Published: 03 December 2012
Extracted chapter from Griffiths, David (Ed.) Co-operators - Co-operation and Co-operatives, Southeast Housing Co-operative Ltd, 2012, pp 22-23.
I joined the SouthEast Housing Co-operative in 2001. When I applied to the co-op for housing, I didn’t know anything about co-operatives. At the time I was in private rental accommodation, my two boys were in primary school and my husband had left me. When three members of the co-operative interviewed me, I was asked what I could give to the co-operative. I said I would give you whatever you want - as a tenant and as a member.
I was also asked whether when the boys got bigger and left home, I would be willing to move to a smaller property. I said that I would and in 2008 I did move to a smaller property. I moved because I hoped another family would have the same opportunity I had.
The co-operative has given me a life, which I would not otherwise have had - a roof for my family and a backyard. You can make a home.
My whole family became involved in bowling. It’s expensive - the clothing, the equipment, travel, accommodation and competition fees. I joined the Fundraising Committee of the bowling club. One of my sons represented Victoria in bowling and Victoria was the State champion that year. Without the co-operative none of this would have been possible.
As a Board we are accountable to the members. Being members ourselves we are working for what we would like as members - and giving back to members. We are not just being directors on the Board. We are members. As a director I feel I am helping members.
Members are taking more of an interest in what happens to the co-operative. Members want strong people on the Board so that they know what direction the co-op is going and so they can feel confident.
I have learnt from my mistakes on the Board between 2002 and 2005. I have learnt to keep the Board and the staff separate. We have no right to go into the offices of staff unannounced. We don’t have that right any more. We are more professional. I understand the difference between governance and management. If we have issues and queries we go to the General Manager. It’s more professional the way it’s done.
The staff of SouthEast understand where you are coming from and I don’t know why some people fall behind in their rent. The staff will listen to you and work out a solution. I couldn’t ask for better staff. The staff are very professional.
I try and do what I can for the co-operative. It might be small things but it’s everything I can.
Jan Dickson has been a member of Southeast Housing Co-operative Ltd since 2001. She was on the board between 2002 and 2005 and returned to the board in 2011. She is a member of the board’s Governance and Policy Committee.