managers (AICUM) formed. Association of Tasmanian Credit Unions (ATCU) formed and NSW credit union associations merged to form Association of NSW Credit Unions (ANSWCUL Credit Union ATM Network established and Mortgage secured/line of credit/overdraft introduced. Also, Australian credit unions were the first to offer payment of public utility accounts over the phone using a debit Credit Union Financial Services of Australia Ltd (CUFSAL) officially launched AFCUL decided to review the governance and management of the Credit Union movement which lead to the establishment of Project Renewal which began in 1989.

The 1990s National Credit Union Association formed. Australian Financial Institutions Commission (AFIC) established as a central supervising body for non-bank financial institutions. Credit Union Services Corporation (Australia) Ltd (CUSCAL) established – the peak industry body for credit unions in Australia. In 93 AFIC legislation passed in all States. A credit union from New South Wales was the first retail financial institution to achieve quality certification under ISO9000. CreditCare established nationally by Commonwealth Government and credit unions to assist rural and remote communities to regain convenient access to retail financial services. Australian Institute of Credit Union Directors (AICUD) formed.

1996 Australian Credit Union Movement celebrated its Jubilee 50 years of credit unions in Australia.  Dr. Gary Lewis’ book “People before Profit-the credit union movement in Australia” launched by CUSCAL. Credit Union Dispute Resolution Centre Pty Ltd was established by CUSCAL to assist credit unions and their members to resolve complaints, externally. A Newcastle, NSW credit union was the first Australian financial institution to combine the functions of a stored value card with a debit card. In ‘97 the Wallis Report on the Australian Financial System proposed that credit unions, building societies and banks should operate under a single, national regulatory regime. Cheque issuing rights for credit unions approved by Federal Parliament. 1999 saw Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) formally certified the Industry Support Contract for the credit union Financial Support Scheme (CUFFS) to replace the Emergency Liquidity Support Scheme and Contingency Funds. Credit unions were authorized under the Banking Act as Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs) and became companies limited by shares under the Corporations Law.

Financial Services Reform (FSR) Act passed by Federal Parliament in 2001 

Australian History Archives

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