The founding father of the Queenslanders Credit Union in Australia, Leo Barcham, has died in Brisbane at the age of 96.
A leading figure in the movement, he helped to set up the credit union during his time as a Queensland public servant. In this role he witnessed the struggles of some of his colleagues to purchase basic household items.
At a council meeting of the State Service Union in 1963, he moved a motion that the union sponsor the formation of a credit union to help members secure small loans. Australian banks at the time were focusing on providing mortgages, which made it difficult for public servants to secure small personal loans.
Credit unions were the first in the country to process payroll deductions for their members once the federal government lifted the embargo on credit union registration in 1944.
“Because the borrower is a shareholder, a part owner of the society, there is no stigma of debt attached to the loan,” Mr Barcham said in a subsequent meeting, which led to the creation of the Queensland Public Service Employees’ Credit Union.
“The needed finance is made available to him not as a favour but as a right … He himself has contributed to build up this organisation to meet just such an emergency for himself and his contributing neighbours.”
Mr Barcham’s contribution to the movement was recognised with a Pioneer Award at the Australian Credit Union Convention. The accolade praised his devotion to the movement and practical demonstration of the co-operative principles and philosophy of credit unions at state and national levels.
In April 2018 Queenslanders merged with Queensland Country Credit Union, forming the second largest credit union in Queensland.
In a tribute published by the credit union, former Queenslanders chair and current deputy chair of Queensland Country, Christine Flynn, said: “Although Leo retired from the board over two decades ago, he was still well known and loved by everyone in our team.
“Each year, including the last, he attended our AGM and would often get up and speak. His passion for the customer owned banking movement was inspiring and will leave a lasting legacy.”