Jack Bannister – in his own words

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Richard Waxorthy (left) interviewing Jack Bannister in 1989 for our Oral History Collection

The material for this profile of a special Australian credit union personality was drawn exclusively from the oral history interview its subject, Jack Bannister, gave with historian Richard Raxworthy on behalf of the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative on 5 September, 1989.

The interview transcript begins with Mr Bannister telling Raxworthy that he was born in Redfern in 1920 and that he and his family moved to Balmain when he was 3 months old. He further relates that he spent his high school years at Balmain Brothers and upon leaving school in 1936, he got a job with Sydney City Council.

Jack started life at Sydney City Council as a messenger and then began an apprenticeship with the council treasury. He ended up in the Audit Department for 16 years, but his career was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

After initially joining the army, Jack switched to the Air Force and after training in Sydney he was stationed in Canada, then England, the US and finally India where all his operational flying took place. Jack flew photographic reconnaissance missions from base in India and was once mentioned in dispatches. His mention was due to his having flown back to base for 800 miles through monsoonal rain on one engine. During the war, Jack flew Tiger Moths, Spitfires and Mosquitos.

The cessation of military hostilities saw Jack resume life at the City Council in 1946, he got married in 1949 and his friendship with fellow council employee and credit union enthusiast Dermot Ryan (an earlier subject of a blog post), saw him take part in the foundation of The City Council Employees Credit Union Co-operative in 1963 (trading today as Sydney Credit Union or SCU).

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Jack became Chairman of City Council Employees Credit Union in 1970 and remained in that position until 1985. He was a member of the AFCUL (Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues) Annual Meeting Organising Committee, Vice President of the Institute of Credit Union Directors and became a foundation member and Deputy Director of the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative in 1985.

The most important part of the interview is Jack reminiscing about how the significance of his work with the credit union hit home after the first year of operations. He said “This is when it came home to me, at the end of the first year to see blokes that I worked with saving money. I think that was the whole thing about the credit union. It enabled people not only to borrow money but to save money as well. I think that particular factor is probably, from my point of view, the best feature of the whole of the credit union”.

Jack Bannister passed away on 20th June 1997.

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The Winds of Change – A Look at Project Renewal

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Article from the Australian Financial Review regarding Project Renewal, October 30, 1990 [from Collection]
Today is a testing time for the mutual banking sector but some wiser heads might say that it has ever been thus. The 1980s were a particularly trying time for credit unions in Australia as they faced a revolution in IT, a new regulatory environment and a lack of growth. Our collections reveal that a large, combined effort was made to make significant reform to the credit union environment in Australia – The Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues’ (AFCUL) “Project Renewal”. The importance of this project is highlighted by the fact that Gary Lewis’ admired history of Australian credit unions, “People Before Profit: The Credit Union Movement in Australia”*, devotes a whole chapter to Project Renewal.  Australian Mutuals History holds 28 individual records arising from Project Renewal including AFCUL’s Project Renewal Reports, the Institute of Credit Union Director’s Reports, Peat Marwick Reports, speech transcripts and news clippings.

Dr Lewis notes that, “In November 1988 AFCUL’s National Planning Council met at the Coogee Hotel, Sydney, to thrash out the parameters of the Project Renewal review of the governance and management of the Australian credit union movement”. The book goes on to note that “Many credit unions were struggling in the deregulated environment. There were real concerns for the future of the movement. One delegate described the situation as ‘five minutes to midnight’”.

“People Before Profit” describes some of the less than flattering findings by The PA Consultancy Group, who were commissioned to investigate the industry and produced the Project Renewal Report in October 1989. It states that “The movement suffered from a poor market image, evidenced by a cessation of growth, and displayed incomplete and confused policies in respect of legislation, public affairs, research and development and telecommunications networking”. The report goes on to say, “A proliferation of credit union support organisations and anomalies in voting and other electoral processes had made the credit union system ‘inflexible … cumbersome … ponderous … parochial … and inefficient”.

Part of the proposed solution was a new national body with a rejuvenated structure. As Lewis observes, “The report recommended a new single national support services organisation, encompassing all existing organisations, and a separate national deposit protection agency. The support services organisation should be constructed to appeal to credit unions interested only in core services (Primary Membership) as well as credit unions seeking participation in a wide range of commercial services (Supplementary Commercial Membership)” and “Under the proposed system, credit unions would function both as ‘owners’ and ‘customers’. ‘Members’ would become ‘shareholders’”.

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A news clipping in our collection from the Australian Financial Review of 30 October, 1990, highlights some of the opposition around Australia to the project’s aims. Critics of the project included “a majority of credit unions in Queensland” and the Victorian Government. The Victorian Government’s scepticism to the new regime proposed by Project Renewal arose out of a report commissioned to inquire into the project prepared by Peat Marwick.

Despite the naysayers’, as proposed by Project Renewal, CUSCAL (Credit Union Services Corporation) and its financial services subsidiary CUFSAL began operations in January 1992. As Lewis writes, “CUSCAL was constituted as an unlisted public company owned by credit union affiliates and employed by them as a commercial partner at the wholesale level to achieve economies of scale, to distribute risks equitably and to employ credit unions’ collective funding capacity productively”.

Some of the credit unions unhappy with Project Renewal formed an alternative peak body, the Queensland based National Credit Union Association (NCUA) in 1990. Today, CUSCAL focuses on the payments side of financial services for the mutual banking sector and other clients such as Australia Post.

*People Before Profit : the credit union movement in Australia /​ Gary Lewis. Kent Town, South Aust. : Wakefield Press, 1996.

 

 

A Tribute to Gary Lewis

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Gary Lewis researching at ACUA office 23-1-1996 [from collection]
On January 19 of this year, Australian Mutuals History was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr Gary Lewis. As we wrote on Twitter, Dr Lewis was the author of the definitive history of the Australian credit union movement, People Before Profit. Published in 1996, we find it an invaluable resource that we refer to regularly.

People Before Profit is just one example of Dr Lewis’ work in documenting the history of credit unions in book form. In fact Dr Lewis dedicated his entire professional life to exploring the history of not only credit unions but the co-operative movement in its entirety. His PhD was on the Rochdale Co-operative movement in Australia and he wrote six books on co-operative related topics, The Growers’ Paddy: Land, Water and Co-operation in the Australian Rice Industry to the 1990s, An Illustrated History of the Riverina Rice Industry, A Middle Way: Radical and Rochdale Co-operatives in New South Wales, 1859-1986, A Mutual Way: Fifty Years of Gateway Credit Union Ltd and of course People Before Profit: The Credit Union Movement in Australia.

People Before Profit begins with some historical background on the credit union movement, including the genesis of the idea in Europe and the socio-economic and philosophical reasons for their development in the 1800s. Lewis then charts the rise of the movement in Australia through the 20th century, with chapters on the formation of state and national peak bodies and analysis of hurdles the industry has faced, especially regulatory and technological.

The other credit union book written by Dr Lewis was A Mutual Way: Fifty Years of Gateway Credit Union Ltd. Gateway Credit Union (which today trades as Gateway Bank) began life in February 1955 as CBA Staff Co-operative Limited, whose membership was drawn from, ironically enough, the Commonwealth Bank. Dr Lewis’ book on Gateway Credit Union was published in 2005 and notes at the time of writing that, “The membership is mostly drawn from people who are, either employees, retired or former employees of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and their family members”.

Dr Lewis’ work on the co-operative movement more broadly is most enlightening too. He was especially interested in the principles of Rochdale Co-operatives and in his book on the subject, A Middle Way: Radical and Rochdale Co-operatives in New South Wales, 1859-1986, he writes “(I am greatly indebted) to the late Kevin Yates and to Tom Kelly, two remarkable credit union pioneers”.

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Gary Lewis (left) and Race Mathews* at the 1997 Australian Credit Union Archives AGM (from collection]

In 2017 Dr Lewis was still offering public advice on credit unions, the mutual banking sector and co-operatives more broadly.  In a 2017 letter Dr Lewis wrote, “It is arguable that post GFC prudential regulations, in particular capital adequacy arrangements, whilst timely and wise, have had the unintended effect of hampering the development of customer-owned banks (COBA) relative to for-profit competitors insofar as mutuality fits uncomfortably within the framework, thereby reducing choice for consumers and impacting competition, particularly in the housing mortgage market”.

As you can see from the above, he was a great champion of mutual banking and co-operatives and his passing will be felt by many.

*Race Mathews has also written about the credit union movement. Read our blog about him here. 

Credit Union Curios

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Some time ago we mentioned in a blog that we were gradually processing backlog accessions that were put aside when we moved office. But we didn’t mention that we had yet to process the objects that we had put aside for assessing and processing while we moved. Australian Mutuals History collects and makes available for research items of significance to the mutual banking industry. While this mostly means records, documents and publications , whether they be in hard or soft copy, it also means we have collected an astonishing array of objects that have been used by banking mutuals over the years for promotional purposes, at conventions, for celebrations and other idiosyncratic reasons.

We have now sorted through the objects that we put aside during the move and the following are some of the most interesting and fun and the best is left till last!

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The above is a disposable camera produced by CUSCAL in the 1990s to promote “My Card”, a new debit/credit card produced for the mutual banking industry. Our photographic collection includes many photos of the “My Card” launch party where attendees are shown holding the above cameras.

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The above is a pocket chess set (with the cover beside it) that was given to delegates attending the AICUM Conference in Albury in 1998. AICUM stands for the Australian Institute of Credit Union Managers. Formed in 1981, its role was to provide educational opportunities, services and resources to meet the professional development and networking needs of members. AICUM ceased in 2006 when its functions were taken up by the newly formed Australian Mutuals Institute.

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The above is another object produced by AICUM and it is perhaps the oddest in the list. It is the menu for the official dinner marking the end of the 1993 AICUM conference. As you can see it is a mini gravestone! It would’ve been placed on the table in front of every diner for them to peruse the fare on offer for the evening. If the gravestone motif isn’t odd enough, the event is labelled “Murder and Mayhem” and dishes include, “Jack the Ripper Salad”, “Maniac’s Deadly Cold Soup” and “Tombstone Mocca”. I don’t think I need to add any more commentary to this one.

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This one above is great. It is a drink coaster and it is also apparently credit union currency – it is equal to ‘’One Derm”. Some of you may be perplexed by this, but it is actually an ode to a legend of the Australian credit union movement, Dermot Ryan. Among many achievements in the industry “Derm” was a founding Director/Secretary of The Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative, which was the original name of Australian Mutuals History. You can read our blog on the life and times of Dermot Ryan here.

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The “Little Man Instant Rate Converter” was produced in the US by the CUNA Supply Co-operative “for the credit union movement” in 1963. It is quite a large device measuring 24 centimetres in diameter it “converts monthly payment contracts into annual interest rates, compares various interest rates and calculates monthly payments and the total amount to be repaid”.

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The above item is a gavel with accompanying sound block with an engraved dedication to Beresford Calverley for his role as President of the Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues (AFCUL) from 1967-1968. From the marks at one end of the block, it looks like the AFCUL meetings got a bit rowdy at times. You can read our blog on the history of AFCUL here.

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This last one is by far our favourite. One can imagine someone writing a song about credit unions or building societies and singing it at Christmas parties and such, but what we have above is a vinyl record of a professionally composed song about credit unions, complete with professional singers and a big band consisting of guitar players, a drummer, numerous violinists, cellists and even a harpist! The song is called “Working Things Out Together – A Credit Union Musical Jingle” and it was commissioned by CUNA Mutual ca. 1950s-1960s

 

The Co-operative Credit Bank of Victoria – a co-operative endeavour

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Share certificate in The Co-operative Credit Bank of Victoria, issued in 1913

The first “credit union” in Australia is considered by some to be the Co-operative Credit Bank of Victoria established in 1905 by a group of public servants.

The Co-operative Credit Bank of Victoria had its origins in the Civil Services Co-operative Society, which by 1906 had 7,000 members. It ran a large Melbourne co-operative store and a number of suburban and rural outlets.

The newspaper Argus of Friday 26 January 1906 reports that “The first general meeting of shareholders in the Co-operative Credit Bank of Victoria Limited was held at the Civil Service Stores Flinders Street, last evening. Mr W. McIver, chairman of the provisional board of directors presided.”

The Argus goes on to report that “The Chairman stated that the rules of the Civil Services Co-operative Stores forbade the giving of credit. The result was that if sickness overtook a customer, and he required a little credit, he must perforce seek it from strangers. With a view of making some provision for such cases a committee was appointed. The result was the Co-operative Credit Bank. Provision had been made for loans on security, or surety for all ordinary economical purposes, such as improving property or buying furniture for cash. It was hoped before long the bank would be able to go further, and provide the dwelling place itself on the most reasonable terms possible”.

The Co-operative Credit Bank of Victoria raised funds entirely through share subscriptions from members. The bonds of association was occupation-based – as membership extended to government departments and semi-government authorities.  The Co-operative Credit Bank was established under the Victorian Provident Societies Act 1890.

The Co-operative Credit Bank continued to operate for several decades and was successful. At a special meeting on 22 November 1938 a motion was adopted to change its name to Co-operative Credit Society of Victoria Limited (reported in The Age on 23 November 1938). At this time there were 4285 shares and 2131 shareholders. It is interesting to note that at this time the Chairman of the board of directors was Mr John Holland a Victorian MLA.

The Co-operative Credit Society continued throughout the World War Two period. The Age noted on 25 November 1942 that at its half yearly meeting on the 24th November it was reported that the society had financed a Rhodes scholar, and helped many students through the Teachers’ Training College; and that Loans (at the last half-year) had totaled £533, and net profit was £44, also a total of £4000 has been Invested In war loans.

Vale Bryan Kelly – A Life of Service

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Portrait of Bryan Kelly provided by BankVic

In December last year, we heard the sad news that Victorian credit union trailblazer Bryan Kelly had passed away. The news of the passing of Mr Kelly was transmitted online by BankVic, as Mr Kelly’s biggest achievement in the mutual banking sector was his founding of the Police Credit Co-operative in 1974. In 2013, what was the Police Credit Co-operative and then Police Financial Services Limited, became a mutual bank and began trading as BankVic.

Bryan first learned about credit unions in 1957 when he was visited at home by a representative of his local Catholic Church (St. Agnes Highet, Victoria) who persuaded him to join St Agnes Credit Union. As he wrote in his letter to us in 2015, outside of credit unions, loans for many were either difficult to source (from banks) or came with exorbitant interest via high purchase – for example, it was not uncommon in the late 50’s to pay 50% on small loans for new-fangled items like television sets.

As a police officer who moved a lot, wrote Mr Kelly, banks in the 50’s and 60’s considered him an ‘’itinerant” and would not provide him or any other police officer with a loan. In the early 1970s as a Sergeant at the City Watch House in Melbourne, Mr Kelly approached the Victorian Police Association (the union for Victorian Police Officers) regarding the formation of a credit union servicing Victorian police. In August 1974, a meeting was held to decide whether the Victorian Police would form a credit union in their name. The motion to form a credit union was upheld and the name Victorian Police Association Credit-Co-operative was selected for registration.

Mr Kelly was selected as foundation Chair of Victorian Police Association Credit-Co-operative and he continued in this role until 1984. Post-1984, he remained as a Director until 1994. As BankVic noted in their tribute to Bryan, he helped create an organisation that “today services the needs of over 110,000 Victorian police, health, emergency and public service members”.

He had some experience to draw from when running the Victorian Police Association Credit-Co-operative as he was a founder of St Keiran’s (Moe) Credit Union in 1962. Mr Kelly wrote that the Moe area at the time was particularly disadvantaged and had great need for a credit union (or credit co-operative).

It would be remiss of us not to pay tribute to Mr Kelly’s career as a police officer as it was most distinguished. He became a Sergeant in the early 1970s as mentioned and in 1980 he was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for “his outstanding dedication and contribution to the welfare of police families”. Indeed, Bryan Kelly lived a life of dedicated community service.

Dealing with the Deluge – how to salvage wet records

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Photograph: Storms ahead  

It is wonderful to be looking forward to the summer holidays. Sunshine, beaches and relaxation. But summer can also be a period of heavy rains – which can see offices and storage areas become susceptible to leaky roofs, faulty downpipes or inundation from waterways.

This can have disastrous consequences for your organisation’s records – so what should you do if your vital records get wet!

There is good advice and resources produced by national and state government archival bodies about how to deal with disasters, and damaged and wet records. You may find these useful to consult and a list with links is provided below:

Hopefully, all your buildings are water tight and no disasters befall your records. Regular maintenance and inspection of office and storage areas is a good risk mitigation strategy. This can pick up early problems and ensure records are not getting damaged through water leaks, general dampness or mould.