Cooperative values and the development of the credit union movement in Australia

Luisa Unda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: Credit unions offer an alternative to traditional banking given their distinctive ownership structure and their goal of maximising members’ benefits. Motivated by the increased expectations regarding more ethical behaviour in the financial industry, this paper aims to provide a better understanding of the relevant features and values that facilitated the emergence of the credit union movement in Australia. Design/methodology/approach: Using social movement theory, this study analyses 23 interviews conducted in the early 1990s with the supporters of the credit union movement in Australia, in which the characteristics and values of the credit union movement are identified. Findings: Findings demonstrate that the credit union ethos is rooted in family and religious influences, and that these organisations were keen on promoting their distinctiveness on “fairness” and “caring for their members”. Credit unions, however, have rarely tackled the movement’s most neglected value “cooperation between cooperatives”. Originality/value: This research contributes to the discussion of ethics in business history as it elaborates on how values and ethos crafted the identity and ensured the survival of the credit union movement in Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-251
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Management History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2023


  • Australia
  • Cooperative values
  • Credit unions
  • Religious influence
  • Social movement

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