Swinburne leading the way for financial inclusion nationally

Universities nationally are being called on to increase financial inclusion for students by Australia’s leading provider of affordable financial programs to people on low incomes, Good Shepherd Microfinance.

The appeal comes after more than 100 students at Melbourne-based Swinburne University benefited from financial programs and other assistance in the past six months, as a result of Swinburne’s Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP).

Good Shepherd Microfinance CEO, Adam Mooney, said:

“Financial resilience is an essential element to enable a full life. We’re delighted to see the progress happening at Swinburne since enacting their Financial Inclusion Action Plan and hope to see more educational institutions and other organisations across all sectors following their lead.”

Key outcomes since Swinburne launched its Financial Inclusion Action Plan six months ago include:

  • Distributing 70 rental assistance packages of $2,000 and 13 hardship grants worth a total of $35,000 which has supported around 80 students to better manage financial pressures while studying
  • Providing 84 laptops and MacBooks and 10 iPads enabling students to have appropriate technology to support their studies
  • Offering transport assistance including 15 petrol vouchers and 25 Myki cards to students who experience barriers getting to university such as long distances or financial hardship
  • Providing students access to a No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) – which means eligible students can take out small loans of up to $1,200 for items such as medical and course-related expenses or essential household items with no interest, fees or charges.

Chair of Swinburne’s FIAP group and Vice-President (People and Culture), Rita Cincotta said, “We believe that if we can improve financial resilience among our student community, it will ensure as many of our students as possible have the best opportunity to pursue their future careers. We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made in a very practical way for more than 100 of our students so far, and look forward to helping many more. ”

Swinburne is one of 12 organisations nationally to have developed and implemented a Financial Inclusion Action Plan. The FIAP program was launched last November by Good Shepherd Microfinance, which was appointed by the Australian Government to develop the program in partnership with EY and the Centre for Social Impact. The FIAP program establishes a framework for organisations to commit to take measurable and accountable actions that will realise greater financial inclusion in their sphere of influence.

Students who have participated in Swinburne’s FIAP initiatives include Business and Communications student, Patrick Maloney, who received a laptop which enabled him to make better use of his time whilst commuting. This important investment enabled Patrick to spend more time studying during his commute to university, which also freed up time for him to undertake volunteering opportunities.

Teaching and Childhood Development student, Tess Lang, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship through the program, which significantly reduced her financial stress and allowed her to focus on studying and not worrying about money.

Other organisations to have signed up to the FIAP program include Commonwealth Bank, NAB, ANZ, AnglicareSA, Energy Australia and the Queensland Government. Economic modelling shows that by working together over the next 10 years, the FIAP program with a modest group of 30 members can enable large numbers of people to progress away from financial crisis and hardship towards stability, income generation and longer term resilience while creating a GDP uplift of $2.9 billion (Collective Actions Leading Change, FIAP Launch Report November 2016).

The Financial Inclusion Action Plan program is overseen by an Advisory Group which provides governance and oversight of the program. Professor Roslyn Russell from RMIT’s School of Economics, Finance and Marketing is a member of the Advisory Group and said “Financial inclusion is everyone’s business and having a FIAP allows organisations of all sizes to develop policies to address inequality and increase financial resilience among the wider community.”

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