With three million Australians now unable to access mainstream financial services, the imperative to grow and sustain safe and affordable microfinance programs was the focus of the opening day of Good Shepherd Microfinance’s Sustaining the Future National NILS conference in Sydney on June 7 and 8, 2012.
Over 400 delegates from community organisations, Federal and State Governments and financial institutions attended the conference where they were introduced to the new entity, Good Shepherd Microfinance.
While the focus was on the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS), the conference considered a range of pressing issues from payday lending, financial exclusion and new directions for microfinance in Australia.
Adam Mooney, Chief Executive Officer of Good Shepherd Microfinance, said the gathering was timely with payday legislation in front of Federal Parliament and the recent publication, Measuring Financial Exclusion in Australia, 2012 from the Centre of Social Impact for National Australia Bank (NAB).
“NILS is Australia’s largest microfinance program and it is making a real difference to the lives of people and families suffering the enormous stress of having to go without basic household necessities,” he said.
Last year Good Shepherd Microfinance, through its NILS network of 229 accredited community providers, issued 18,000 loans to the value of over $11 million. The majority of borrowers were women and one quarter of all borrowers identified themselves as Indigenous Australians.
Highlights from the conference included:
Indigenous leaders discussion
Leah Armstrong, CEO of Reconciliation Australia, David Liddiard, Executive Director, Corporate Connect.AB and Jason Eades, Board Director of Indigenous Business Australia discussed why Indigenous Australians are not able to access financial services throughout Australia. The session was chaired by Debbie Bawick, New South Wales Indigenous Chamber of Commerce.
Gerard Brody, Director Policy and Campaigns, Consumer Action Law Centre outlined the campaign and debate within Federal Parliament about payday lending and credit reform.
2012 Financial Exclusion Indicator
Chief researcher Chris Connolly from the Centre of Social Inquiry, provided insight into the extent of financial exclusion in Australia and pointed to the growing demands for safe, affordable loans by the ‘working poor.’ For a copy of the report, please see www.nab.com.au/microfinanceresearch