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This week we celebrated the International Day of Cooperatives, a day where we acknowledge the contribution that cooperatives and mutuals have made to our society and economy for more than 100 years.

Co-operatives and mutuals are a form of organisation based on reciprocity, autonomy and democracy. There are an estimated 1,600 co-operatives and mutual businesses with more than 13 million members in Australia. Examples range from large agricultural co-operatives and motorists’ mutuals to small disability service co-operatives.

This model of service delivery operates in our sector too, with cooperative models of housing delivery, aged care, disability services and other service types. The Business Council of Cooperatives and Mutuals published an important paper in 2014 that explored how cooperatives deliver public services already, and how they can play an even greater role in the delivery of public services. You can access the paper here.  

This model of service delivery is deservedly attracting more and more attention as an alternative to traditional models of service provision. Just last week, Bill Shorten and Labor committed to “…levelling the playing field for member-owned co-operatives and mutuals” and “…review(ing) existing federal legislation and regulations affecting member-owned co-operatives and mutuals in Australia, and us(ing) the COAG agenda to review State and Territory legislation. The Coalition has long been interested in the model, with former Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews regularly promoting it as an alternative to Commonwealth Service provision. It seems reasonable that we can expect to see even more focus on this model in the period ahead.