From the early 1980s, the big banks deserted many smaller country centres in New South Wales. The Community Mutual Group (CMG) stepped into that role, retaining and extending local branches and agencies as well as maintaining local decision-making and the friendly face of local banking.

Today CMG is the largest inland credit union in Australia and services almost 70,000 members throughout the New England, northwest, Orana and Upper Hunter regions of New South Wales. Member access is paramount to its service philosophy. CMG runs 29 branches, three agencies, a call centre and e-banking services.

CMG’s emphasis on community values and close involvement in smaller centres has been rewarded with loyalty and commitment, and a steady growth in membership. The co-operative lives its philosophy of community engagement, not only through the breadth of financial services it makes available, but also through its contributions to local organisations and support for community initiatives and causes. It is often the first port of call to assist in incubating local projects or leading fundraising drives to help those who are facing difficult life challenges. All staff members are encouraged to participate in their communities, to join local organisations, and are often released from work to make a personal contribution on a regular basis.

CMG’s contribution to providing financial services to regional New South Wales has been acknowledged by all levels of government. The co-operative’s vision is to be the trusted banking provider in its communities. It aims to understand the needs of its membership and provide them with the most relevant products and services for their financial wellbeing.

The strength of CMG can be traced to its origins. Three longrunning credit unions: UNE Staff Credit Union (established 1969 on campus at the University of New England, Armidale); Armidale Credit Union; and the New England Local Government Employees Credit Union merged in 1982 to form the New England Credit Union (NECU). In 2004, NECU merged with Peel Valley Credit Union (established 1983), itself composed of mergers of three older credit unions. In 2008, the enlarged NECU merged with the Orana Credit Union. The latest merger, creating the Community Mutual Group, occurred in 2010 with Hunter Mutual.

CMG has maintained a balance between its growth as a strong financial institution and its community focus and core values, demonstrating the power and integrity of the cooperative movement – co-operatives build a better world.

Australia IYC 2012 story from “Building a better Australia – 50+ stories of co-operation”, Focus Publications