Wednesday, 4 September 2019

​Co-operation has the backbone of building community bonds across Western Australia, and could provide valuable insights for us as we watch economies fundamentally change.

Dr Bruce Baskerville, Historian and Associate Director of the Centre for Western Australian History at UWA, launched a new book this week exploring a centenary of co-operatives in Western Australia.

The book, Let Our Co-operative Spirit Stand, centres on the community and society around co-operation in WA, described as a ‘neglected history’ and ‘a history worth knowing’.

Dr Baskerville was commissioned by the Co-operative Federation of Western Australia to delve into the past and write an engaging summary of what was once the ‘daily lived experience’ of many Western Australians.

Here are 5 facts from this little known history:

  • The first fishers’ co-operative in WA was The Beauty Fishing & Supply Co-operative Society Ltd established in 1904. Members included 51 Italian fishermen based in Fremantle. It possibly took its name from the cry of Italian fish mongers in Fremantle: “My God, lovely fish today, beautiful bloody fish”.
  • The Gwalia-Leonora Industrial Co-operative Society Ltd purchased a large corrugated iron building in 1910 in the goldfields town of Malcolm rather than build a store. They moved it 22 kilometres to Gwalia, pulled by a team of donkeys and it became the Gwalia Thrifty Store.
  • Jessie Eileen Lefroy was appointed a director of the Bassendean Rochdale Co-operative Ltd when it was formed in 1944, becoming the first female director appointed to a co-operative board.
  • The Ord River District Co-op Ltd formed in 1963 was the most northerly co-op to be formed in WA. It was said to be equal distance between Perth and Tokyo.
  • The Producers’ Markets Co-operative Ltd was formed in 1903 by Charles Harper of Woodbridge to sell produce from urban market gardens. Of its 101 members, ninety percent were Chinese market gardeners, among whom the profits were distributed.

​If you enjoyed this supportive civic slice of peculiar history, you can get a copy of the book directly from Co-operatives WA on 08 9368 5155 or through their website .

Pictured: Quintessential Country Co-op – Quairading Farmers’ Co-operative Store, 1997 – Co-operatives WA

Media references

Rachael Chamberlain (UWA Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education)  08 6488 5863


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