The town of Maleny, located in the hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, approximately 100 kilometres from Brisbane, is home to Maleny Credit Union (MCU). MCU is known to be extremely interested in green financial products and environmental sustainability more generally. The roots of this are in the social history of the community which has been dubbed the ‘Co-operative Capital of Australia’.

The economic history of Maleny is dominated by the dairy industry and indeed the first cooperative in the town was a mutually owned and run butter factory in 1904. The last butter factory closed in the 1970s around the time when an influx of “alternative” people came to the area interested in collective enterprises and preserving the natural environment.

Since the 1970s, cooperatives in an array of industries sprung up some of which are still operating today. These include the Maleny Film Society, the Maple Street Cooperative Society and of course MCU.

One of the driving forces behind the boom in cooperatives in Maleny in the 1970s was the late Jill Jordan. Quoted in the Hinterland Grapevine, of the 70s in Maleny, Jill said,

“Although the urge to start something arose from our own needs, there was a conscious feeling that we wanted to provide something not just for ourselves but for the rest of the community”.

She went on to say that, “There is a place of trust that people arrive at and it is then they give of their best. It is the underlying culture not the legal framework that is important in building the culture of co-operation.  It is being able to work together that makes us successful and it makes good economic, environmental and social sense.”

MCU (initially Maleny and District Community Credit Union) was put together on a shoestring budget by Jill Jordan and her friends in 1984. It was staffed by volunteers in rented rooms with accounts entered in a handwritten journal. Nevertheless, on the first day of operations $50,000 in deposits were made.

Ms Jordan was quoted on MCU in our publication Memories and Recollections in 2002:

“I was the ‘drive’ behind the formation of MDCCU, and was the first manager. In 1983, Bill Mollison (of Permaculture fame) went to the USA and was very impressed by the ethical financial institutions which had formed there. So he came back to Australia and called a few of us ‘radical movers and shakers’ to a gathering in his living room in Stanley, Tasmania as an ‘Alternative G7 Summit’ (the G7 was going on at the same time in Melbourne). I came home to Maleny inspired that we should begin our own ethical financial organisation to keep money circulating in our area, and half a dozen of us formed a working group”.

Earlier in the year we interviewed new Australian Credit Union Archives Trustee, Greg Stevens, who was CEO of MCU for 3 and half years. He gave us a firsthand account of MCU's commitment to conservation. He described Maleny as a “caring and green community credit union”, where “about 60-65% of our loans were for green purposes”.