Raising awareness of financial abuse in regional communities

Raising awareness of financial abuse in regional communities

Collaboration is at the heart of so much of what we do at Good Shepherd Microfinance. None of our programs could run without the partnerships we have with microfinance providers. So when The Women’s Centre for Health and Wellbeing in Albury approached us for some assistance with building awareness around the issue of financial abuse, we saw it as a great opportunity to support their work whilst promoting the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) to a regional community.

The Women’s Centre for Health and Wellbeing works with women who have experienced all forms of abuse, including financial abuse. They became an accredited NILS provider in 2009 and have a dedicated microfinance worker who delivers a specialised domestic violence program for NILS. The Centre regularly sees women who are victims of financial abuse and understand the complex issues around identifying it.

The audience before the start of the event
A good turnout for a discussion about financial abuse at the Albury Entertainment Centre.

Financial abuse impacts all communities, but women in smaller, regional areas who already face barriers such as geographic isolation, unique environmental pressures, and less access to support services can be more vulnerable. Therefore an event to raise awareness of the issue and the complexities in identifying it seemed the most effective approach to take.

Our Chair Christine Nixon, was keen to support the event and shared her own personal story of financial prejudice when, as a young police officer, she was denied a bank loan. “I was being paid as a police officer and nobody would give me a loan to buy a block of land… my dad had to go guarantor for it.”

Christine Nixon APM and Cathy McGowan MP in discussions at the forum.
Christine Nixon APM and Cathy McGowan MP in discussions at the forum.

Alongside Christine, local federal member for Indi Cathy McGowan opened the event, and a local financial counsellor and NILS worker discussed the complexities of identifying financial abuse and how NILS can support women leaving a violent relationship.

However, as is often the case at NILS events, the voice of the client was the most powerful on the day. We heard from Sharni, a victim of domestic violence and financial abuse for over 10 years. “I was verbally and physically abused if I spent my money without his permission or on something he did not like or approve of,” she said.

With support, Sharni was able to leave her violent relationship and was approved for public housing. She used a NILS loan to buy a fridge and retrieve her personal possessions from storage, which allowed her to create a new home for her three children.

Sharni said she couldn’t have got to where she is now without the Women’s Centre “People who knew me 12 months ago wouldn’t recognise me now”. Working with them to deliver this event, we can see the centre reaches many more people like Sharni, delivering an excellent tailored service on limited means.

NILS client Sharni talking to the audience about her experience.

It was a privilege to work with the Women’s Centre on such a successful event. It was attended by more than 50 people from different parts of the Albury community and, in the weeks following the event, NILS enquires to the Women’s Centre more than tripled.

A lovely thank you letter to Good Shepherd Microfinance from the team at Women's Centre Albury
A lovely thank you letter to Good Shepherd Microfinance from the team at Women’s Centre Albury.

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