A course has been created to give accountants and lawyers in Australia the knowledge to advise clients on setting up and running co-op businesses.
The Co-operative Financials and Governance for Accountants and Lawyers Program has been developed by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) as a learning partner of Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand (CA ANZ).
It will provide practitioners with insights into financial reporting for co-operatives, co-operative capital-raising instruments, and legislation and tax settings governing co-operatives.
The knowledge gap in the legal and accountancy sectors has been identified as an obstacle to co-op development in several countries. In Australia, a 2016 Senate report into co-operative, mutual and member-owned firms recommended action to address the gap.
The course has been funded as part of the government’s AU$2.5 million Co-operative Farming program, announced in response to a demand from the agricultural sector.
Minister for agriculture and Northern Australia David Littleproud said: “Australia’s lawyers and accountants are currently graduating without spending any time on this type of business model.
“That means our farmers are missing out on the opportunity to consider if a co-operative could be the right option for them because their local accountant simply doesn’t know about them.
“It is vitally important to educate accountants and lawyers servicing our farmers about business models that could deliver improved economic outcomes and, more broadly, improve the sustainability of their communities.”
Melina Morrison, CEO of BCCM, added: “There is untapped potential in the co-operative business sector but an identified lack of professional accounting and legal knowledge. This is where specialised accountants and legal practitioners can come in to fill the critical gap in the market.”
The course will be delivered through three lunchtime Zoom sessions on August 17, 19 and 24. It will be facilitated by Henry Botha, principal of Higgins Botha, and will be presented by Kevin Franey and Mark Ellem, both partners at TNR Chartered Accountants, and Katie Innes of BAL Lawyers.
“Our practice has been working with large and small co-operatives for the past 100 years, with clients in the agriculture and processing sectors,” said Mr Franey said.
“The opportunity to share our expertise with accountants and lawyers around Australia is genuinely exciting, and this course is designed to truly benefit professionals like us, or those who want to upskill in this area.”
The course will be delivered through three lunchtime Zoom sessions on August 17, 19 and 24.
Each 1.5 hour session will feature short presentations, facilitated discussions and time for Q&A. Questions can be submitted in advance to [email protected].