Three Greater Western Sydney community transport organisations, Bankstown Canterbury Community Transport, Community Wheels Transport and Great Community Transport, have merged into a single shared services co-operative, in the first of its kind in the sector.
The groups behind the new Community Care and Transport Co-operative, which launched on Tuesday, provide services to 10,000 clients in Greater Western Sydney covering almost two-thirds of that region.
Dennis Hayward, chairman of the co-operative social enterprise, pointed to the consumer-directed reforms in aged care and disability as a major driver for the transition to a community-owned business model.
He said the model would facilitate the sharing of overheads and assets and increase organisational capacity.
Bankstown Canterbury Community Transport executive officer Jenny Paton said moving to a cooperative model sought to protect the viability of the organisations and their local identities.
“Under the umbrella of a co-operative, the three providers will be able to withstand competition through using economies of scale to increase efficiencies and reduce duplication. This will be done without losing local profile and local identity,” she said.
The merger, funded by Transport for NSW, was assisted by the peak body for co-operatives, the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) and EY.
“These operators serve clients in areas of high need with an ever increasing strain on limited resources. This move will ensure that as a co-operative, the organisations are protecting the services which the communities depend upon,” said Melina Morrison, BCCM CEO.
“Local employment and voluntary labour will also be protected by being able to compete with established and new market entrants like Uber,” she said.
There are an estimated 1,700 co-operative and mutual enterprises in Australia representing 14.8 million memberships in many industry sectors including aged care, health, education, disability, child care, sports and hobbies and affordable housing.
“A senate inquiry is currently looking at the benefits of mutualising public services over traditional privatisations and this example in Western Sydney shows how this process can be a success for communities and not-for-profits,” said Ms Morrison.
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