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