Register your co-op

There are three steps to registering your co-operative.

Step 1: Seek approval from your local State or Territory Registrar for your proposed co-operative’s name, draft rules and disclosure statement (if you need to have one)

Step 2: Hold a formation meeting

Step 3: Apply to register the co-operative

Approval of rules and disclosure statement

The Registrar must be satisfied that your rules and disclosure statement comply with the Co-operatives National Law. Using the Co-op Builder or the Model Rules means that Registrars do not need to check any of the standardised rules in these resources. Registrars will focus their attention on those rules that have been specifically drafted, such as rules about the co-operative’s purpose, primary activities and active membership requirements.

For co-operatives that must present a disclosure statement, Registrars will examine the statement to ensure that it is consistent with the rules and that financial information, statements of costs, benefits and risks are clear and well-based. Ultimate responsibility for any information in the disclosure statement rests with whoever prepares it, including any experts who provide statements or opinions as part of a business plan or other advice.

Registrars must also approve the proposed name for the co-operative. The name must not be similar to another co-operative or contain offensive or restricted words. If you have already reserved a name through the Business and Organisations Name Register managed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) or if you have registered a business name that is similar to the proposed name for your co-operative, you will need to show evidence of this to the Registrar and indicate your intention to transfer the reserved name or business name to the co-operative.

The Registrar will advise if the rules and disclosure statement are approved, or whether there is a need to make any amendment. You can amend your documents by accessing them through the My Account tab in the Co-op Builder.

Hold a formation meeting

The formation meeting is held once you have all approvals from the Registrar. At this meeting, there must be at least 5 persons present who intend to become members of the co-operative.  This is the moment when you formally agree to the rules and elect the first board of directors.  The meeting appoints a person to lodge the application for registration.

Register the co-operative

Provided that the application for registration is completed in full and any necessary fees are paid, the Registrar will register your co-operative and send back a Certificate of Registration which will include a unique registration number for the co-operative.

Once the co-operative is registered, it is able to commence carrying on business.

Before you go…

All businesses are required under Australian law to obtain an Australian Business Number (ABN) and a Tax File Number (TFN).

If the co-operative is not for profit and designed to carry out a charitable purpose, it must also register as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not for profits Commission (ACNC).

The Co-operatives National Law requires a co-operative to set up registers, such as registers of members and of directors. Make sure that you download and save the Start-Up Resources folder from the Co-op Builder. It contains useful guides and templates to help you prepare the documents and registers that you need to comply with the Co-operatives National Law.

There may be other licences or authorities required before your co-operative can start business and these will depend on the type of business to be carried out.

Co-operatives can apply to get a ‘.coop’ domain for their website.

For an overview of start-up requirements, you may wish to look at a short, free, online course with videos about starting up for agricultural co-operatives.


Larry McHugh, Chief Executive Officer, Marquis Macadamias interview.

“The structure of our company is that we believe that we have to be market driven. We must create new market as we move forward, otherwise our growers will not be profitable. So our aim is always to keep our growers profitable, keep their farm value up. So we’re trying to get scale and show some leadership in the world market and start creating new world market.”

Extracted from Co-operative Conversations, Episode 3