The Ripple Effect – Creating change through NILS

In June, the National No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) Conference brought together 460 inspiring and enthusiastic NILS workers and supporters from across Australia and New Zealand.

The conference was an opportunity for everyone to learn from each other, celebrate the incredible achievements of the network, and explore this year's theme: “The Ripple Effect – Creating change through NILS”. This theme marks the positive impact NILS has on Australian families and communities for ongoing financial and social inclusion.


It is clear that the success of NILS is due to the power of partnerships and collaboration between the 258 accredited community organisations who deliver NILS loans: the National Australia Bank, Federal and State Government, and Good Shepherd Microfinance. In just 2012, the network issued 21,114 loans with over $20,000,000 of allocated capital for the national NILS programs.

The conference gave an opportunity to acknowledge the arrival of the Good Shepherd sisters in Melbourne 150 years ago. Thanks to the sisters’ ongoing audacity, trust, and social justice foundation, microfinance has been available to Australian communities for over 30 years.

We also celebrated the 10 year anniversary of a strong and valuable partnership with NAB. NAB is clearly dedicated to financial inclusion and realises the power NILS has to transform lives. To express gratitude and thanks for their long-standing commitment, Good Shepherd Microfinance screened a surprise ‘Thank You’ video.


Kicking off day one was a performance by the Aboriginal dance group, Jindi Worabak. This was followed by a Welcome To Country, from Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Diane Kerr, who thanked us all for the work we do, and reminded us to continue to share our stories.

Maintaining the inspiration and motivation were the Province Leader of Good Shepherd Australia and New Zealand, Sister Anne Manning, Hon. Bernie Ripoll MP, and NAB’s Executive Director of Finance, Mark Joiner.

The first set of workshops, facilitated by NILS workers and NAB staff provided hands on learning to develop programs and general understanding of NILS. The talk was plentiful with many questions, opinions, and recommendations being shared.

That afternoon, The Hon. Mark Butler MP read a letter of congratulations from the then Prime Minister, The Rt. Hon. Julia Gillard MP. Following this, Dr Anton Mischewski hosted a panel that presented recent and exciting research from Good Shepherd Microfinance, the Centre for Social Impact, and Synergistiq. They provided a snapshot of Financial Exclusion in Australia, and then detailed how NILS makes a positive contribution to increasing financial inclusion.


That evening, the second National NILS Awards took place filled with pride, excitement and smiles. This occasion lets everyone recognise the inspiring amount of dedication and work within the NILS network. The founder of NILS, Gavan Podbury, hosted the event announcing the worthy and inspiring winners:

·         The Gavan Podbury Award for NILS Excellence – Simone Lowe, George Town, Tasmania

·         NILS Volunteer of the Year Award – Heather McDonald, Brotherhood of St Laurence

·         Most Innovative NILS Program – Mackay Community NILS, Queensland

·         Best NILS News Story – Sharon, Salvation Army NILS, Sydney


Day two began with big news from Peter McNamara, General Manager of Operations, about extended Federal Government funding until June 2015. Peter captured the reason for the success and momentum of NILS by saying: “We’re going to continue to be bold, we’re going to continue to be audacious, because there was no way that we would have predicted 32 years later that NILS would be where it is today - that 460 people would come together to celebrate and share their love of something: the love of their community”.


Amy Bainbridge, ABC Consumer Affairs Reporter, hosted a panel discussion on "The Ripple Effect and the Power of Partnerships". The panel consisted of: Dr Cassandra Goldie from Australian Council of Social Services, Jason Eades from Eades Consulting Group, Paula Benson, General Manager, Corporate Responsibility, NAB and Hon Kevin Andrews MP, Shadow Minister for Families, Housing, and Human Services, who shared: "It is good to see so many people from so many parts of Australia gather together in what is a very beneficial enterprise for people’s rights around this country. So I say congratulations to all of you, not just for being here but more importantly for the work in which you do on an ongoing basis."


Following the panel, Michelle Crawford, Deputy CEO, Good Shepherd Microfinance gave an update about newer programs, including AddsUP, Remote Services Coordination, Good Money, Debt Deduct, Microinsurance, and Energy Inclusion. This was a chance to introduce the network to programs that clients can be referred to now or in the future, and to showcase the innovative work in progress.  

Undoubtedly this was the biggest and best National NILS Conference so far. We can tangibly see that the enthusiasm and momentum gained from this conference will continue to give a voice to and strengthen the NILS network, further our reach and impact, and continue to create a positive ripple effect across Australia.


We hope to see you again in 2014!  We are currently investigating venues, but please save the dates of Thursday, 12 June and Friday, 13 June 2014.


If you couldn't attend, our YouTube channel shares the conference highlights video, footage of various interviews, presentations, and workshops. To ensure you catch all the videos, we encourage you to subscribe to our channel. 

View photos from the conference on our Facebook page, and remember to ‘Like’ us!

For the commentary on the day, search for #NILS13 to read the live-tweeting conversation on Twitter.


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