Australian co-op apex launches country’s first development fund for the sector

BCCM says the Bunya Fund will support five early-stage or prospective co-ops as they build capacity and develop their business

Australia‘s Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) has launched the country’s first co-op development fund to provide legal, financial and governance advice.

BCCM says the Bunya Fund was developed in partnership with its members to address “the critical gap in accessing professional advice and education on the co-operative business model which has resulted in a lack of diversity in Australian social enterprise business models”.

The fund will support up to five prospective or early-stage co-ops or mutuals by providing capacity building, education and advisory services, valued at between AU$5,000 and $25,000. Eligible organisations are for-profit, not-for-profit or charitable co-operatives and mutuals, or other enterprises looking to convert to a co-operative or mutual.

Founding funders include Bank Australia, Australian Unity, Co-operative Bulk Handling (CBH) and CoPower, with $140K raised in the first year; this is expected to grow to a $500k-per-year fund “to help grow the next generation of high impact co-ops and mutuals”.

Related: BCCM report hails revenue growth for Australia’s co-ops

Melina Morrison, CEO of BCCM, said: “These enterprises operate across Australian society from sustainable agriculture, affordable housing, renewable energy and social care to community banking, community-owned retail, Indigenous services and arts and culture.

“Co-operatives and mutuals empower people to work together to solve their common needs through a democratically controlled and jointly owned business model. It’s about Australians helping Australians and creating a more prosperous society where everyone can thrive by working together.

“Importantly, the fund aims to create more co-operation among co-operatives, which is a principle that all co-ops legally ascribe to.”

Godfrey Moase, chair of Cooperative Power said: “As a new co-operative aiming to make energy cheaper and cleaner for a fairer Australia, we understand the value of the Bunya Fund to grow a more democratic economy. The fund is an important link in a thriving network of co-operatives.”

Applications are now open and close at 5 pm, Friday, 23 September. Enquiries can be directed to Antony McMullen, advocacy and sector development lead at BCCM [email protected]