The Coota District Co-Op Ltd By Richard White Have you ever had trouble with assembling an item from Ikea? Have you come to the end of the process and found one or two bits left over? It’s then that your wife can be less than helpful: ‘Did you follow the instructions? One step at a time? . . .

The development of The Coota District Co-Op Ltd has been one-step-at-a-time. The temptation to hurry or to feel frustrated has been there. ‘When are you going to open?’ or ‘We have hesitated to join or invest until we could see the finished product!’ Well, like the flat pack from the store, we have moved from one step to the other, logically, gradually, and surely. The first step, on May 31, this year, was the Formation Meeting at which The Coota District Co-Op became a legal entity.

At that meeting the first Board of Directors was elected. Because of Covid restrictions this event was not as well publicised or attended as we would have liked. However, this first step came as the result of many little steps. There was an initial public meeting in August,2020, at which the co-op option was discussed. Next came the formation of a Steering Committee, whose membership changed considerably over the following months as volunteers considered their time and energy commitments.

Then there was a survey to provide feedback on what the store should stock and to decide on a name. Another public meeting was held in November 2020 to provided the community with an update on the progress. A very successful Monster Garage Sale was organised and overwhelmingly supported by the community to raise the funds to pay the fees associated with the legalities establishing the organisation. There were nine months of weekly meetings and of toing and froing with the Department of Fair Trading to have the Rules and Disclosure Statement approved. Nine volunteers had worked incredibly hard to achieve the establishment of the legal entity. But it was only the first step.

The second step followed closely on the first (good flat pack procedure!). We were able to sign up members and to accept investment in the Co-Op. We rented an office in Wallendoon Street, behind the Arts Centre, to provide a venue for people to join. What should have been a well publicised occasion with ongoing information and advertising was again interrupted. We had to cancel a number of public informations sessions because of lock-downs. Nevertheless, we were up and running and we moved our office to Parker Street in the centre of town. People became members in growing numbers and there was an increase in investment.

We still have a way to go, but we are preparing now for the very significant third step, our first Members’ Meeting, on Monday 6 December, 5.30 pm for 6.00 pm at the Ex-Services Club. This meeting, for members only, is where the Board will put before the members details of the present membership and financial situation and proposals for the future. The first two steps have been leading up to this moment.

The Board evolved out of the Steering Committee. This small group of people have been planning and working for this event, the Members’ Meeting. Where we go from here will largely be determined by what the members decide and how the members want to participate. This ‘small group’ has been working as the driving force and focus 15 months; it is now the time for the members to exercise their rights and responsibilities. The Co-Op belongs to the members. The next step, the fourth, is about to be taken. It will involve a response from the members at Monday’s meeting, a renewed energy, a clearer vision and a greater participation and ownership. We have come so far in a short and interrupted time.