Over 50 Years of Police Credit Union

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

South Australian Police Association Credit Union Co-operative staff, ca. 1970s [from AMH Collection]

In February 1970, the South Australian Police Association Credit Union Co-operative was established to provide credit and other financial services for South Australian police officers who at the time were poorly paid and had difficulty acquiring loans, according to current board member Peter Alexander.

In 1981, the name was changed to Police Credit Union and by the time it was profiled in Australian Credit Unions Magazine in 1987, its bond had broadened to include the NT Police Association, St John Ambulance Association (SA and NT), the Royal Australian Nursing Federation (SA Division), the SA Salaried Medical Officers’ Association and South Australian hospital staff.

Today, Police Credit Union has an open bond but they declare that “we still honour our police heritage with our Platinum package available for police, healthcare professionals such as nurses, as well as emergency services workers and firefighters”.

The above article in Australian Credit Unions Magazine noted that in 1972 the credit union had but 286 members and a maximum of $500 for personal loans. It went on to note that by 1986, “Police Credit Union found itself lending $2 million a month for purchases such as motor vehicles, home improvements, holidays, land and full debt consolidation up to $80,000 in one hit.”

In 1986, Australian Credit Unions Magazine celebrated Police Credit Union’s pioneering introduction of ATMs and ATM operation. PCU introduced the first ATM in South Australia in 1978 and in 1986 installed two 24 hour ATMs in their Carrington Street office in Adelaide.

A further article in 1995 celebrated PCU’s “25 Years of Service”. It noted that “Its membership is in excess of 25,000 with assets of almost $130m. Last year saw the introduction of motor vehicle leasing finance and hire purchase”.

Police Credit Union today has over “40,000 happy customers” according to their website. Australian Mutuals History holds extensive records detailing the history of Police Credit Union. This includes many magazine and news articles such as the ones referenced above along with annual reports going back to 1972, newsletters and photographs.

Australian Mutuals History was founded by the credit union movement and is an essential resource for research into the history of the Australian credit union and mutual banking movements. We provide access to the valuable archives we hold and assist those researching the history of the customer owned financial sector in Australia.    

Below is a fantastic video produced by Police Credit Union celebrating their 50th anniversary.  

Vale Dennis Rutherford

Australian Mutuals History would like to pay our respects to the family and friends of Dennis Rutherford who passed away on 1 May 2021, aged 76. His funeral is today. Dennis was a General Manager of the TAB Staff & Agents Credit Union (appointed in 1995) and was involved in the credit union movement for many years.


Photograph of Dennis Rutherford (from AMH collection)

CPS Credit Society Photo Collection 1980s-1990s

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

We recently processed several hundred photographs taken by CPS Credit Society during the 1980s and 1990s. They were donated to us by CUA who CPS Credit Society merged with in 1997.

CPS Credit Society was registered as Commonwealth Public Service (Qld) Co-operative Savings and Loans Society in Brisbane in 1960.

It was part of the vanguard of credit union development in Queensland. Gary Lewis noted in People Before Profit: The Credit Union Movement in Australia, that in 1964 there were only 24 credit unions in Queensland, a small number compared to NSW and Victoria, however, “credit unions in the ABC, PMG, police and education departments and Commonwealth and state public service department, all developed strongly”.

In 1968 the name was changed to Commonwealth Public Service (Qld) Credit Union. In 1985 it became CPS Credit Union and finally CPS Credit Society in 1990. The selection of recently donated photos below come from the CPS Credit Union and CPS Credit Society eras.

CPS Credit Society HQ in Brisbane, ca. 1990-1997
As above, zoomed out
CPS Credit Union Chair Len Talty and Brisbane Lord Mayor Sallyanne Atkinson open CPS Credit Union Centre, 14 February, 1986
Inside a Far North Queensland Branch of CPS Credit Society, ca. 1990-1997
CPS Credit Union Townsville Branch, ca. 1985-1990

Woolworths Team Bank 50th Anniversary Party (Sydney)

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Woolworths Team Bank celebrated their 50th Anniversary in style at the Bella Vista Hotel, across from the impressive Woolworths Group HQ, at Norwest, Sydney, on April 20, the exact date that Safeway Employees Credit Co-operative was registered in 1971.

Safeway Employees Credit Co-operative was begun by staff of Safeway supermarkets in Mulgrave in Melbourne. The birthplace of the mutual will have its own anniversary function. Safeway supermarkets were acquired by the Woolworths Group in 1985, hence the current name.

The Sydney celebration saw a gathering of current and former directors, members and staff and everyone seemed to have a good time.

On behalf of Woolworths Team Bank and Australian Mutuals History I have been putting together material for various publications that traces and celebrates the achievements of the mutual from its humble beginning in the early 70s to the thriving mutual bank it is today, with over 20,000 members right around Australia.

Power Credit Union (1958-2008) – The Early Days

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

On 13th August, 1958, Ron Spain, Honorary Secretary of the NSW Electricity Commission Employees’ Association, convened a meeting of colleagues at Pyrmont Power Station in order to form a credit union. They succeeded in forming NSW Electricity Commission Employees Savings and Loan Co-operative (it became Electricity Commission Employees Credit Union in 1964).

Member number 1 and foundation President was Harry Head with Maurie Bambury taking on the role of Secretary. The rest of the board was made up of Imants Kursin as Treasurer, Fred Holland, Frank Turner, Helen Small, Colin Moore, Harold Collins and Lawrie Small.

In the early 1990’s oral historian Richard Raxworthy produced a short draft of a history of Power Credit Union which is in our collection. He writes that foundation President Harry Head was known as a “soft touch” for a loan.

Furthermore, Raxworthy wrote:

“Harry Head strongly believed in credit unions and their ability to help people to take control of their lives. Harry had been through the mill and had straightened himself out with the aid of a credit union. The foundation Secretary, Maurie Bambury, got his experience under the tutelage of Father John Gallagher of the Australian Antigonish Association. Maurie went to school with Peter Cox, foundation Chairman of Motor Transport Credit Union and served on the Lidcombe Board with Dermot Ryan, foundation Chairman of Sydney Credit Union”.

An interesting aspect of the early days of the credit union was that the NSW Electricity Commission initially refused to grant payroll deductions to members of the credit union, “until forced to in 1962, by political pressure exerted through ALP Minister Pat Hills, at the instigation of Jack Armstrong, credit union Director and representative at St Peter’s Store”, wrote Raxworthy.

As early as 1966, the CU looked to expand by bringing in credit unions formed by other NSW power station employees. The employee credit unions of the power stations at Tallawarra and Wangi joined in 1968.

In 1991, the name was changed to Power Credit Union and in 2008 it merged with Maritime Workers of Australia Credit Union, forming Maritime, Mining and Power Credit Union.

UK & US Credit Union Heritage

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

The British Credit Union Historical Society logo

Australian Mutuals History is a repository that preserves important records of the Australian credit union, building society and mutual banking industries. The archives include board minutes and papers, governance and business documents, AGM records, annual reports, newsletters, photographs, oral histories, film and video recordings, newspaper clippings, ephemera and artefacts. The collection is a culturally significant resource preserved for members of the financial mutual community, as well as external researchers and the general public.

The archives were started by the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative in 1985 and were aided by the Australian Credit Union Archives from 1996. The Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative fell away in 2004 and Australian Credit Union Archives became Australian Mutuals History (AMH) in 2017.

Australia is not the only country with a credit union movement that has decided to preserve its history for the same reason that we preserve ours. In the English speaking world, there are institutions to preserve the history of credit unions in the UK and the USA.

In the UK, the British Credit Union Historical Society (BCUHS) was established in 2008 to “promote the history of credit unions across the UK”.

The BCUHS website (link here) states that:

The Society has gathered information and records from UK credit unions, credit union trade associations and individuals going all the way back to 1964. These records include documents, photographs, oral histories, video recordings and newspaper clippings. The archives are an important historical resource for credit unions, researchers and members of the community.

BCUHS has four stated goals, “Preserving the Past”, “Educating the Present”, “Enriching the Future” and “Promoting Unity”. To these ends they collect records of important credit union history with links to historical details on UK credit unions on their website.

BCUHS is owned by the Credit Union Foundation which also supports them by assisting with their program of oral histories called “Save Our Sound”. The Credit Union Foundation’s education program for “future credit union managers, directors and leaders”, called CU Futures is also publicised by BCUHS on their website.

The USA has a museum (website link here) dedicated to the history of that country’s extensive credit union movement. “America’s Credit Union Museum” (ACUM), is in Manchester, New Hampshire, on the site of America’s first credit union which began in 1908.

The museum declares that:

It is where the history of the credit union movement lives on. It is the only institution that collects, archives, preserves and displays evidence of credit union roots. It cares for and makes accessible to this generation and all generations to come, real examples of values, philosophy, struggles and successes of credit unions.

The museum is not only home to our remarkable ancestral artefacts, it is a distinctive tribute to the founders and leaders-their vision, their commitment and determination, their sacrifice and special triumphs. All of these made it possible for credit unions to be the viable and progressive movement we are today.

The obvious difference between ACUM and AMH is that as a museum it in part acts as a tourist destination where regular people come to look at historical documents, photographs and films for recreational purposes.

In 2018, the museum opened the CUNA Research Library on the site with the financial assistance of CUNA and other sponsors. The museum noted on the opening of the library that, “The physical and electronic industry research centre will make credit union history more accessible, while the additional exhibit space and upgraded conference facilities will enable credit union professionals, legislators and citizens to experience firsthand the unique role credit unions play in the marketplace”.

ACUM is sustained financially via paid memberships and donations from credit unions, individuals and business groups as well as being funded for specific projects such as in the case of CUNA (Credit Union National Association) sponsoring the establishment of a research library in its name.

Below is a great video produced by ACUM titled “The Beginnings of America’s Credit Union Museum”

The Helping Hand & The Return Visit

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Visitors to the Australian Mutuals History (AMH) office might notice two oil paintings on our walls that do not at first glance have anything to do with credit unions or mutual banks. No matter how hard you look at them you won’t find any evidence of mutual finance but they are connected to the Australian credit union movement and are not on our walls purely for their aesthetic value.

A little while ago a man named Geoff Grey called our office concerned that two pictures that were donated to the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative many years ago, might not be on display. Upon describing what paintings he meant we were able to tell him that we were looking at them on our wall as we spoke. As it is such a good story we thought we’d tell you about Geoff Grey and how the paintings came to be painted and how we came to have them on our walls.

In 1967, Geoff took up a role with the Federal Department of Health in Darwin after a stint in Canberra and before that he worked in his native Perth where he first became a credit union member. His first ever job was as a Patrol Officer in Papua New Guinea but that’s a whole other story …

After working in Darwin with a young family for a couple of years Geoff found himself Vice President of the local chapter of the Australian Clerical Officers Association (ACOA) – a trade union for federal public servants in clerical roles.

Geoff told Richard Raxworthy in an oral history interview held by AMH in 1994 that he became foundation Chairman of ACOA Co-operative Credit Society (NT) upon its formation in 1970 because he was “the only mug that would take it on”. He would remain in the job for 17 years.

The truth was that fellow union reps Ray Lanyon and Reg Wellard spoke enthusiastically about forming a credit union and Geoff’s knowledge of them from his current membership and his enthusiasm for its bill paying service meant he was an obvious choice for Chairman.

Geoff saw the credit union expand its bond to all public servants in the NT which came with a change of name to Public Service Co-operative Credit Society in 1976. Geoff retired from the public service and his credit union position in 1988.

Before the change of name to Public Service Co-operative Credit Society in 1976, Geoff and his team had award winning plans drawn up for a new head office. According to Geoff, it was constructed with the first commercial building license after Cyclone Tracy.

When the building was refurbished in 1985 after more space was required due to to the growth of the credit union, Geoff got the idea of asking Victorian artist Arthur Hamblin to paint two works to hang on the walls of the office. He knew Arthur was in Darwin because he’d seen new works of his for sale. The credit union board agreed to the idea and he took his plan to Hamblin.

The first painting, “The Helping Hand”, came about after Geoff told Arthur that he wanted,  “Something about a pioneer group crossing the river, getting stuck and a bullocky coming along with his team and helping them through and that was called, ‘The Helping Hand’. I just left it to him to do what he could and that’s what he came up with”.

Geoff added, “The second one I just said now, Arthur, the Helping Hand, he comes back after a year or so for a return visit and to my mind that is the member coming in, joining the credit union, getting a helping hand and as time goes on he comes back for more and becomes a part of the whole scene. So, that was the idea and I gave it to Hamblin and that’s what he came up with, which was absolutely brilliant”.

The Return Visit by Arthur Hamblin (1985)

Apparently, Hamblin was adding the final touches to one of the paintings on the morning they were unveiled in the new building. Geoff said, “Originally, ‘The Helping Hand’, was displayed in our then banking section, behind the teller counter. That was displayed there for everybody to see. The other one we hung up in the director’s office, in the upstairs area of our building.”

After Geoff left in 1988 he remained in contact with some of the directors, including Bill West, who went on to be a director at Australian Central Credit Union which merged with NT Credit Society (the successor in name to the Public Service Co-operative Credit Society). Geoff entrusted Bill with the well-being of the paintings when he left and Bill assured Geoff that he sent them to the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative (our predecessor) and that they were safely in our keeping.

We were happy to tell Geoff that the paintings are still on the wall of what is today known as Australian Mutuals History. Australian Central Credit Union is still around but doubtless most people know it by its trading name People’s Choice Credit Union.

Geoff Grey, ca. 1970s-1980s [from collection]

A Short History of Horizon Bank

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

The Illawarra County Council Staff Credit Union commenced in 1964. Initially the Credit Union was only open to employees of the Council. But this changed in September 1971 when family members were also allowed to join.

An early director Neville Daniel (picture below) talked about start of the Illawarra County Council Staff Credit Union in an oral history interview with Richard Raxworthy on 26 July 1990 (held by AMH). Neville remembered Stan Arneil, who had a role in helping the formation of credit unions in NSW, addressing an early morning meeting at 7am in the car park on a chilly July morning in 1964.

Also in the interview Neville said “I can remember the inaugural meeting … We got our Charter from the Registrar in December 1964 and we opened for business on 1 January, or straight after the New Year break, in 1965. We just did it with voluntary work.”

Neville Daniel, a founding director [from collection]

The credit union expanded in the 1980s and 1990s through accepting a series of engagements from other credit unions – including Bega Valley Credit Union Limited (1980); Candelo Community Credit Union Limited (1982); Wollongong City Council Employees Credit Union Limited (1982); Illawarra District Hospitals and Ambulance Employees Credit Union Limited (1983); and Shoalhaven City Employees Credit Union Limited (1995). This expanded the membership numbers and coverage of the credit union.

To reflect this growth the credit union changed its name in December 1982 to Southern Counties Credit Union Limited. Then again in 1995 the name of the credit union was changed to Horizon Credit Union Limited.

Following this period of growth, Horizon Credit Union opened a new Administration and Services Centre in Wollongong. The February 1997 edition of Directions (the Australian Credit Unions Magazine) had an article on the opening and quotes the General Manager, Simon Whiteman, as saying “we wanted to build … a centre that was functional, cost effective and … a place where members feel comfortable doing business”.

Peter McLeod (left) and Robert Lamond (right) directors of Southern Counties Credit Union at a Credit Union Forum, c. 1990 [from collection]

In 2009 the credit union accepted engagements of Eurobodalla Credit Union Limited. In 2012, the long serving Director Peter McLeod left after an impressive 45 years of service (1967-2012). Another long serving director was Irene Bonella (1988- 2014), who continues to be involved in the mutuals sector through her role as a trustee of the Australia Credit Union Archives Trust. 

2019 was a significant year as Horizon Credit Union made Money magazine’s “Best of the Best” list for the year. It was Horizon’s Visa credit card, a low interest rate and no annual fee card, which came in at first place for best transactor credit card in the non-bank category.

2019 was also an important year as the credit union began trading as Horizon Bank, marking the start of another era for the organisation.

How to Salvage Wet Records

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Photograph: Storms ahead  

If your vital documents and paper records become wet it can be disastrous. So what can you do about it? There is good advice and resources produced by national / state government archival bodies and other specialists 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:   

•             The NSW State Archives and Records Authority has useful advice about dealing with wet records (see Conservation Tip No. 6 Dealing with Wet Records)

•             The Queensland State Archives has advice about recovering and salvaging records after a disaster – including water damaged and charred records (see Business continuity and disaster management for records)

•             The National Archives of Australia has advice on handling flood damaged records and fire damaged records (Recovering flood-damaged records and Recovering fire-damaged records).

•             State Library of New South Wales has some information about drying books (Drying a wet book)

•             Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) also has information about disaster planning, response and recovery (disaster planning and recovery).

Island State Credit Union (1970-2007)

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Island State Credit Union was a strong name in Tasmanian financial mutuals until it merged with Connect Credit Union in 2007. The new business launched as MyState Financial and two years later MyState demutualised.

What became Island State began as Postech Credit Union Co-operative Society in 1970. In its 37 year history it accepted the engagements of 11 other credit unions but it started with a group of postal technicians.

Postal technicians is a somewhat misleading job title. These “Postal technicians” maintained the telephone exchanges of Tasmania. The written history of Island State CU called, Putting People First: Island State Credit Union 1970-2000, records that the postal technicians who agreed to form a credit union in Hobart knew, “nothing, zilch!’ about either credit unions or financial matters more generally”.

They did know that they had trouble getting loans. Putting People First: Island State Credit Union 1970-2000, details the difficulty first Postech CU Chairman, Jim Forbes, had in getting a loan:

“It was almost as if you had to prove you didn’t need the money before the bank would lend it to you … Because you were borrowing money meant there was something wrong with you anyway, and if there was something wrong with you, you were a bad credit risk, and you were treated as such”, said Jim.

By the time the name was changed to Island State Credit Union in 1980, the administrators had to deal with payroll deductions from 74 different organisations including government departments, charities, trade unions, four hospitals, four newspapers and more. The seed organisation, Telecom, was just one of these so it made sense to have a change of name.

A lot of thought went into the change of name but many Postech stalwarts were against it. When the name “Island State” was eventually chosen it was a popular one. Interestingly, “Island State” was not a widely used term for Tasmania at the time.

In the year following the name change, Island State completed one of its bigger mergers (the biggest prior to 2007 was with the Credit Union of Tasmania in 1986). This was the absorbing of Mountsea Credit Union which was begun at the Cadbury chocolate factory. Mountsea began strongly but by the time it merged with Island State it had actually lost some members.

Other significant mergers took place on the turn of the millennium. In July of 2000, Island State accepted the engagements of Polish Credit Union which had been serving the Tasmanian Polish community since 1966.

The March 1993 edition of Tasmanian Credit Union News reported that “the Polish Community Credit Union entered into an agency arrangement with Island State Credit Union giving its members access to their financial institution virtually throughout Tasmania during business hours”.

From this news we can see that a merger was long on the cards. Another interesting fact about Polish Credit Union is that in 1993 it still did not have any staff. The article in Tasmanian Credit Union News declares that, “The Polish Community Credit Union operates without any staff; its Board of Directors personally carry out all the functions as well as the duties normally associated with a Board.”

In November of 2000, Island State accepted the engagements of CPS Credit Union (TAS) in their last big change before becoming MyState Financial in 2007 and demutualising soon after. CPS stood for Commonwealth Public Service and at the time of merging they had over 5000 members, no small thing in such a small state. In 2021, does the Tasmanian financial community miss the old Island State Credit Union?