1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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International Year of Co-operatives

In 2012, Australia celebrates the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives. This feature article recognises the year by looking at the role of co-operatives in the Australian economy and society. The Australian International Year of Co-operatives Secretariat co-ordinated contributions to the article and individual contributors are acknowledged with their contribution.

There are also special articles in Year Book Australia 2012, recognising the Year. These articles were also arranged by the Secretariat and can be found in chapters 3 ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLES, 10 HOUSING, 11 HEALTH, 17 FORESTRY AND FISHING and 27 FINANCIAL SYSTEM.

On 18 December 2009, the United Nations proclaimed 2012 as the International Year of Co-operatives (IYC). The UN recognises that the co-operative business model is a major factor in realising economic and social development. It called on governments, international institutions, co-operatives and other stakeholders to support the development and growth of co-operatives worldwide.

The Australian Government supported the resolution and endorsed the Australian International Year of Co-operatives Secretariat as the national focal point for the Year in Australia in 2012.

At the outset, it is useful to distinguish the legal from the functional form of co-operatives. Co-operatives in Australia operate under different legal structures depending on the nature and regulatory requirements of their business activities. The varying incorporations and legal structures include state-regulated co-operatives, Commonwealth-regulated public companies, associations and specially regulated financial or insurance mutuals.

Functionally, all co-operatives share common features such as member ownership and democratic control of the entity by members. These characteristics are reflected in the seven international principles, presented in diagram 2, and are captured in a two-part test often used to identify co-operatives, through ‘economic purpose’ (primarily to benefit members) and ‘governance control’ (one-member one-vote).

The distinction between the legal and functional form is referred to in several places in this feature article.

Image: International Year of Cooperatives 2012 logo


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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.