The No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) program has furthered its reach by launching in four target regional and remote areas of Australia: far north Queensland, Rockhampton, Darwin/ Kimberley and Alice Springs/ Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. This two-year microfinance pilot program shared with the Australian Government is an effort to provide services for the most financially excluded group of Australians – Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. Currently, one in four people who access no interest loans through the 270 community providers in the network are from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background. However, the pilot program was driven by the recent research from the Centre for Social Impact, which showed that 43% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are severely financially excluded, compared to the national average of 17.2%. But, it also aligns with an important part of Good Shepherd Microfinance’s strategic aims: to reach more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders clients through our Indigenous Financial Inclusion program, and to generally increase financial inclusion in Australia.
The provision of NILS programs in these areas is looking to increase access to safe, fair and affordable no interest loans and financial services, and the broader strategy is to be community-led and reach large numbers of people with an audacious plan to reach one million people by 2018.
Currently, many people in these four targeted areas rely on short-term, high-cost payday loans, but with a partnership with the local organisations: Shelter Housing Action Cairns, Mt Isa Family Support Service and Neighbourhood Centre, Banana Shire Community Support Centre, WANILS, Anglicare NT and CatholicCare NT.
With this rollout we hope that people will no longer rely on such risky loans and instead increase access to NILS which is people-centred, affordable, appropriate and fair financial services which generally meet their needs.
We have already been warmly welcomed into these four communities through community workshops and engagement with local Elders and look forward to seeing the positive impact NILS can have during the pilot program, with a view to making it permanent.