Summary of changes to the co-operatives law

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On 3 March 2014, the Co-operatives Act 1996 was replaced in Victoria by the Co-operatives National Law (CNL).

This page outlines the key changes of the new law, its effects on the operation of co-operatives and the obligations of the secretary.

Co-operatives do not need to do anything to transition to the CNL. Co-operatives registered under the Co-operatives Act 1996 will have their registration transferred to the CNL automatically.

Co-operative rules

Co-operatives can continue to use their existing rules without being required to update them.

However, co-operatives should familiarise themselves with the provisions of the CNL. If there are any inconsistencies between a co-operatives rules and CNL, the CNL will prevail.

If a co-operative’s existing rules refer to a particular requirement in the previous Act, this reference will be read as a reference to the equivalent requirement in the CNL.

Terminology changes

Trading co-operatives are now known as distributing co-operatives, and non-trading as non-distributing co-operatives.

Co-operative federations are now known as co-operative groups.

Categorisation of large and small co-operatives

To allow for more appropriate financial reporting, co-operatives are now broken into two categories according to their size and fundraising activities.

In general, a co-operative is a small co-operative if, in a particular year, it did not raise funds from the public issue of securities, and satisfies at least two of the following criteria:

  • the consolidated revenue of the co-operative and the entities it controls (if any) is less than $8 million for the previous financial year
  • the value of the consolidated gross assets and the entities it controls (if any) is less than $4 million at the end of the previous financial year
  • the co-operative and the entities it controls (if any) had fewer than 30 employees at the end of the previous financial year.

All other co-operatives are large co-operatives.

Simpler financial reporting

Small co-operatives, which don’t have a specific requirement in their rules to have their accounts audited, will only need to submit a simplified annual report to the Registrar. This includes small co-operatives that are continuing to operate under the financial reporting provisions of the previous model rules.

Financial statements are still required to be provided for members, adhering to relevant Australian accounting standards. A co-operative’s rules can require additional financial reports and can require that these reports are audited or reviewed.

In particular instances, co-operative members may also vote that a set of audited or reviewed financial reports be presented.

If you are a small co-operative removing its auditor because of the removal of audit requirements, complete the Notice of intention to remove auditor or update auditor's details (Word, 101KB). Lodgement details are on the form.

Reporting requirements

Co-operative type

Financial statements

Annual reporting to Registrar

Small

Not necessary to provide financial statements unless required by the Registrar or a review or audit is requested by the members.

Must lodge an annual return with the Registrar within five months of the end of the financial year.

Large

Must lodge with the Registrar:

  1. Within three months after the end of the financial year, for a co-operative that is a disclosing entity.
  2. Within five months after the end of the financial year for any other co-operative.

Must prepare or obtain financial reports and directors’ reports under Divisions 3-5 and lodge them with the Registrar.

The financial report for a year consists of the:

  • financial statements
  • notes to the financial statements
  • directors’ declaration about the statements and notes

The directors’ report contains information about the operations of the co-operative for the previous year.

For more information about annual financial reporting requirements, view our Responsibilities of a co-operative page.

Operation across state borders

The CNL enables co-operatives within states that have enacted this law to operate freely across borders, without requiring separate registration and reporting in each state. 

The following states and territories have adopted the CNL:

  • New South Wales and Victoria in 2014
  • South Australia in May 2015
  • Tasmania and Northern Territory passed enabling legislation in September 2015.

Adoption by Queensland and Western Australia remains subject to legislative priorities.

Operational improvements

More information and documents are available in a downloadable format, including draft disclosure statements and name or rule change applications.

All forms are available in Word format and can be completed on screen. We have also developed a simpler way to obtain an extract of information from the public register about a co-operative. For more information, view our Fees and forms page.