What are Cooperatives?



When establishing a non-profit organisation, founders can choose from a large range of legal forms. An organisation’s legal structure will determine the types of activities it is legally able to carry out and which government bodies it is required to seek registration from or report to. Cooperatives are one possible structure of a non-profit organisation. Find out more about the other types of legal structures here.


Cooperatives are a form of organisation that are democratically owned, controlled and often also used by members. Cooperatives are usually non-profit but unlike other legal structures, are able to carry out some for-profit ventures and in some cases, if the constitution allows it, profits may be distributed between members.


As with incorporated associations, cooperatives are administered by state or territory legislation and the Registrar of Cooperatives in each state. The rules for cooperatives are similar but not exactly consistent in each jurisdiction.


Please visit the website of the relevant government entity below for more information on how cooperatives are regulated in your state or territory.



National regulations for cooperatives have been proposed and are under consideration by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). They may be implemented in late 2013[1].


This fact sheet is intended as a simple overview of non-profit legal forms and terminology. Non-profit law is incredibly complex and there will be many exceptions, restrictions, allowances and important qualifications that are not described above. This fact sheet is not intended and should not be taken as legal advice. In many cases, serious penalties apply to organisations that are found to be lax in fulfilling the requirements of their legal structure. Dedicated legal advice should be sought from a legal practitioner before taking action.



[1] http://www.asic.gov.au/asic/asic.nsf/byheadline/Registering+not-for-profit+or+charitable+organisations

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