Our mission is to provide affordable, secure, financially and environmentally sustainable housing for people on low incomes, primarily in the South and East of Melbourne who are committed to cooperative democracy and engagement.


The services provided by SouthEast define its reality as a housing co-op. SouthEast commits to ensuring its long term capacity to continuous improvement of all services.


Members own and control their co-op and this is the essential characteristic of SouthEast. The board represents the members best through its obligation to be representative, accountable and transparent.


SouthEast is committed to the values of cooperation, voluntary membership, democratic control, autonomy & independence, co-op education and cooperation between co-ops.

David Griffiths

Extracted chapter from Griffiths, David (Ed.) Co-operators - Co-operation and Co-operatives, Southeast Housing Co-operative Ltd, 2012, pp 74-76.

Co-operation between co-operatives is fundamental to the development of Australia’s co-operative movement.

The philosophy of co-operation is encapsulated in the phrase ‘each for all and all for each’. This means that individuals form co-operatives to achieve together what they cannot achieve as individuals. There is a mutual benefit. It is the logic of co-operation, therefore, that individual co-operatives join together to advance their common interests by becoming members of State Co-operative Federations to achieve mutual benefit.

There are State Co-operative Federations in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. The common roles of the State Federations are to:

•              Represent and assist co-operatives in their relationships with government

•              Facilitate and provide value-added services to co-operatives

•              Assist the formation of new co-operatives

•              Build co-operative brand recognition, integrity and value

•              Promote and develop co-operative education

•              Promote public awareness and understanding of the significance of co-operatives

•              Promote the exchange of information amongst co-operatives, and

•              Work with other co-operative organisations interstate and internationally.

The willingness to co-operate between co-operatives, however, varies within and between States. Most of Australia’s 1700 registered co-operatives are not members of their State Federations with total membership less than 10% overall. The exception is WA where most co-operatives are members of Co-operatives WA.

The lack of co-operation between co-operatives is the result of varied but interdependent factors. The predominant factors for this lack of co-operation are:

•              Co-operative ideology

•              Co-operative education

•              Co-operative subversives

•              Co-operative isolation

•              Co-operative advocacy

•              Co-operative pretenders

•              Co-operative demutualisation

Each of these factors provides a context and explanation for the lack of co-operation between co-operatives.

Co-operative ideology

There has not been a common understanding and agreement of the ideology of co-operation - what co-operatives stand for, how they are different and why. Instead of ideology, pragmatism has prevailed and this has inhibited public advocacy of the co-operative difference because there is no understood and agreed philosophical underpinning. The basis for this ideology lies in the co-operative values and principles developed by the International Co-operative Alliance.

Co-operative education

There is no common and accepted co-operative education program and recognition that co-operative education is essential to reinforcing the identity, development and renewal of co-operatives. Co-operative education is essential to define the nature of co-operative values and principles and their application within co-operatives. In the absence of ongoing co-operative education there is an inevitable vacuum, allowing subversives to implicitly and/or explicitly undermine co-operative values and principles.

Co-operative subversives

There are directors and Chief Executive Officers who actively subvert co-operative values and principles. They are gatekeepers that through their influence can prevent the practice of co-operation.

Co-operative isolation

Individual co-operatives and co-operatives within sectors have pursued and preferred isolation and separation - preserving individual co-operatives and sectors. Co-operative subversives encourage isolation so that their own subversion is not revealed. Co-operative isolation encourages insulation from co-operative values and principles and separation from the broader co-operative movement.

Co-operative advocacy

Co-operatives and co-operators have been conservative in their advocacy of the co-operative option - difficult without an ideological underpinning. Instead of boldness, there has been timidity. Without advocacy, however, there is diminished understanding within co-operatives and public recognition of the co-operative difference - the difference between co-operatives and private and public enterprises and the scope and impact of co-operatives in Australia and throughout the world.

Co-operative pretenders

Many registered co-operatives, primarily in NSW and Victoria, have no interest, understanding or commitment to co-operative values and principles. Often these co-operatives were formed because it seemed the simplest and cheapest form of incorporation - the fuzziness of co-operation - or the co-operative founders in these co-operatives are either no longer actively involved or have been reduced to a minority. Registration as a co-operative is not self-evident confirmation of an understanding of and commitment to co-operative values and principles.

Co-operative demutualisation

The demutualisation of co-operatives threatens the future of co-operatives because large successful co-operatives are essential models for new and small co-operatives. The attractiveness of the model, however, is inversely related to the co-operative ideology, education and advocacy of the large co-operatives. When co-operatives demutualise it is because the Chief Executive Officers and Boards no longer support co-operative values and principles.


A further consideration is the capacity and willingness of Co-operative Federations to be relevant and provide actual and perceived value-added services to individual co-operatives - a challenging expectation when most co-operatives in most states do not join their respective State Federations. But, given the factors above, this final consideration is a consequence not a cause of the lack of co-operation between co-operatives. If individual co-operatives were committed to co-operative ideology, education and advocacy, then they would join State Federations and make them work as effective advocates of co-operation. There is no quick fix to co-operation between co-operatives. Imposed co-operation will not survive in the long-term.

In 1923 Sidney Webb observed in The Need for Federal Reorganisation in the Co-operative Movement (Fabian Tract No 203, The Fabian Society, February 1923, p4) that in Australia, Canada and the United States:

The societies in these countries never succeeded in the past in forming a durable federation of national scope, which could weld together the scattered local societies into a powerful organisation, make itself felt in the national consciousness, and promulgate effectively throughout the length and breadth of the land the fact that co-operative societies were actually in existence in hundreds of places, and might exist in every place if only people could be made aware of them.

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SouthEast Housing Co-operative Ltd
Plaza Business Centre, the Hub, Level 3,
26 to 36 McCrae St. Dandenong 3175

Telephone: 03 9706 8005

Fax: 03 9706 8558

PO Box 7141 Dandenong Victoria 3175


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