A community organisation formed for the principle of co-operation can incorporate as a co-operative under the Co-operatives National Law (South Australia) Act 2013 (SA). The Co-operatives National Law is contained in Schedule 1 of the Act.
Principles of co-operation are defined in cl 10 of the Schedule. The organisation may be a distributing co-operative (formerly called a trading co-operative) or a non-distributing co-operative (fromerly a non-trading co-operative) [cl 17]. In South Australia, the majority of co-operatives to date have been agricultural or trade organisations. An example of a non-distributing co-operative would be a 'peak' body whose members are organisations with similar aims. Unlike associations, a co-operative may be a for profit body which can distribute its profits amongst its members in several ways.
A co-operative must have a board of directors. Directors and officers of a co-operative have similar duties to those of incorporated associations. Normally, each member has only one vote, irrespective of the number of shares (if any) the member holds in the co-operative.
The forms for applying for registration as a co-operative are available from the Corporate Affairs Commission (part of Consumer and Business Services). The procedure for applying is explained in the form. Incorporated co-operatives must provide annual audits and periodic returns unless exemption is obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Further information is available from the Consumer and Business Services Associations and Co-operatives page.
A group that intends to incorporate as a co-operative may find it necessary to obtain legal assistance as the requirements make incorporating and operating a co-operative relatively complex.