I was a community services student sick of being long term unemployed. I decided to study for a new direction in life. During the course I saw that Earthworker had a workshop, ‘How to Start a Cooperative,’ I was really interested due to my interest in permaculture and the worker controlled, worker owned idea. I went to this workshop and at the end, Ellie asked what sort of cooperative would people like to get going. Some said gardening but cleaning was mentioned.
We had a few constructive meetings with lots of opinions of what to do. I found it a bit confusing. But stimulating coop conversations came out of the meeting, it just seemed it wasn’t getting anywhere. So after a few meetings it folded.
Then Ellie rang me a few months later and said, ‘hey Pete you still want to get a cleaning coop together?’ I said sure and we met in Footscray. It was during the Luna New Year, so this dragon came by and there were heaps of firecrackers. I thought cool a new start.
So after the initial meeting, Ellie and I had several meetings, then I think we started to do a few jobs in the east. I remember doing it by myself a few times. After a while we had a few more people, I think Ella came along, Alex and Jason. I can’t remember what order, but we were a fully functioning coop.
Meetings were at people’s homes which was great, but I would advise that a neutral place such as a library or office is better. Meeting at personal places can be intrusive.
After a while we got an office and new members such as Tuffy, Farida, Allison, Freyja and Eirene and now we have 2 more trainees, Iris and Elana.
My experience has been positive in the coop even little things can make a difference. If you have an issue with something in the coop you just talk about it, compared to non-coop work places, if you tell your boss about things you don’t agree with, you would either get the sack, treated differently or just not noticed. I said before I was long term unemployed before joining the coop and was trapped in the system – no job agency helped employee me really. This is just a brief story of my history of Redgum cleaning coop. So if you want to start a cooperative, just do it and don’t give up.
In solidarity, Peter