Alf Green – An Amateur Credit Union Historian

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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John Lee (left) & Alf Green on their recent visit to our office

Australian Mutuals History was pleased to welcome back Alf Green to our office in Surry Hills, Sydney. Alf is good friends with long-time supporter John Lee who accompanied Alf to Surry Hills for his first visit in some time.

Alf used to visit us in order to undertake research during his time as an amateur credit union historian. He has a particular interest in credit unions of the Illawarra region of NSW as this is where he lives and worked and held a directorship of City Coast Credit Union. Mr Green became a director of City Coast Credit Union in 1969, a position he held for many years after initially joining the credit union as a member. He was also on the board of ICUD NSW (Institute of Credit Union Directors).

Mr Green produced histories of Wollongong Hospital Employees Credit Union, Illawarra District Hospital & Ambulance Employees Credit Union and City Coast Credit Union. He also produced a history of the Association of Southern Credit Unions which supported and promoted credit unions primarily on the south coast of NSW from 1965 to 1982. None of these histories have been published so it is necessary to use our services in order to access the insights into these institutions that they provide.

While Alf no longer undertakes research into credit unions he keeps busy working on his family history and researching charities in the Illawarra.

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The author is holding historical credit union documents Mr Green had at home and presented to Australian Mutuals History

International Credit Union Day 2019 – Local Service. Global Reach

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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October 17, 2019 marks 71 years of International Credit Union Day! International Credit Union Day is recognised and developed by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), the organisation dedicated to the development and promotion of credit unions around the world.

WOCCU states that this year’s theme of Local Service. Global Reach, “speaks to how each credit union serves a local community—and it is because of that local service in communities across the world that we have a global credit union movement that’s now 260 million members strong. ICU Day 2019 is a celebration of the impact credit unions and other financial cooperatives have made—and continue to make for their members. It is also a chance to be thankful for the lives and communities that have been improved by our movement”. The global reach consists of 89,000 credit unions operating in 117 countries.

Of  ICU Day more generally WOCCU notes, “Since 1948, International Credit Union Day has been celebrated annually on the third Thursday of October. Each year, the international event affords the opportunity to remember credit unions’ proud history and promote awareness of and support for the credit union and financial cooperative difference”.

Australian Mutuals History is a proud supporter of International Credit Union Day and our collection of over 30,000 records pertaining to the Australian credit union and mutual banking sector includes items related to the celebration of the day in Australia since the 1950s. These items include the photograph reproduced here.

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International Credit Union Day picnic, Nielson Park, NSW,  1 October 1967 [from Collection] 

CSA Cooperative Credit Union Society – A Western Australian endeavour

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

The CSA Cooperative Credit Union Society was formed by officers in the Western Australian Department of Lands and Survey and the Office of Titles. It was initially registered as the Land Titles Credit Union Limited when it was formed in November 1960.

The Land Titles Credit Union Limited had a bond of association that extended to members of the Civil Service Association. In December 1961 it changed its name to CSA Cooperative Credit Union Society Limited.

In December 1981 the name changed to CSA Credit Union Limited. In 1989 it accepted engagements of The Railways Officers Co-operative Credit Union Society Limited.

In 1994 a profile of the credit union was published in the Australian Credit Union Magazine. The profile was part of a regional feature on Western Australia. The article noted that there were 17 credit unions operating at the time and that credit union assets in Western Australia totalled $699.43 million on 30 September 1993, which was an increase of 9.60% on the previous year’s figures.

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Profile from Australian Credit Union Magazine, Feb/Mar 1994

In November 1995 the credit union merged with API-Auscom Credit Society Limited to form StateWest Credit Society Limited. In 1998 a profile of the StateWest Credit Society was published in the Australian Credit Union Magazine and it stated that “the decision to merge was based on the belief a larger entity would provide members (predominately Commonwealth and State public servants) with a stronger financial institution able to pass on better rates, better service and greater security”.

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From the Australian Credit Union Magazine, Oct/Nov 1998 

StateWest Credit Society Limited continued to grow and accepted engagements of Wapet Staff Credit Society Limited (1998), Health Services Credit Union Society Limited (2002) and Breweries Union Credit Society Limited (2004)

On 10 July 2006 StateWest Credit Society demutualised to merge with Home Building Society. This expanded entity subsequently merged with Bank of Queensland in November 2007.

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Photograph of StateWest’s general manager Greg Wall from Australian Credit Union Magazine, Oct/Nov 1998

Directing Credit Unions – Ian Larsson Profile

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Ian Larsson in the 1970s [from collection]
Ian Larsson had a long and distinguished career in credit unions, especially as a director. Almost as soon as he was involved with Syndal Credit Union Co-operative in the 1970s he was elected to the board and this continued with almost all the other credit union institutions he was involved with, including the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative (our predecessor), where he was Chairman of the Board from 1993-1996.

Mr Larsson was born in Tasmania in 1929. He told Richard Raxworthy in the oral history interview he made with him on our behalf in 1992 (from which most of the information for this profile is sourced) that the most significant event of his childhood was spending an extended period in hospital after contracting polio.

After school, Ian worked at The Postmaster-General’s Department in Hobart. He got restless and was able to transfer to The Postmaster-General’s Department HQ in Melbourne in 1958 where he worked part-time while studying communications engineering part-time at RMIT University. In 1958, Ian had been a married man for two years.

He first heard about credit unions via the priest at his local Melbourne church who would talk about them in sermons. After hearing a few of these sermons he picked up a credit union brochure after church and joined Syndal Credit Union Co-operative. After a few years with Syndal, there was talk about encouraging members to become “more active”. With this in mind Ian took 12 questions along to ask on the night of the 1976 AGM. This apparently impressed the other members because as he told Richard Raxworthy, “someone nominated me to become a Director, which I had no intention of becoming, but all of a sudden I was a Director when all I was thinking about was becoming a more active member”. He went on to say that it was perhaps fated to happen.

He felt a bit lost as a Director to begin with but was pointed to the Victorian Credit Co-operative Association (VCCA) which ran courses for credit union Directors (the first course Ian attended was on Risk Management). It was then, Ian recalled, that “I really got started” in credit unions. Ian says he spoke to a lot of people in the industry right from the beginning and it was this, he believes, more than anything else that saw him elected as Chairman of the VCCA in the late 70’s, not all that long after taking his first course in Risk Management. He would remain Chairman of the VCCA until 1981.

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Ian Larsson pictured second from right chairing the 1978 AGM of the VCCA [from collection]

Only one year after becoming Chairman of the VCCA he was made President of the Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues (AFCUL), a position he held from 1977-1981. He considered his biggest achievements with AFCUL were lowering their debts and presiding over the first World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Conference held in Australia in 1979.

Mr Larsson regretted leaving AFCUL when he did but he began finding things very troubling. He recounted that “The Victorian scene was getting very difficult in 1980”. He went on to say that he couldn’t get the Board to address their various dilemmas (financial and otherwise) and two fellow Directors left suddenly. He related that after one harrowing meeting that lasted until midnight a colleague told him that he looked ill and that he should see a doctor. He did so and the doctor told him that his blood pressure was so high “that he should be dead”. The doctor advised Ian that he should start thinking along the lines of “one job, one salary”. He reluctantly took this advice a few months later and resigned from his AFCUL position.

After recovering he became a foundation Director of the Institute of Credit Union Directors Victoria (ICUD [VIC]). He had first heard about ICUD (NSW) while still on the AFCUL Board. He thought it sounded like a good idea to provide support to Directors in a similar way to the Australian Institute of Credit Union Managers (AICUM) which was successful in providing credit union managers with a peer group and educational opportunities.

He began discussions in Victoria with Jim Muller about setting up ICUD (VIC) and very soon Ian became a foundation Director. He said in his interview with Richard Raxworthy that “from his point of view the purpose of ICUD (VIC) was to do three things. 1. Hold forums for Directors 2. Prepare educational papers for Directors 3. Run educational courses”.

From there Mr Larsson was involved in setting up a national ICUD which he described as “a committee of Chairmen of each of the State ICUD’s”. He went on to say that “we meet by phone generally and try to get the national director program oriented. That committee set up the basic 6 [educational] modules which we all work off”.

Ian recalled in 1992 that he first heard about the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative, “when Dermot (Ryan) formed it and I became a member fairly early because I’m interested in keeping history. I remember being involved in a training course run by ACUHC down in Moe, Victoria, focused on oral history training. I tried my first oral history interview there. I interviewed Tim Dyce. The things I learned about Tim in about 10 minutes was amazing”. Ian went on to represent the historical co-operative/archives at credit union conventions over the following few years.

Ian Larsson passed away in May, 2008.

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Ian Larsson representing the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative at the AICUM Conference in Albury, NSW in 2003 [from collection]

 

“Your Way to a Better Future” – City Coast Credit Union on Film

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Below you can view a short film called “Your Way to a Better Future”, produced by Jag Television and Video Productions on behalf of City Coast Credit Union in the late 1990s. The film was in VHS format and was recently digitised as part of our long term project to digitise our analogue film holdings.

City Coast Credit Union was registered as AIS Employees Credit Union Co-operative in 1962. Its initial bond was for workers (and those related to workers) at the Illawarra Steelworks. It expanded from this narrow focus and eventually changed its name to City Coast Credit Union in 1986. It transferred its engagements to the Australian National Credit Union in 2003.

The film offers a brief outline of the beginnings of the credit union and highlights the benefits of being a member of City Coast Credit Union. Enjoy!

Karpaty Ukrainian Credit Union – serving its community

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Karpaty Ukrainian Credit Union Limited was established at a meeting on 15 November 1970 when the name was determined, the rules were adopted and the first Board elected.  The credit union was registered on 7 January 1971.

Initially the credit union was conducted at weekends in a classroom of the Ukrainian Saturday School at St Andrews Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lidcombe.  Its operation increased to daily from the beginning of June 1975 and it employed two full-time employees. Premises at 27-29 Church Street Lidcombe were purchased in November 1977.  This became the home of the credit union.

The first agency of the Karpaty Ukrainian Credit Union was established at Wollongong on 1 December 1974 where it continued until May 1983.  The Newcastle agency was established at Adamstown on 27 June 1976.  An agency was opened at Queanbeyan in June 1977 but this was short-lived.  In February 1993 Karpaty Ukrainian Credit Union accepted the engagements of Dnipro Ukrainian Credit Union Ltd.

The credit union was prominent in its support of the Ukrainian community, and provided funding towards community events. Interestingly, it was also a great supporter of the Ukrainian Golf Club Sydney. Their sponsorship first began in 1987 and continued for many years.

Directions, the Australian Credit Unions Magazine, had a two-page profile of the Karpaty Ukrainian Credit Union in its February/March 1997 edition. In the profile Mr Jaroslav Duma, General Manager, notes that while many of the credit unions’ members are of Ukrainian background the credit union would not refuse the majority of people who enquired about joining. Mr Duma said “Today we need to attract different market areas such as younger people. The loyalty factor is slowly subsiding”.

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Karpaty Ukrainian Credit Union staff from Directions, February/March 1997

On 1 April 1999 Karpaty Ukrainian Credit Union accepted the engagements of the Concord Ukrainian Credit Union (based in Brisbane) and with this amalgamation acquired an office in Brisbane.

Karparty Ukrainian Credit Union merged with Sydney Credit Union on 1 January 2010.

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At a Glance from Directions, February/March 1997

Richard Raxworthy – When Credit Unions Spoke, He Listened

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Richard Raxworthy working at the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-Operative Office in 1996 [from Collection]
As part of our occasional series of profiles of significant figures of the credit union movement, we thought it would be worth looking at Richard Raxworthy. While Mr Raxworthy was not involved in credit unions as such, he was very much involved with recording credit union history through a significant series of oral history interviews with credit union figures.

The State Library of NSW describes Richard Raxworthy (1932-2003) as “a professional interviewer whose expertise in interviewing is particularly directed to politicians, trade unionists, trades and working people”.

In a 2007 issue of the Oral History Association of Australia Journal, Rosemary Block, the librarian responsible for the State Library of NSW’s extensive oral history collection at the time wrote that,

“[Richard’s] work in oral history commenced in the 1980s and continued until his final illness.  He sold copies of his interviews although it was necessary to drive a taxi to keep body and soul together.  Foremost amongst his oral histories are interviews with workers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the overland telegraph, the Morsecodians and the NSW Teachers’ Federation.  Significant amongst his work was the 500 interviews he made with people who had served the credit union movement in Australia.  He was designated historian of the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-Operative Limited.  The role was carried out in an honorary capacity although it appears that he performed paid oral history services for some credit unions”.

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Richard Raxworthy conducting an oral history interview with Australian credit union pioneer Clarrie Murphy in 1990 [From Collection]
Mr Raxworthy’s deep interest in history and stories of working people made him a very good fit for documenting the history of the credit union movement and its people. Mr Raxworthy was involved with the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-Operative from the very early days and worked closely with the organisation not just by recording interviews but by attending credit union conventions with other working members, leading seminars on conducting oral history interviews for credit union audiences and much else besides. The oral histories of individuals Richard recorded on our behalf read like a Who’s Who of the early years of the Australian credit union movement. They include Kevin Yates, Ken Miller, Tom Kelly, Stan Arneil, Clarrie Murphy, Dermot Ryan, Rose Mary Gallagher, Don Closs and important later figures such as Maggie Niven and Gary Eggert. All of Richard’s credit union related oral history recordings have been digitised and kept for use now and into the future by Australian Mutuals History.

Here below is a snippet of Mr Raxworthy’s oral history interview with Australian credit union pioneer Kevin Yates, recorded in 1984 and held by Australian Mutuals History. The transcript of the recording is also reproduced below.

‘I would say the basic theme was a better social order. The average man getting more from life than he was getting prior to co-operative developments. More for your money you might say, better quality of goods and services.’

Richard Raxworthy was born in England on 25 April 1932. He was educated at a boarding school called Loughborough College School in Leicestershire. He worked in his father’s factory after school but after his father died when Richard was 19, the factory had to be closed. He joined the Navy and later moved to Australia when he was 35. He got married and had one son.  His career as a social historian began in the 1980s.

He was propelled on his late career as a social historian (specialising in oral history) by completing a BA in Communications at the University of Technology, Sydney. His selected subjects of social history, writing for television and radio and biography, obviously were great training for what was to come.

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From left: Tom Kelly, Richard Raxworthy & Jack Bannister staffing the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-Operative stall at a credit union convention in 1992 [From Collection]
To the world at large, Mr Raxworthy is mostly known as an oral historian of workers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The State Library of NSW has digitised his recordings with workers who constructed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and are greatly celebrated. His interest in the bridge and its construction developed after realising that 1982 was the 50th anniversary of its opening. He set off upon a mission of interviewing as many people as possible who were still alive and who worked on the building of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the rest (excuse the pun) is history.

Mr Raxworthy also wrote a number of books including, The Proud Arch: The Story of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (with David Ellyard), Soldiering on in Papua New Guinea: 9th Australian Field Ambulance (A.I.F.) 1939-45 and The Unreasonable Man : The Life and Works of J. J. C. Bradfield.