The West Wallsend Co-operative Society celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1941. This successful business owned a row of brick shops on Withers Street, employed 54 staff, had 1300 members and excellent cash reserves.
We can still see their buildings in West Wallsend. Beehive symbols sit above the words ‘West Wallsend Co-Operative Society’ in yellow lettering. Like the Co-op’s members and staff, bees work together to make stored value. The isolated West Wallsend and Holmesville communities valued this local source of stable employment and quality goods. Members also received a share of the Co-op’s profits called a dividend or ‘divvy’.
Co-operative societies began in Britain in 1844. Workers used collective purchasing power to access better food, goods and services. The co-operative movement was strong in coal mining towns. Union members and their families understood the power of collective action.
Foundation members raised seed capital from their savings in 1891 to create the Co-Op. They worked through competition, supply problems and initial distrust to create 1941’s celebration and success.
By 1964, the West Wallsend Co-Op been absorbed into the Newcastle and Suburban Co-operative Society Limited. Changing Australian lives and values saw the Newcastle Co-op close its doors in 1981.
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