One of the many benefits of working for Kodak Australasia was having a credit union conveniently onsite and operating with the interests of staff at its core.
The Austral Credit Union Co-Operative Limited was started by 130 interested staff at Kodak Australasia in 1972. It took its name from the Austral Laboratory in Abbotsford. This was the first building constructed by Thomas Baker in 1886 for his photographic manufacturing business, and it later became part of Kodak's first Australian factory site.
The credit union was described as "group of people with a common bond, who save regularly together and lend these savings to one another at the lowest possible interest rate". Although run independently, the credit union was initially sponsored by Kodak Australasia under the auspices of their foundation Board of Directors: Michael Drummond, Clyde Freake, Laurie Joyner, Joan Letham, Bert Martin, Noel Monteith and Kevin Rose.
The credit union was open to any Kodak employee with a minimum subscription of $10 (any additional shares were $2 each) and a 50 cent entrance fee. Employees could then choose to have weekly or monthly contributions made automatically from their pay by filling in an "Authority to Deduct" form. Former Kodak employee, Jim Healy, recalls that this method was "very handy".
The credit union serviced members by paying interest on savings and providing loans. Jim Healy said he often used loans from the credit union to complete work around his home. He also remembers that retirees were able to take advantage of the union too.
As well as financial services, during the 1980s the credit union regularly hosted other services at the Coburg office such as a travel consultant and health insurance representative, for the convenience of members.
In 1973 Kevin Rose and Kerry Archer were employed on a full-time basis for the credit union as an Administrator and Clerical Assistant respectively. Prior to this the credit union had been administrated by its voluntary officials. Kevin Rose was previously the Administrative Assistant for Personnel in the Colour Print and Processing Department, and Kerry Archer was employed from the accounting/banking sector. Although Kevin Rose administered the credit union independently of the company it was considered to be an employee benefit and, as such, he reported to Neil Monteith, an Employee Benefits officer and one of the credit union's directors. In 1984, John O'Meara from the Finance Department acted as manager of the credit union in Kevin Rose's stead for six months while the latter was on long service leave. Kevin Rose retired from Kodak in 1987 and was succeeded by Ken Wynne.
The credit union achieved financial independence from Kodak by 1979, and from its original location at the company's Coburg factory and head office it expanded to include branches in all states of Australia. These national branches operated under the auspices of the full-time staff based at the Coburg site, but were run by volunteers who worked at Kodak. The credit union's 1992 slogan of 'Serving the Kodak family - Australia wide', reflected its ambitions well. By 1993 the credit union had assets in excess of $13 million and well over 2,000 members.
As Kodak Australasia began to decline, founding credit union director Noel Monteith recalls that the credit union also began to wind down. In 2000 the Austral credit union combined with the Herald Credit Co-Operative Limited to become the Herald Austral Credit Co-Operative Limited. Over time, the Herald Austral Credit Co-Operative Limited underwent other merges and name changes, and in 2018 was trading as the People's Choice Credit Union Limited.
Australian Credit Union Archives, at: https://www.mycuhistory.com.au/accessed: 30 Aug 2018
'Australian Kodakery', No 39, Sep 1972, pp. 1 & 6 (HT 35749)