The history of cooperatives in Australia stretches back to the 1850s. ‘Co-ops’, as they are affectionately known, are an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations, through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.
Struck by grief when his son never returned from the battlefields of World War Two, Harold Sheard, owner of Sheard’s Self Service Stores, set his eyes on retirement. His plan had been to pass his store onto his son, but with those dreams shattered he faced two alternatives: sell the store, or close its doors forever.
Community leaders rallied together to form The Nuriootpa Co-operative and purchased Sheard’s, securing the store’s future with an initial issue of 7500 one-pound shares, held in trust by the first committee of management.
As it remains today, the philosophy was to share profits with members at the end of each trading year.
Some 73 years later with 2000 co-operatives operating in Australia, The Co-op, as it is known today, is ranked among the top 20 with over 18,100 members and employing 300 staff.