Helen McIntyre, AM – a credit union stalwart

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History


As part of our occasional series on credit union pioneers, this week we are featuring Helen McIntyre. Helen McIntyre was a prominent and active credit union figure, who held many key positions in the credit union movement.

Helen McIntyre was born in Harden, NSW and was educated at Goulburn High School. In 1965, Helen (known then as Mrs Helen O’Keefe) become the secretary-manager of the Stateworks Staff Credit Union (later the State Government Employees’ Credit Union).

Interestingly, in Helen’s oral history interview with Richard Raxwothy on 16 May 1990 (held by Australian Mutuals History) she says that this was her first credit union position. But she also states in the interview that “my life changed because of credit unions”. And further she notes that “it was not just a job…it became a career [and] I had a mission in life”.

News item about Helen O’Keefe (later known as Helen McIntyre) in Quest, 1970

In 1966 Helen became the Secretary of the City of Sydney Chapter of the NSW Credit Union League. Helen took on more prominent roles in the credit union movement – including being appointed the first woman Director of the NSW Credit Union League in 1970 and later becoming the Vice-President of the Association of New South Wales Credit Unions Ltd in 1984. In 1985 Helen became the President of the Co-operative Federation of Australia.

In the 1993 Queen’s Birthday honours list Helen McIntyre was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia for services to the credit union movement. A well-deserved recognition of the contribution she had made to the credit union movement and mutuals sector.

Helen McIntyre seated in the front row with other AFCUL Councillors, 1990

All Aboard! – A Look Back at Newcastle Bus Credit Union

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

From CUSCAL’s Directions Magazine, January 2000 edition

Newcastle Bus Credit Union held its place on the financial scene of the Hunter region of NSW from 1963 till 2005. It wasn’t always known as Newcastle Bus Credit Union of course. It was registered in 1963 as Belmont Government Credit Union with a bond to serve the bus drivers of Newcastle.

In 1983 its name was changed to Newcastle Bus Credit Union, which it kept until 2002 when it became Hunter Coast Credit Union. Today, if you stayed with Hunter Coast Credit Union all this time you would be a member of Beyond Bank.

In the first issue of CUSCAL’s Directions Magazine for the new millennium (January 2000), a profile of Newcastle Bus Credit Union was included. The article was centred on an interview with the General Manager of the credit union, Elaine Murphy. At the time the credit union was going through a period of “uncertainty and pessimism” after the closure of BHP’s Newcastle steelworks. With a membership of only 1,680 you can understand why. Murphy was quoted as saying:

“Many people will face a change in their financial situation and a lot of contractors will be out of work, and unemployment is fairly high here anyway. While it doesn’t affect our membership, the uncertainty in the region could mean that people are reluctant to borrow as much”.

BHP Steelworks, Newcastle, NSW, seen from Kooragang, 19 September, 1999. [Photo courtesy Bill Ruddick, and The University of Newcastle (Australia)]
Not that it was all doom and gloom at Newcastle Bus Credit Union at the turn of the millennium. They had just installed their first ATM in a partnership agreement with another Novocastrian credit union and they were getting out and about via other projects. Directions Magazine noted that “Newcastle Bus sponsors a number of sporting teams, raises money for Camp Quality through a Christmas raffle, and donates money to a range of causes including children living with cancer and the MS Read-a-thon”.

Toowoomba’s Heritage

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

W. H. Groom – Founding Chairman of Toowoomba Permanent Benefit Building & Investment Society [Image courtesy of the State Library of Qld]
Heritage Bank began life way back in 1875 as Toowoomba Permanent Benefit Building and Investment Society in Toowoomba, Queensland. As such it is one of the oldest, continually operating financial institutions in Australia. In “A Century of Homemaking: A History of the Toowoomba Permanent Building Society – 1875-1975”, author Maurice French notes the following:

“At the time of the bi-centennial of the [building society] movement in 1975 the Toowoomba Permanent celebrated its first one hundred years. It had survived the late nineteenth-century land boom and financial collapse, prolonged drought, two world wars, and the Great Depression. In its centennial year the Society was the oldest continuous building society in Queensland and the fourteenth in Australia; in terms of assets it was the sixth largest in Queensland and the thirtieth (of 136) in Australia. This record had been achieved largely as a result of the cautious – indeed carefully conservative – business acumen of the Society’s Directors and the inherent prosperity of the Municipality (later City) of Toowoomba and its rural hinterland.”

Mr French writes of the difficulties the organisation had during the Depression, suffering a contraction in the share register and “an age of steady growth and consolidation”, post-World War II. Thence, “In the mid-1970s the Society deliberately sought to improve its image and appeal with a new style, if not substance, of operation and the tentative creation of a branch structure in the region. The second hundred years opened with clear signs of a new confidence and interest in the region beyond the traditional bases of Toowoomba and Brisbane”.

One of the most interesting aspects of “A Century of Homemaking” is the demographic analysis of members, especially via occupation and details of female membership pre-WWII. French notes that members of Toowoomba Permanent from the early days and right through, included a broad sweep of the working population except for the very rich. For example members came from the ranks of “labourers and factory hands, the lower ranks of the public service including railway, postal and police workers … teachers and nurses, small businessmen and self-employed artisans and tradesmen”.


What is most enlightening is reading the level of female membership. Not including women who were joint members with their husbands or daughters of members, French records that “possibly a quarter” of total memberships of Toowoomba Permanent Benefit Building and Investment Society in the 1920’s were held by women in their own right.

In 2011, Heritage Bank CEO Peter Lock, gave an interview to Ross Greenwood from Money Action, in which he expanded on some of the more recent history of the organisation. He relates that in 1982, “Toowoomba Permanent Building Society and the Darling Downs Building Society merged together to form the Heritage Building Society”.

Mr Greenwood then asked Mr Lock, “At what point did you decide to become a bank?” To which, Mr Lock replied, “2011 is when we made the switch to Heritage Bank, and through that time, a 142 year history, we’ve grown to be Australia’s largest customer owned bank, with assets just over $9.3 billion, which is a small bank by the total banking sector, but a large [mutual] bank.”

Heritage Bank remains Australia’s largest customer owned bank.

Home Owners’ Co-operative Credit Society – an early starter

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Excerpt from the Small Loans Facilities Act 1941

The impetus for credit unions in Australia dates back to the passage of the NSW Small Loans Facilities Act in 1941. This was an Act to authorise the formation of small loan societies under the Co-operation Act, 1923-1938.

The first ‘registered’ credit union under the 1941 Act – the Home Owners’ Co-operative Credit Society Limited – was established in May 1945.

This credit society was sponsored by a building society – the Home Building Co-operative Society, which was a group of terminating building societies based in Sydney. The co-operative credit society was formed so that members could obtain low interest, unsecured loans for purchasing furniture and other household expenses.

The management of the Home Owners’ Co-operative Credit Society Limited was the same as the building society. The ‘bond of association’ was the common membership of the building society.

It changed its name to Home Owners Credit Union Limited in 1963 and by 29 January 1982 its name had been removed from the register.

Unfortunately we do not hold any records or items for the Home Owners Credit Union. But it is interesting to know it was a “first”.

Cosy 1940s sitting room – small loans from the Home Owners’ Co-operative Credit Society were used to buy such furniture

Jack Lange – An early legal advisor to Credit Unions

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Jack Lange ca. 1960’s [from Collection]
In May 2017, the Australian customer owned banking industry lost one of its long time champions, Jack Lange. Mr Lange was 94 when he passed away. His work with credit unions began in the 1950s as a solicitor on behalf of the movement via his law firm, Lange & Co (later Lange Lawyers).

He was honorary solicitor for the NSW Credit Union League (NSWCUL) from its beginnings in the late 1950s and advocated in a legal capacity for the Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues from 1966 onwards. Gary Lewis in “People Before Profit” (p.62) notes that as the NSWCUL grew stronger, “Affiliates frequently sought league advice on complicated legal and technical questions. These were ably and generously fielded by Jack Lange. NSWCUL improved its auditing capacity and lines of communication with legal and business practitioners”. He was also a solicitor for many individual credit unions.

Two of Mr Lange’s biggest achievements working for credit unions were his contribution to the creation of the NSW Credit Union Act 1969 – the first credit union specific legislation in Australia – and he was part of the team responsible for the 1974 23G tax exemption for credit unions. For his long and dedicated career serving the credit union movement, Mr Lange was awarded the Australian Credit Union Distinguished Service Award in 2000.

From left: Tom Kelly, Jack Lange & Ian Larsson at the 1998 CUSCAL Convention [from Collection]
Jack Lange had an interesting and notable life before and around his work with credit unions. He was born in Cremorne, NSW, on the 21st August 1923. He enlisted in the Australian Army in 1942 at the height of World War II, where he served beyond the cessation of hostilities in December 1945. He was married to Veronica (Peggy) for 72 years and was father to Cheryl and Brian.

In 1989, Jack Lange was interviewed on his life and times by Richard Raxworthy (on behalf of the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative). This oral history ensures that his important experiences, reminiscences and opinions are preserved for posterity.

Stan Arneil – The Great Persuader

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Stan Arneil in 1964 [from Collection]
Stan Arneil was a giant of the credit union movement in Australia. He was also regarded as a “complex” and “controversial figure”. In her oral history interview with us in 1991, former editor of Australian Credit Union Magazine, Maggie Niven, described Stan as a “visionary and a doer”. As part of our occasional series on Australian credit union pioneers, this time we will delve into the life and work of Stan Arneil.

Mr Arneil was born in Katoomba, NSW in 1918 and he described his childhood as “Very happy”. He also said that “Although we were very poor, I never knew it”. His mother died when he was a young child and he was subsequently raised by his father.

He received an education to “intermediate standard” and got his first job in a garage “working 70 hours a week for 15s”. Stan lost his father when he was just 20 in 1938 and he borrowed the money to pay for the funeral.

Stan became a combatant in WWII as an infantryman in 1940. As a sergeant in the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) he was part of the unconditional surrender of Allied Forces to the Japanese in Singapore in 1942. Mr Arneil spent the rest of the war in the nightmarish Changi Prisoner of War Camp and on the no less horrific Burma Railway. Stan published a book of his experiences in WWII in 1980 called “One Man’s War”. In it he wrote that it was in Changi that he learnt about co-operation, “when you couldn’t go through a day or a night without someone helping you”.

After the war, Stan’s working life took a very different turn. He was working as an accountant for the ABC in Sydney and was “terribly fervent about the trade union movement” and co-operatives. While researching an article for Sydney University in 1956, he came across a book on credit unions by Peter Druyker and “this is where the flame started”.

Stan met up with credit union pioneers Keith Young and Clarrie Murphy and with them and others began work on the forerunner to the NSW Credit Union League (NSWCUL) in 1956. Mr Arneil was President of NSWCUL from 1961-1964 and was a Director for 10 years. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of ABC Credit Unions in every state. In 1962, he appeared on the ABC Four Corners TV Program promoting credit unions and in 1965 he helped begin the Newport Credit Union Schools in Sydney.

Mr Arneil became a Director of CUNA International (later becoming the World Council of Credit Unions) and was appointed General Manager of CUMIS Insurance and CUNA Mutual Insurance in Australia in 1965/1966. It was in his capacity on the insurance side of the industry where Stan’s work brought him into conflict with the state peak bodies.

He left his position in 1971 following a dispute between CUNA Mutual and the Credit Union Leagues.   He later occupied the position of Manager at SDA Credit Union for four years.  After this he returned to accountancy at the Hooker Corporation.

Stan was a foundation director of the Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues (AFCUL) and in his tireless career was instrumental in the formation of over 100 credit unions around Australia and one in the United States. Some considered his gift of public speaking on behalf of credit unions so impressive, they dubbed him “The Great Persuader”.

Stan Arneil Newport School 1965
Stan Arneil addressing the Newport Credit Union School in 1965 [from Collection]
 Stan Arneil was the first Australian to be recognised for his work in credit unions by being elevated to Member of the Order of Australia on 9 June 1975. He wrote many articles and his larger works include ‘Forming and running a credit union’ and ‘Secrets of the Boardroom:  the Credit Union Director in the Eighties’.

Stan was a remarkable and at times controversial figure throughout his career but he did a tremendous amount to promote credit unions and their values.

Stan Arneil passed away in 1992 aged 73, a husband to Dorothy as well as a father and grandfather.

*Information on the life and work of Stan Arneil sourced from Australian Credit Unions Magazine, our oral history recordings and our file of news clippings and correspondence regarding him.




“Why Don’t You Digitise Everything?”

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Image courtesy of Samuel Zeller & Upslash

From time to time we get asked if we’ve digitised everything in the archives.  The answer is no … we digitise what we can. It is a question that follows on from the broader comments one hears every now and again about society’s information overload and “everything being online”. This isn’t true, of course, but it is understandable considering the ease of online searching and the ubiquity of the World Wide Web.

Of course, digital archives comprising “born” digital material and selected digitised material are a reality, and are fantastic resources. But just why isn’t a 100% digital archive feasible? The main reasons why even small archives don’t digitise all their holdings and make them available online are interrelated and concern time, money and to some extent copyright law.

Bedfordshire Archives in the UK has a great You Tube clip in answer to the question of why archivists’ ”don’t digitise everything”. In it, the archivist speaking notes, “Digitisation does not come cheap. First you have to take into consideration the shape and size of your documents. They need careful handling to take a decent digital image. This takes people and people and time cost money. Then there is the question of have you got the right to copy it if you wish to digitise them all and make them available online? To do so, you’ll need to clear the copyright with every copyright owner. That is a mammoth task which requires an awful lot of resources. Assuming you have cleared the copyright and you have the staff to make the documents nice and flat ready for digitisation, then you need the equipment to digitise with …”

Image courtesy of Ula Kuzma & Upsplash

There have been many great digitisation projects carried out by archives and libraries in Australia, but they have taken a lot of resources (money and staff time) and generally only comprise a portion of all the records and documents held.  So as budgets get tighter, projects to digitise have to be focused on high priority materials. In reality, it is not yet affordable for every archival document to be digitised and made available online.

Don’t get the idea that we’re luddites trying to pull a fast one on you. As Samantha Thompson, archivist at Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives in the U.S. has written, “archivists and librarians themselves are behind the abundance of primary sources already available on the internet. From rare books to official records and from diaries to sound recordings, digitised resources have spread the word (literally) that the past informs our present and our future”.

Australian Mutuals History has digitised our oral history collection and many of our photographs have also been digitised. We are also working on digitising a selection of our VHS videos. For the foreseeable future, however, most of the collection will probably not be digitised – but it will continue to be discoverable through our finding aids and remain stacked safely on shelves.