Truly a Dependable Credit Union!

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Dependable CU HQ
Dependable Credit Union HQ in Maroubra, NSW, ca. 1980s [from Collection]
The story of Dependable Credit Union is another of a credit union that began as a financial service for employees of a particular workplace that later expanded into a community credit union. In this case workers at ICIANZ Ltd in Botany, NSW, a chemical factory, a steering committee was formed in May 1960 with the goal of forming a credit union for workers there. An information meeting for staff was held which included the dissemination of a paper on credit union philosophy and the basics of credit union management.

ICIANZ agreed up front that subscriptions and loan repayments could be deducted from salaries. This made it easier for the credit union to get off the ground and with that The ICIANZ Employees’ Credit Union Co-operative Ltd was registered on 7 July 1960 with membership open to all ICIANZ employees. The initial HQ was at 16-20 Beauchamp Road, Matraville, with the administration of the credit union conducted by volunteers in the early years.

In its first year of operation there were 172 members and 99 loans were made.  By August 1963 a credit union office had been fitted out with enlarged systems that included addressograph plates and history data cards.  On 12 January 1965 the credit union was re-named ICIANZ Employees’ Credit Union Ltd.  By January 1967 the credit union moved to the former Training Centre Hut at the rear of the old administration building.

In 1968 the business was renamed Matraville Credit Union. That same year Noel Bain commenced as the credit union’s first full time manager and he worked with two other employees. In 1980, the credit union’s records were transferred to Financial Computing Services’ Prime On-Line Computer System. The next major step came the following year when the NSW Government authorised the credit union to extend membership to people who live or work in the Municipality of Botany or the Central or South wards of the Municipality of Randwick.

Dependable CU 30 Anniv Graham Humphreys, Carr &
Dependable Credit Union General Manager Graham Humphreys (left) and NSW MP Bob Carr (centre) celebrate the 30th anniversary of Dependable Credit Union in 1990 [from Collection]
Finally, in 1984 the credit union was re-branded Dependable Credit Union and a new office was opened in Maroubra. Dependable Credit Union continued to trade until 2002 when it transferred engagements to Members Australia Credit Union.

A small piece in Credit Union Quest newspaper in February 1969 regarding Matraville Credit Union, illustrates both the achievements of Matraville CU and the important part credit unions have played in Australian history. The piece titled “Knocked Back by a Bank” quotes Stan Watterson from Matraville CU. Highlighting the importance of credit unions for “the average person”, Watterson notes:

“Only this morning I had a chap in the office who tried to borrow money from a bank to complete a house he was building himself. They said they would loan him money only after the house was completed. He joined the credit union and we agreed to lend him $2000 and keep lending more as he repays the loan”.

Warwick Credit Union – serving the local community since 1970

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Warwick HQ
Photograph of Warwick Credit Union headquarters, c 1995

The Queensland Credit Union League (QCUL) actively and successfully encouraged the formation of credit unions in Queensland. In an article in the credit union magazine Quest (December 1970 edition) it states “Through the promotions work carried out by the Darling Downs Chapter of the Queensland Credit Union League, new community credit unions have recently been formed in Warwick and Millmerran-Pittsworth”.

A formation meeting of the Warwick and District Community Credit Union was held on June 18, 1970 and it was registered on 26 June 1970. The first Board of Directors included Geraldine O’Neill, Bernard Stephens, P Doyle, Raymond Lyons, Donald Hine, Herbert Johnson, Michael Brewer, Timothy Brosnan, Denis O’Neill and Kevin Keim.

In 1973 the credit union bought the old Queensland National Bank building and remodelled it as its headquarters (see picture above). The name was changed to Warwick Credit Union Limited on 21 September 1987.

In 1991 Alan McCrory, Director and Manager of Warwick Credit Union, did an oral history interview with Richard Raxworthy, which Australian Mutuals History holds as part of the collection. The interview (done on 20 September 1991) was mainly about QCUL but also touched on WCU. In the interview Alan McCrory says:

“Yes I am in Warwick. It has been there since 1970. We are twenty-one years old. We were formed in June 1970. We opened in July 1970. We have been going ever since. We changed our name from Warwick and District Community Credit Union Limited to just Warwick Credit Union because it became a mouthful. We now have a main office in Warwick, an office in Killarney, full branch office there, an agency in Allingham, we are going to open up another office down the road in the shopping centre and out at Inglewood. We have done fairly well over the years. It has been hard work, but it has worked out well.”

In July 2018 the credit union accepted the engagements of Gympie Credit Union.

Warwick Clipping
Photograph from WCU Silver Anniversary Souvenir Edition newsletter, 1995

Orana Credit Union 1968-2008

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

orana-opening.jpg
NSW Premier Bob Carr opening the Trangie Branch of Orana Credit Union in 1996 [from Collection]
The Orana region of North-western NSW takes up an extraordinarily large area which according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics held around 114,000 people as of 2015. Considering the region takes in famous towns such as Dubbo, Cobar, Mudgee and Bourke that is not all that many people.

Orana Credit Union served the residents of that huge area from 1980 to 2008 when it merged with New England Credit Union and ceased trading. Its origins were in Dubbo, where it was registered as Dubbo Community Credit Union in 1968.

In the May 1969 edition of Credit Union Quest, George McCready, a representative of Dubbo Community Credit Union spoke about what the credit union meant for the people of Dubbo.

“Young couples wanting to get married have found a loan from the credit union very handy. Some other borrowers have been householders planning to be connected to the Council’s mass septic system, George McCready said”.

He went on to say, “In one unusual case we lent a Dubbo man money to pay a Court fine”. In 1982, two years after becoming Orana Credit Union with a community bond to serve members over a tremendously large geographical area, it was still not the largest community credit union in NSW in terms of membership. That title was held by Tweed-Byron Credit Union, based in Lismore.

However, such were the talents and creativity of the Orana staff that Tweed-Byron sent their staff to Dubbo in order to learn about their state of the art computer operations. In fact, St Mary’s Papakura Credit Union, a New Zealand credit union, also asked Orana Credit Union for assistance, such was their renown for excellence.

Orana Trangie Branch Prior to Opening
Staff of the Trangie Branch of Orana Credit Union make last minute adjustments before official opening, 1996 [from Collection]
A year later, Orana General Manager, Don Howe spoke in Australian Credit Unions Magazine about the ongoing success of the credit union. “In 1975 Dubbo had one building society and no hire purchase companies – now we have four building societies and seven hire purchase companies. However, despite this competition Orana continues to have excellent growth patterns, Don said”.

12 years later Australian Credit Unions Magazine toasted Orana’s tremendous success in their February 1995 issue. On this occasion it wasn’t growth figures but Orana’s third successive victory in the financial industries category in the Dubbo Outstanding Business Awards. The article states that, “Orana General Manager Ken Tucker said winning the latest award was completely unexpected, especially since the organisation had not even nominated itself”.

 

Interview with Bruno Cullen of Queensland Country Bank

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Bruno

Bruno Cullen, the retiring Chair of Queensland Country Bank, will end his career in financial mutuals entirely in November after 43 mostly successful years. Mr Cullen has been Chairman of Queensland Country Bank for the last 14 years and is staying on until November as a Director in order to be of assistance to the new leadership in these challenging times due to the Covid-19 outbreak.  He is in fact Chairing Queensland Country Bank’s Covid-19 Committee. We spoke to Bruno recently about his long career.

Bruno spent most of his formative years in Mt Isa in Queensland and as a youngster he had a great love of rugby league and a gift for mathematics. In his high school entrance exam, called the scholarship exam in those days, he excelled in maths.

His interest and aptitude for maths encouraged him to pursue a career in accounting upon leaving school in 1965. He was successful in obtaining an accountancy cadetship with Mount Isa Mines. It was then that his relationship with credit unions began as he joined the Isa Mine Employees Credit Union which is in fact the entity that today is named Queensland Country Bank.

Bruno told us that, “In 1977 I was in discussions with the then General Manager of the credit union and he asked if I would like to take the place of the Credit Manager as he’d just left”. He went on to say that “I went from Credit Manager to Finance Manager, which you’d call these days CFO, to Assistant General Manager to Managing Director on a full time basis for 26 years”.

In those 26 years Isa Mine Employees Credit Union accepted engagements of a number of credit unions, became Queensland Country Credit Union in 1989 (it became Queensland Country Bank earlier this year). Two more recent mergers were particularly trans-formative and we will return to those shortly.

Bruno Cullen
Image from “Credit Where It’s Due : A History of the Queensland Country Credit Union 1971-1996”

By 2003, Queensland Country Credit Union was a successful state wide organisation with its headquarters in Brisbane. It was then that Bruno’s rugby league and management skills caught the eye of the Brisbane Broncos NRL Club who hired him to be their Managing Director. Queensland Country didn’t want to lose him so he stayed on as a Director while working with the Broncos.

After 9 years or so with the Broncos, Bruno retired from full-time work. “But the then Deputy Chairman passed away and I was appointed in his place. After the resignation of the Chairman in 2006 I was appointed Chairman of the credit union”, he told us.

He went on to say:

“I stayed on a good deal longer than I originally planned. Good governance advice from APRA was that we should always look at renewal and refreshment of the Board. It was very much a changing environment and we instituted a Director succession plan. I then established a succession plan where four directors, including me, would move on one at a time over four years.

I was third in line, however the year I was due to go mergers with ECU and Queenslanders Credit Union came to fruition in a hurry. First was ECU and as I had done a lot of the groundwork and negotiations they asked me to see that through. That took about 12 months and because I had previous discussions with Queenslanders they also came forward and the request was made that if they merge with us, I stay on as Chair for the first two years and as that was up in April, I’m now moving on.

It’s four years on from when I had planned to go but it was all done in the right way. Those mergers in particular were quite good for us in that it increased our assets by well over 700 million dollars and over 25,000 new members and collectively about 60 million dollars in cash reserves. We had 1.5 billion in assets then and we now have 2.5 billion and going well. So it’s a very opportune time for me to leave”.

Bruno’s final curtain call in November coincides with the 50th AGM of Queensland Country which is fitting. Before letting Bruno go, I asked him what were the most enjoyable aspects of his time with Queensland Country.

“It sounds a bit corny but just the mutual side of things. The members owning the organisation and the culture that we have bred. The mutual culture that puts people first, that’s all the members in the communities we represent and of course our fantastic staff. We’re there to help people”, said Bruno. He went on to say, “We give money to charity, schools and hospitals, kids’ sports and we have sponsored the North Queensland Cowboys NRL Team. In a great acquisition we were awarded the naming rights to a new $300 million stadium in Townsville. It’s now called Queensland Country Bank Stadium”.

Adelaide United Credit Union – “The Credit Union with a Conscience”

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Adelaide United Opening

Regular readers of our blog will remember our profile of South Australian credit union stalwart, Barbara Wellington, which we published in January. That post noted that she was instrumental in creating Adelaide United Credit Union. It related that she was approached by Adelaide Central Mission about the possibility of starting a credit union for people in severe financial hardship in the Adelaide area.

The April 1983 edition of Australian Credit Unions Magazine featured an article titled “The Credit Union with a Conscience” on the beginnings of Adelaide United and the part played by Ms Wellington. It noted:

“In the late 1960s the Mission had tried to establish a form of budget assistance in an effort to educate low income earners in money management but it had not been effective. One of the people involved in discussions on the subject in 1970 was Barbara Wellington, manager of the ABC Credit Union in Adelaide, and she broached the idea of using a proven credit union budget savings scheme as a possible solution”.

It goes on to say that:

“A steering committee was formed to examine the possibility and it was decided that a credit union with a firm base of employees of the Mission and its aged care and charitable institutions was a viable foundation on which to build. It was felt that with such a firm base, low income people could be helped through the Budget Account and a worthwhile service could be offered to the employees of the Mission. And so it was that the then Adelaide Central Mission Credit Union was born on 6th October, 1971”.

Barbara Wellington was elected Chairman, with Kelvin Dickens taking on the Vice-Chairman’s role and Mavis Ellis appointed as Secretary. Ms Ellis eventually became full-time secretary manager as there became more work to do with the growth of the credit union.

Adelaide United Staff

Adelaide Central Mission Credit Union became Adelaide United Credit Union in 1981 with an expanded bond covering employees of local “aged care institutions, private hospitals … as well as members of churches and those referred for financial counselling. The name ‘Adelaide United’ was adopted to more suitably relate to the new bond area”, noted Australian Credit Unions Magazine.

The same article quoted Joanne Brinkies from the South Australian Department of Welfare office on the benefit that Adelaide United brought to her client base. “Working with the Credit Union has been the first step of independence and, after some time, all other contact with Welfare agencies has stopped [for some clients]”, said Brinkies.

In 1986 Adelaide United Credit Union transferred engagements to Australian Central Credit Union.

Eastern Community Credit Union Co-operative – 1963-1997

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Eastern Community Branch
Eastern Community Credit Union Co-operative Branch, ca. 1990s [from Collection]
The Eastern Community Credit Union Co-operative served the residents of Melbourne’s outer Eastern suburbs for over 40 years. It was registered in 1963 as Bayswater-Boronia Co-operative Credit Society but for most of its early life it was known as Knox Credit Union Co-operative.  Knox is a large area in Melbourne’s east, south of Nunawading and north of Dandenong.

In 1985 its name was changed to Eastern Community Credit Union Co-operative to reflect their bond to serve residents on Melbourne’s Eastern fringes. The credit union retained this name until ceasing to trade in 1997.

Australian Credit Unions Magazine featured some interesting stories on Eastern Community Credit Union Co-operative during the 1990s. In 1993 they shared the moving story of a member who was able to undergo a successful kidney transplant due to a loan from Eastern Community CU. Eastern Community CU General Manager, Jean Mecchi was quoted in the article as saying, “No other financial would assist Mr Deut with loan finance … but Eastern Credit Union put people before profit”.

Eastern Community Opening

The February 1994 issue had a small piece celebrating the opening of a new Eastern Community Credit Union branch in Boronia (pictured above). Ms Mecchi was quoted again not only on the new branch but the growth of the credit union, “The asset growth reflects a vote of confidence by the local community, she said. The strength of the credit union indicates the importance customers place on customer services. We are able to provide a level of personal service not found in other financial institutions”.

Finally, the February 1995 edition of Australian Credit Unions Magazine publicised the visit of 30 officials from Taiwanese credit unions to the Eastern Community Credit Union office. Ms Mecchi was quoted as saying, “Credit unions in Taiwan commenced in 1964 and are still very small. The movement there has assets of under $500 million and 124,000 members … We, at Eastern Community were delighted to help the fledgling credit union movement in Taiwan at such a critical stage in its development”.

“The Shire … Local Banking”

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Sutherland CU
Shire of Sutherland Credit Union Miranda Branch in 1982 [from Collection]
Sutherland Credit Union was a community credit union and a fixture in the Sutherland Shire in the south of Sydney for many years but it didn’t start out that way …. The Lucas Heights nuclear research facility (today known as ANSTO) is well known for holding Australia’s only nuclear reactor with much of its research being in medical science. In August 1970, workers at Lucas Heights Research Laboratories got together to discuss the formation of a credit union.

In December 1970, the AAEC Employees Credit Union was registered with its inaugural Board consisting of Brian Charlton (Chairman), Ron Sargeant (Vice Chairman), Don Nichols, Jock McCuag, Jim Jacobs, Frank Slade, Anita Beard, Ann Cowper and Ron Owers (Secretary). The credit union opened for business in January 1971 on a very small scale with the Directors dividing the administrative duties among themselves. However, by July of 1971 increased business meant that it became necessary to hire staff. The credit union’s first member, Noela Cox, was taken on as a bookkeeper and in December, Ezio Trenga was made the first Manager.

Sutherland PH 3933-6
Brian Charlton & Ezio Trenga at the Opening of Shire of Sutherland Credit Union HQ in 1984 [from Collection]
Constant growth encouraged the Directors and members to take the next logical step and turn the credit union into a community based organisation with a bond to serve the entire Sutherland Shire community. With that, the Shire of Sutherland Credit Union was born in 1982 with its name shortened to Sutherland Credit Union in 1994.

The first branch was in Miranda and in 1986 a branch was opened in Sutherland, followed by Engadine in 1990, Cronulla in 1992 and finally Menai in 1996. The credit union installed its first computer in the early 1980s and innovations such as rediATMs, phone and internet banking were introduced as the years passed.

In 2010, Sutherland Credit Union celebrated its 40th anniversary and in 2013 a new name and a new logo were unveiled. The business name was changed to “The Shire … Local Banking”. The credit union said at the time that “Our new logo represents our geographical location; The Shire seen in the logo as the coastal location represented by the sun and the sea. Local Banking as who we serve and what we do”.

In 2016 The Shire merged with IMB Bank.

The Shire ... Local Banking (1) Taken by Ben Woods March 2020. Office closed sometime after merger with IMB Bank in 2016
The Shire Miranda Branch (no longer in operation) [from Collection]