Ted Long – a profile of a co-operative pioneer

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Photograph of Ted Long, 1979 (PH2249 from collection)

Ted Long was a dedicated and energetic exponent of the value of co-operatives and credit unions in Victoria. He was born in 1921 into a farming family at Knowsley near Bendigo and was educated at the local State School and later at St Patrick’s Ballarat.

As a young man he moved to Melbourne and was employed in the Commonwealth Department of Air. In Melbourne he joined the newly formed Young Christian Workers Movement (YCW) where he became not only involved in the many sporting activities available but moved through the ranks of the YCW to eventually become National President.

Ted took on the role of National Secretary in 1943, which meant he had to give up his public service career and abandon his VFL football pursuits (he played a few games with North Melbourne). At that time, the YCW conducted an inquiry into the economic needs of young workers and identified a need for financial support in the purchasing of homes and household goods and services. In 1948 the YCW Co-operative Trading Society was formed and in 1951 Ted Long took on the secretarial role. This Society would go on to provide household furniture and white goods, insurance and later school furniture and clothing.

Influenced by the work of the Antigonish Movement of Nova Scotia, the YCW investigated the issue of consumer finance co-operatives. As a result, the Young Christian Workers’ Central Credit Union was formed in 1952. It became the first co-operative credit society to be registered under the Victorian Co-operation Act of 1953 when it was registered as the Young Christian Workers’ Central Co-operative Credit Society in August 1954.

By 1957 three parish based co-operative credit societies along with the YCW Central Co-operative Credit Society had formed the Association of Catholic Co-operative Credit Societies (ACCCS) with Ted Long as its first Secretary. In 1965, after much deliberation, the ACCCS changed its name and constitution to become the Victorian Credit Co-operative Association. It was registered in 1966 with the aim of affiliating the majority of credit unions in Victoria whether based in industries, trade and professional unions, communities or parishes. The association acted as an advisory and representative body, and it offered a central bank function to its member societies, as well as insurance and a fledgling stabilisation fund.

Ted Long with friends at the Newport School 1965. From left to right Leon Magree,
Charles Compton, Ted Long, Carlos Matos, Joane Naisara (Fiji) (PH 1331 form collection)

Ted Long was a tireless advocate and traveled throughout Victoria promoting the formation of co-operatives in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1961, he became the foundation secretary of the Co-operative Development Society, formed to develop educational programs and promotional materials for all forms of co-operatives.

Ted was appointed to the Co-operative Advisory Council formed under the Victorian Cooperation Act. He was also a foundation member of the Co-operative Federation of Victoria formed in 1970. In 1992 Ted Long was interviewed by Richard Raxworthy (oral history tape held by Australian Mutuals History). In the interview Ted talks about his philosophy of co-operatives, saying “We viewed co-operatives as a means of making a contribution to the reform of society … If there was a proper mix of capitalism, socialism and this form of private enterprise which is co-operative, you would finish up, probably with a better society.”

Ted Long was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1984 for services to the community, especially in relation to Co-operatives. He died in 2008, survived by his wife Norine and seven of their eight children.

Ted Long’s pamphlet Helping Each Other Through Co-operatives, A.C.T.S. Publications,Number 1375, 10 August 1962 (from collection)

CUSCAL – “The Difference that Makes All the Difference”

Australian Mutuals History holds around 600 films documenting Australia’s credit union and mutual banking movement in a variety of formats, but for the most part they are VHS videos. VHS has been obsolete for around 20 years and it is not the sturdiest of formats. Earlier video tape technology such as Beta had a longer shelf life than VHS. Therefore it is imperative that we digitise our VHS collection.

We began the process of digitising them last year and we digitised a second tranche recently. Quite a number of the videos we hold were produced by CUSCAL. CUSCAL was once the peak body for Australia’s credit unions as well as providing the payment services that it continues to supply today.

The video below dates from around 1996, which was the 50th anniversary of the first “official” credit union in Australia. As the title, “The Difference that Makes All the Difference” suggests, the short film focuses on the principles and practices of credit unions that differentiates them from publicly listed banks in particular. Indeed, this difference makes all the difference …

Resources Credit Union 1961-2011

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Resources Credit Union was formed in May 1961 when workers at the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission in Northern Sydney agreed to form the Irrigation Commission Credit Union. After a year of operation the credit union had 227 members and loan balances of around $40,000.

It wasn’t long before other NSW Public Service Departments threw in their lot with Resources CU, including the State Pollution Control Commission, the Department of Industrial Relations and others, thus creating a significant bond of workers in similar life and financial situations. Its name was changed to Resources Credit Union in 1983 when it managed savings of around $14 million with a broadened industrial and community bond.

The August 1996 issue of Australian Credit Unions Magazine featured an interview with Resources CU General Manager, Oleg Rozmeta.  Over his working life Oleg was an indefatigable supporter of the credit union movement. For example, while working as General Manger with Resources Credit Union he was also on the Board of MSB Credit Union and a Membership Councillor of CUSCAL.

Oleg told Australian Credit Unions Magazine:

“What attracted me to credit unions 25 years ago and maintains my enthusiasm now is their unique cooperative and business philosophy. The simple idea of ordinary people agreeing to pool their savings so as to make loans to their fellow members with equitable benefits to all is as agreeable now as it was then”.

He went on to say this about Resources Credit Union on their 35th birthday:

“The tremendous financial strength of Resources results from the loyalty of its members which in turn is due to the commitment of the board, management and staff maintaining old fashioned credit union values, whilst providing contemporary financial services in a rapidly changing market place”.

Five years after the Australian Credit Unions Magazine article in June 2001, Connexus magazine, started by Abacus and continued for a short time by their successor body COBA, published an article celebrating the 40th birthday of Resources Credit Union.

Resources Credit Union Marketing and Business Development Manager at the time, Paul Kriss, enjoyed the 40th birthday celebrations immensely saying, “It was great to have the opportunity to say thank you to all members who have made our credit union the strong financial institution that is today. Our long-standing members could never have imagined that a small meeting in their lunch room could amount to the successful credit union that we have today”.

Resources Credit Union merged with Industries Mutual Credit Union Limited in 2011 becoming My Credit Union.

Hastings Credit Union – Mutual Finance on the Holiday Coast

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Hastings Credit Union General Manager Neville Parsons addressing members regarding the name change to Holiday Coast Credit Union [from collection]

Hastings Rural Credit Union was registered in 1967 in the office of Hastings Cooperative in Wauchope on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales by the Hastings River. Hastings Cooperative began in 1916 and it continues to operate out of Wauchope employing 350 people in businesses such as supermarkets, liquor stores, cafes, car hire, rural supplies and more.

In 1973 the credit union moved into a dedicated office and it became Hastings Credit Union in 1977. Other milestones included the installation of an in-house computer for transactions in 1982 and new branches were opened in Taree and Wingham in the 80’s. The most significant development of the 1980’s for Hastings CU was arguably the hiring of Neville Parsons as General Manager in 1988.

Mr Parsons oversaw many changes in his time as General Manager including opening new headquarters, new branches, the name change to Holiday Coast Credit Union in 1996 and accepting the engagements of Maitland Community Credit Union in 1999.

Mr Parsons told Australian Credit Unions Magazine in February 1995 that:

 “At Hastings Credit Union, our role is to provide financial services with integrity ensuring that they meet the needs and expectations of our members in a caring and professional manner. To achieve this, we will ensure the right mix of committed human resources and technology while focussing on improving the financial well-being of our members and the broader community”.

An article called “In the Name of Change” in the February 1997 edition of Australian Credit Unions Magazine featured an interview with John Church, Director of John Church Advertising in Newcastle, who was hired to oversee the marketing around the change of name from Hastings Credit Union to Holiday Coast Credit Union.

Mr Church noted that, “The name, Holiday Coast, was strategically chosen by the General Manager of the credit union, Neville Parsons, to coincide with a recent government funded push to have the mid-north coast area of New South Wales known as the ‘Holiday Coast’ of Australia”.

Hastings Credit Union members meet to consider a name change to Holiday Coast Credit Union in 1996 [from collection]

Before all this, Australian Credit Unions Magazine reported on a fascinating development in the life of Hastings Credit Union in the August 1986 edition. Earlier that year a pensioner named the credit union as a beneficiary in their will. As the magazine noted, this could only happen to a credit union!

The deceased member left the following note with their solicitor:

“I am leaving the balance of my estate to Hastings Credit Union because I have no other family to leave my assets to. The credit union has been very helpful to me – I’ve never met such helpful people.”

The article ends on the following amusing note, “The irony of the entire episode is that witnesses to the will were from the State Bank – the member’s previous banker”.

Holiday Coast Credit Union today trades as Regional Australia Bank after a merger in 2019.

A Chat With Clive Skarott

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Clive Skarott carrying the Australian flag at the WOCCU Conference in Hong Kong in 2008

Clive Skarott has been a champion of the Queensland credit union movement since the early 1970s. This has principally been through his long association with Electricity Credit Union which merged with Queensland Country Credit Union in 2017 and today trades as Queensland Country Bank. Clive’s involvement in community causes has reached far beyond the credit union movement incorporating junior cricket, health, politics and much more besides. I spoke to him on the phone recently about his life and career in the Queensland customer owned banking sector.

Clive was born in Atherton in Far North Queensland in 1943 in a family with a long connection to the area. He began and ended his schooling in Atherton with a stint in the middle at Tinaroo where his dad Alfred worked during the construction of the Tinaroo Falls Dam.

His career plans as a youth were uncertain, only knowing that he wanted to work in “a big office”. This is what he did, gaining employment in late 1959 as a junior clerk at the Cairns Regional Electricity Board (now Ergon Energy) and staying there for 28 years. Clive told me that credit unions became a part of his life after his position as a Director of the Sick and Medical Fund at the Electricity Board became redundant with the introduction of Medicare in the 1970s.

“We determined that we would have to do something else for our fellow employees so we looked around to see what we could do”, said Clive. “I read a story about a credit union, which I think was the Brisbane City Council Credit Union. I thought that would be great to have. So the outcome of that was that four of us got together and talked about it and then we asked someone from the Queensland Credit Union League to come up to Cairns and tell us all about credit unions and of course they came up and it was a really good story. You could fit it in with what we wanted to do for our fellow workmates so we started what was the CREB Employees Credit Union in 1973”.

 Clive took up the role of Company Secretary in April 1973 and remained in that position until 2006. Clive was offered the CEO role in February 1989 where he remained until retiring in December 2008. Of his time as Company Secretary Clive said:

 “In no time at all we had every employee as a member and then we looked into the Cairns City Council, we went into Cairns Hospital and we were successful there but we still weren’t getting the increase in numbers that we liked so we thought we’d change our name to the Electricity Credit Union with a plan to move the credit union into all other electricity board areas in Queensland.

So we moved into Townsville and that was successful, we moved into Mackay, that was successful, then there was Capricornia Electricity Board based in Rockhampton. I think we were there by 1979. We moved into the Wide Bay Electricity Board at Maryborough in about 1980-1981. Then we moved into the South West Queensland Electricity Board which was based in Dalby but included Toowoomba. We were there in about 1985-86.

Then we moved into the South East corner with the South East Electricity Board in about 1989. By then we’d achieved what we’d set out to achieve which was to be the credit union for the entire electricity industry in Queensland”.

Clive went back to a role on the board post-retirement leading up to Electricity Credit Union’s merger with Queensland Country Credit Union and its subsequent conversion to a mutual bank. The conversion to Queensland Country Bank was a good thing according to Clive. He told me that, “I always used to get people who didn’t like the word credit union. They thought we might’ve been controlled by workers and all that. So, I was really happy when we became the Queensland Country Bank because people feel more comfortable with that word ‘bank’”.

Clive went on to say that, “I believed in the credit union, I believed in the credit union movement and I worked really hard to get great outcomes for us all”. On the future of the industry he said, “I still believe that there is a future for mutual banks and that there are some really great outcomes going forward. I’ll never leave the mutual banking sector. I think it’s great. The people are genuine. It’s all about delivering great outcomes for people. That’s what our aim was when I first started our credit union and that aim hasn’t changed”.

Clive Skarott receiving a Distinguished Service Award from Abacus in 2007 for his service to credit unions along with Ron Dixon (centre) and Geoff Doyle

Clive and his wife Merle have four children and outside them, his credit union career and other community work, Clive has a passion for sport. He has been associated with Cairns Junior Cricket and the Far North Queensland Umpires Association since 1980 and is known as a fanatical supporter of the Collingwood AFL Club. As he is an FNQ boy I had to ask Clive how he came to be a fan of the Pies?

“Yeah, that’s a great story”, said Clive. “In 1954, they started Aussie Rules in FNQ and we lived in Tinaroo as I told you and Tinaroo put in the 4th team so that they could get a competition. The Tinaroo team got people from Victoria who worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme, so we had people fully aware of Aussie Rules living and working in Tinaroo.

When they started a team we didn’t have a team strip so at the meeting, one guy said “I’m a member of Collingwood, I’ll see if Collingwood would give us a strip.” So the outcome of that was that Tinaroo played in Collingwood colours in the first year of the competition and they won the competition in Collingwood colours. So that’s when I became a Collingwood fan.”

Clive Skarott was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 2012.

Macarthur Credit Union (The Mac) – finances for the community

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

The Macarthur Credit Union started life as the Clutha Employees Credit Union Limited. The credit union was formed to provide financial services to local employees of the Clutha coal mines in the Camden area.

The Clutha Employees’ Credit Union was registered on 12 November 1971 and the first Annual General Meeting was held on the 8 November 1972. The foundation directors were Ralph Sharp, Ron Dines, Les Ohlsen, Sam Heatley, Peter Dawswan, Denis Frew, John Taylor, Wally Lord and Keith Hamer.

In 1978 the credit union was re-named Macarthur Mutual Credit Union Limited. This name change enabled it to expand to serve the needs of the broader community of the Macarthur and Wollondilly areas.

The credit union grew steadily and in the period 1980/81 its assets passed $4 million and by 1984 the assets were nearly $10 million. In an interview reported in The Chartered Accountant in Australia, August 1984, the General Manager Graham Holby spoke about the credit union’s service offerings and said “I think the emphasis with community credit unions has to be on image, awareness and accessibility”.

Graham Holby, General Manager, 1984 [from collection]

In 1984, the credit union organised a truly unique fund raiser for the Los Angeles Olympics. It hired a Qantas jumbo jet on Sunday, 8 April 1984, for a sightseeing flight over Uluru and the Olgas. The flight was well subscribed and a donation of $5000 was made to the NSW Olympic Council to help send athletes to the games (photograph of the cheque presentation below).

The credit union continued to prosper and by 1994/95 its assets were reported to be $67 million and the credit union had a membership of just over 9,500. On 20 January 1995 it was re-named the Macarthur Credit Union Limited and by 2003-2004 the active membership was 17,500.

In 2013 the credit union launched its new name and brand The Mac. The Mac continues to provide financial services to its members and community.

Melbourne University Credit Union 1970-2011

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Melbourne Uni 1

Melbourne University Credit Union maintained their focus of looking after the financial interests of their members at Melbourne University from their inception in 1970 right through to their becoming a division of Pulse Credit Union in 2011. There were no mergers in that time and only one name change from Melbourne University Credit Co-operative to Melbourne University Credit Union in 2002. Those of you with any knowledge of the Australian credit union and mutual banking movement will know that this is a most rare thing.

The 2005 Melbourne University Credit Union Annual Report stated in its “Aims and Objectives” that:

“The primary goal of the Melbourne University Credit Union Limited is facilitating the economic health and financial success of members and their families as one component of members’ personal well-being and development. MUCU is not profit orientated and benefits will be returned to members through the rates and services offered … The Melbourne University Credit Union Limited is concerned about the particular needs of the University Community and aims to meet those needs by developing a closer union with members”.

Melbourne Uni 2

Today, Pulse Credit Union has an open bond but a look at their current board shows that they still have a significant link to academia. The 2005 MUCU annual report has some interesting details on how the credit union was tracking at the time. It notes that “Internet Banking came on stream near the end of the financial year after a period of testing to ensure smooth introduction and minimisation of risks. It has already proved extremely popular with members”.

Also in the 2004/2005 financial year MUCU replaced its solitary ATM and noted that “membership increased slightly during the year, but there is much work to be done on expanding our membership to achieve benefits from economies of scale”.

An interesting aspect of MUCU’s history was detailed in the October 1997 edition of Directions magazine. An article about the Workplace Relations Act of 1996 included an interview with John Cullen, the General Manager of Melbourne University Credit Union, about MUCU’s introduction of the new workplace agreements. MUCU was the first credit union to make use of the new legislation.

Mr Cullen said the new process worked well for MUCU and that “staff are happy as they have been given a clearer picture and an indication of the future of their job”.

Melbourne Uni - Cullen
John Cullen, General Manager MUCU, from Directions, Oct 1997

A Perfect Circle – A Short Profile of Circle Credit Co-operative

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Circle Credit 1Circle Credit Co-operative Limited was registered in Victoria on 27th October, 1971. It formed out of the merger of ICIANZ Ascot Vale Area Employees Credit Co-operative and Derrimut Credit Co-operative. A year later ICIANZ Yarraville Area Employees Credit Co-operative joined the Circle.

An article in the June 1994 edition of Australian Credit Unions Magazine about Circle Credit Co-operative is worth quoting at length as it contains some interesting historical titbits:

“Circle Credit’s history dates back to 1963 when it first commenced operation at the Deer Park site as the Derrimut Credit Co-operative. Two years later, credit co-operatives were formed at the other ICI sites in Victoria; the Yarraville Area Employees Credit Co-operative and the Ascot Vale Area Employees Credit Co-operative … Its first location was the UF Plastics Factory in Ballarat Road and it subsequently moved to the Site Services Building at Gate 6.

In 1972 Circle Credit had advanced $250,000 in loans to members (assets $262,000) which today has grown in excess of $13 million with total assets of $19.5 million. The membership has grown from a few hundred in Victoria to 3,800 members throughout Australia.

Circle Credit’s function is to provide quality financial services which include savings, investment and cheque accounts, Redicards, Visa Cards, and personal, home and investment loans to ICI employees and their families throughout Australia”.

The very next edition of Australian Credit Unions Magazine, published in August 1994, featured a fascinating piece on the opening of Circle Credit’s new national headquarters in Melbourne. What makes this especially interesting is that the building was an Ausco Commercial Transportable Building. This meant that if Circle Credit decided that they weren’t happy with the location, they could literally pull up stumps and move the building elsewhere.

Circle Credit 2

Of the new building, Circle Credit General Manager, Bernie Gerlinger said, “We needed flexibility, functionality and security in our new development … It was also important that the aesthetics of the new building would reflect Circle Credit’s strength, success and service to its 4000 ICI members nationally. But it was also important to blend the building into the rural ambiance of the 486 hectare ICI site”.

In 2015, Circle Credit Co-operative became part of the Alliance Bank group and began trading as Circle Alliance Bank.

New England Credit Union 1982-2010

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

New England 1
Opening day of the Ashford Branch of New England Credit Union in 1996 [from collection]
New England Credit Union technically predates 1982. In 1969, the University of New England Staff Credit Union was created to serve the financial needs of the staff of the University of New England in Armidale and their families.

Over the years the bond of the credit union expanded after accepting the engagements of Armidale Credit Union in 1981, North West Local Government Employees Credit Union in 1997, Peel Valley Credit Union in 2004, Orana Credit Union in 2008 and Hunter Mutual in 2010.

The name University of New England Staff Credit Union was no longer fit for purpose by 1982 and their name was changed to New England Credit Union. It remained New England Credit Union until 2010 when it began trading as New England Mutual as part of a group that included Hunter Mutual and Orana Mutual. In 2016, it became a mutual bank and began trading as Regional Australia Bank.

Australian Mutuals History holds two sets of photographs relating to the opening of New England Credit Union premises over the years. The August 1994 issue of Australian Credit Unions Magazine features a short piece celebrating the opening of a New England Credit Union branch in Moree. The photographs are reproduced below.

New England 4

Here is an excerpt of the speech made by Ian McLennan, the New England Credit Union Chairman, at the opening of the new branch in August 1994:

“In some respects, the branch is being opened during a very difficult economic period with the tragic effects of one of the worst droughts in living memory. However, New England Credit Union is here for the long haul …

Credit unions were formed in difficult times and when the district rebounds, New England Credit Union will be here working with the community. Credit unions are not ‘high flyers’ in the financial industry, but rather, the ‘quiet achievers’.”

The same article included statistics about New England Credit Union that were up to date at the time of writing. In 1994, New England Credit Union had branches in Armidale, on the campus of the University of New England, Inverell and the new one in Moree. It also had agencies at Walcha, Uralla, Guyra and Glen Innes.

The other set of pictures we hold are photographic prints of the opening and early trading of the New England Credit Union branch at Ashford in 1996. Two are reproduced at the top of the piece and below.

New England 2


John (Jack) Ernest Coyne – A Credit Union Man

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Coyne 1
Jack Coyne, c. 1980s [from collection]
As part of our occasional series on credit union figures we are taking a look at John (Jack) Coyne – a remarkable credit union figure who held a number of important roles in the credit union movement.

Jack Coyne (8 March 1935 – 29 September 2009) was born and educated in Sydney. He was a talented rugby league footballer (as was his father before him) and he played for the South Sydney and Newcastle teams in the 1960s.  He trained as a survey draftsman and worked for a variety of employers, including NSW Lands Department, Department of Main Roads, Brisbane City Council, Cairns Regional Electricity Board, ACI Glassworks and Sydney City Council.

At the Sydney City Council, Jack Coyne was involved in the establishment of the City Council Employees’ Credit Union in the early 1960s. Remarkably, he served for 41 years as a director of the City Council Employees’ Credit Union, which later became Sydney Credit Union Ltd.

Jack was actively involved in the wider credit union movement and he served on the Boards of the NSW Credit Union League and the Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues (AFCUL). In fact, when he was elected in 1973 as the AFCUL president he was only thirty-seven and the youngest person to have held that role.

Coyne 2
Jack and Joan Coyne, Adelaide 1973 [from collection]
Jack was an Australian delegate to the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) from 1973-79 and attended World Council meetings. He participated in credit union development projects throughout Australia, Fiji, Panama and Central America. In 1993 WOCCU organised an international conference in Russia at the invitation of the Russian Committee for Credit Union Development. Jack Coyne joined the WOCCU contingent in Russia.

In 1989, Jack Coyne recorded an oral history interview with Richard Raxworthy (the recording is held by AMH), where he talks extensively about his credit union career and the various “pioneers’’ he met, such as Stan Arneil, Dermot Ryan and Ken Miller.  In talking about Sydney Credit Union, he states “We are making a profit for members. We are making a profit to improve things for our members. Service, interest rates and all that sort of thing. Which is a different philosophy altogether [from banks]. We are both using the same mechanism to make a profit, but we are doing it for different reasons. I think that is the very important thing of credit unions and while we can hang on to it, I think we have got a great future.”

Jack Coyne passed away in 2009, at the age of 74.

Coyne 3
Keith Mannix and Jack Coyne at CUSCAL Convention 1997 [from collection]