Worker Co-operatives in Australia

Australia has a long and diverse history of worker cooperatives, with a 2012 article by Anthony Jenson citing examples from the late 1800s onwards. While the modern worker co-operative sector in Australia is relatively small, there are worker co-operatives in nearly every state and territory, operating in a diverse range of sectors – from home care, to farming, to waste management.

The following list of Australian Worker Co-operatives is not exhaustive, Organisations that are majority employee-owned, but are not structured as co-operatives, are not included in this list. For more information about employee ownership, see Employee Ownership Australia.

New South Wales

Co-operative Homecare: An aged and disability services provider that aims to improve the quality of life for both employee-members and the people they care for. Founded 2013.  

Community Power Agency: A support, research and advocacy organisation that aims to help grow help grow the community renewable energy sector in Australia. Founded 2011. 

Tarcutta Textiles: A manufacturer of wool garments for men, women and children. Founded 2000. 

Candelo Bulk Wholefoods Co-operative: An ethical food cooperative providing affordable food for the community and secure employment for their members. Founded 2006. 

Victoria

Earthworker Co-operative: A community-led initiative working to provide local, sustainable, wealth-creating jobs that will contribute to a healthy planet and a safe climate. Currently in formation.   

Tasmania

Resource Work Co-operative: A resource recovery and waste minimisation enterprise providing meaningful and ethical employment for its members. Founded 1993.

Northern Territory

Tamara Co-op (The Desert Fruit Company): A co-operatively owned, worker run, Australian date farm. Founded 2013.

Queensland

Reverse Garbage: A waste management enterprise promoting environmental sustainability and resource reuse through the resale of high quality industrial discards and the provision of public education. Founded 1998. 

Nundah Co-operative: An enterprise providing meaningful employment for people with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues through two businesses: Espresso Train Café & Catering and NCEC Parks & Maintenance. Founded 1998.   

Bicycle Revolution: A bike workshop providing custom built recycled and refurbished bicycles with a mixture of new and used parts. Founded 2000. 

Browning Street Studios: A performing arts teaching cooperative providing a range of professional services and managing studio, co-working, performance and rehearsal spaces. Founded 2008.

Western Australia

Contractors & Self-Represented Workers Co-operative: An organisation that represents the collective interests of independent Self-Employed Workers and Self-Represented Workers. Founded 2014. 

Worker Co-operatives Australia working group

Worker Co-operatives Australia is a joint project between Employee Ownership Australia and New Zealand, and the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM). At a time where the reality of work and workplaces is in flux, it is important that the vision of meaningful, dignified and secure employment is upheld and protected. To this end, Worker Co-operatives Australia aims to promote worker co-operatives as a model for equitable, democratic, and inclusive economic development.

We provide advice and peer support to existing worker cooperatives, assist new cooperatives with their structures and business models, and provide general advice regarding employee ownership, democratic company structures, and worker self-management. If you would like to know more about us and our work, please contact Antony McMullen, Convener of Worker Co-operatives Australia.

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