The year 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of CUFA – an organisation established by the Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues [AFCUL] in order to assist the less fortunate in the developing world as well as Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander populations. The principal method of aid delivery, certainly to begin with, was providing assistance through cash and guidance in the formation of credit unions. Grahame Mehrtens, who passed away in November 2006, was a significant character in the CUFA story.

Grahame Mehrtens hailed from New Zealand and once in Australia he spent time as the District Officer for the Australian Sugar Producers Association in Cairns, Qld.  The role to a large extent involved liaison between sugar growers and produces and government. Grahame also worked as Private Secretary to Federal MP, Alan Cadman and before that he worked for a number of New Zealand Government Ministers.

Upon Grahame’s appointment to the position of Executive Officer of CUFA in March 1985, Australian Credit Unions Magazine wrote of him:

Grahame has a keen interest in the future development of the credit union movement, and the Trustees feel he has the necessary administrative, communications and government relations skills to further the Foundation’s objectives.

Grahame’s tenure with CUFA was not unbroken, he left in 1988 and returned in 1992 and from then on he continued to be involved, including organising activities supporting victims of the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 in South East Asia.

Writing in Australian Credit Unions Magazine in February 1987, Grahame outlined the opinions of those attending a CUFA workshop on objectives of CUFA going forward. He noted that workshop attendees agreed that the Foundation should:

  • Seek a higher profile at credit union national, state, management and Directors’ meetings
  • Use its activities as a means of emphasising the credit union social conscience in the broad media, particularly on such occasions as “credit union week”
  • Take advantage of credit union publications to commemorate projects to members
  • Increase public awareness together with recognition of the role being played by credit unions in local and overseas community development

Steve Birt had a distinguished career in credit unions which included being a CUFA Trustee from 1982-1988. In the oral history interview he gave to Richard Raxworthy in 1990, which is in our collection, Steve had this to say about Grahame:

Grahame did a sterling job. He really lifted the foundation from being the play toy of a number of the old guard within the movement and seen as being nothing more than a charity, to being as we’re now starting to develop it, more in terms as being a true picture of credit unions’ involvement in social commitment.

Grahame Mehrtens, CUFA’s International Development Manager and a friend to many in the industry, passed away on 5 November 2006. Grahame had a long and extensive commitment to the development of credit unions in Australia and in our neighbouring region. He placed particular emphasis on supporting the building of organisational structures of recently established credit unions and fledgling movements; establishing and cementing meaningful relationships with credit union support organisations, particularly in Australia’s region, as well as supporting the development of credit union personnel, Australian and international alike, through his work in the Development Education (DE) Program.

A memorial service took place on Monday 20 November 2006 at the Central Coast Leagues’ Club, Gosford NSW. A fund was established into which donations could be made to offer support to Grahame’s family. Approx. $76 000 was raised. In recognition of Grahame’s reputation and service to CUFA and the credit union movement, the CUFA international project fund was renamed ‘The Grahame Mehrtens International Project Fund.’