Cooperatives

A cooperative is a legal entity that is jointly owned and democratically controlled by its members.

You can form a cooperative with a group of 5 or more people.

You may want to do any of the following:

  • save money on goods or services
  • use distribution and marketing influence of the group
  • share investments, resources and information.

Cooperatives can't trade their shares on the open market and are structured to mutually benefit all members, rather than individuals.

Each cooperative member has equal status and voting rights, and can own no more than 20% of shares.

Like other business structures, a cooperative must keep records of its meetings, finances and members.

As cooperatives operate under uniform national legislation, you can read more about cooperatives on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website and the NSW Government's Fair Trading website.

Distribute surplus funds

Cooperatives that make a profit can do either of the following:

  • distribute surplus funds to its members - called a distributing cooperative
  • use surplus funds to support its activities - for example, a community organisation - called a non-distributing cooperative.

To find out how to start or grow a cooperative, go to the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals website.

It provides online resources, templates and support.

To register a cooperative in the Northern Territory (NT), most of its activities need to be conducted in the NT.

To register or for more information, email associations.compliance@nt.gov.au.

Your cooperatives may merge with another or others.

The new cooperative will be made up of all the members, assets, liabilities and undertakings of the cooperatives that want to merge.

It will also have a new name and new rules.

How to apply

To apply or for more information, email associations.compliance@nt.gov.au.

Your cooperative may take over all or part of another cooperative, or other cooperatives, by giving it all of the following:

  • members, assets, liabilities and undertakings of all the cooperatives involved in the takeover
  • the existing name and rules of the cooperative taking over the other/s.

A takeover is known as a 'transfer of engagements' under Cooperatives National Law.

How to apply

To apply or for more information, email associations.compliance@nt.gov.au.

Cooperatives are administered by Licensing NT under the Cooperatives National Law.

For help winding up your cooperative, email associations.compliance@nt.gov.au.

For information on fees, contact Licensing NT.

You can pay cooperative fees to the Territory Business Centre by phone, email, mail, fax or in person.

Cash, cheque or credit card are accepted.

Fees are exempt from GST.


Last updated: 07 October 2022

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