Research, reports and submissions


Our Research and Advisory team conducts rigorous, evidence-based research to assess the impact of our products and services, and to guide the economic and social inclusion programs in Australia.

Our research has been recognised by numerous awards, including an Outstanding Achievement Award at the 2017 Financial Literacy Australia Awards.

For all Research enquiries please contact

Dr Zara Lasater 
Head of Research and Advisory

T: 0411 395 663


In partnership with the South Australian Government, Good Shepherd has developed the ‘Protect What Matters Most’ Toolkit to support strengthened financial resilience and emergency preparedness outcomes across South Australian communities.

The FIAP Program received an additional boost in early 2018 when the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust extended a grant to leverage the learnings of the national FIAP Program, and test it in a specific place of disadvantage in regional Victoria. Geelong was selected as the first location to pilot the concept of a Place-Based Financial Inclusion Action Plan.

This submission focuses on gender differences in the prevalence, presentation, treatment, and prevention of mental health conditions and suicidality. It explores bias and gaps in knowledge, including a range policy and practice issues in response to Questions 1, 4, 5, and 9 as posed in the Royal Commission’s ‘Outline of questions’ guide. We also draw on case studies and the practice wisdom of Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand staff, including their reflections on working with children, young people and families.

This report, launched in July 2019 summarises the progress of the FIAP Program over Phase I (2016-2018) and the Transition Phase (2018-July 2019). It includes evaluation of the impact of the FIAP program, and the value created by Financial Inclusion actions by selected members.

FIAP – Transition Report

‘Conversations to Capability’, was an 18-month study funded by Financial Literacy Australia, aimed to co-design and test interventions to strengthen and sustain the financial capability and wellbeing of No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) clients’. After NILS loan applicants took part in a financial conversation with a microfinance worker, GSM added two fintech innovations – text message nudges and a bespoke online financial information toolkit. The conclusion of the study found that clients prefer multiple communication methods and channels, including face to face and technology-led options.

Female entrepreneurs contribute significantly to the economy, yet women are still sharply under-represented as entrepreneurs. The ‘Building Connections for Enterprising Women’ project was developed to better understand the support that women currently have and identify the barriers that need to be addressed. Overall, the project concluded that women need more gender specific support including place-based approaches. This report outlines the roundtables and public forums held in Victoria, Australia and Sarawak, Malaysia between 2017 and 2018 that mapped an ‘ecosystem of support’. The project was a partnership between Good Shepherd Microfinance, which is deeply committed to microenterprise development for women on low incomes through the LaunchME program, and Swinburne University. It was funded by the Australia-ASEAN Council of the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

As part of the Senate inquiry into financial credit services targeting people in financial hardship, Good Shepherd Microfinance provided insights based on experience supporting people on low incomes with an average of 2,200 loan applications per week.
This submission outlines a view that buy-now pay-later services and other credit products that operate functionally as credit products, should be required to lend responsibly via compliance with the responsible lending consumers obligations.

"The Insure it. It's worth it" toolkit outlines four easy steps to prepare your finances for emergencies. It provides easy to understand information about insurance, protecting important documents, small loans and state-based contacts for support.

‘Insure it, it’s worth it’ Toolkit

This project explores the wellbeing of clients and staff of Wunan’s Financial Counselling, Capability and Resilience Hub (the Hub), most of whom are Indigenous, over a period of four months from November 2016 to March 2017. This project, a collaboration between Wunan, Ninti One and Good Shepherd Microfinance, extends Ninti One’s Interplay Wellbeing Framework and applies it to the context of financial services in a remote Indigenous setting.

This report evaluates the delivery of the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) in Far North Queensland, through the Reach funding provided by the Department of Social Services (DSS) to expand NILS across the region. The funding allowed a partial continuation of a previous initiative, which trialled NILS delivery in remote locations across Australia, including Far North Queensland.

This report marks the completion of Phase One of the Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP). The report has two parts:

- Part One outlines the reasoning, design and expected impact of the program and highlights key achievements to date. This includes analysis of the actions to which thirty Trailblazers have committed, the evaluation of these actions, and quality assurance.

- Part Two contains detailed Action Tables for the thirty Trailblazers. For the first twelve participating organisations, this includes quality assurance and commentary on progress made against commitments in the first twelve months of the program.

The Women and Payday Lending report follows on from research first completed in 2015 using data to the end of 2017.

Our findings revealed that women continue to use payday loans at increasing growth rates. This is explained in part by the low initial penetration rates of women using payday loans in 2005 (when the survey results were first assessed); greater financial need and autonomy in the last decade; and greater availability of online loans. We sought to address four specific questions, read here for the detailed findings:

Good Shepherd Microfinance participated in the consultation process to develop a new financial literacy strategy in Australia for 2018 and beyond. As with previous strategies, this strategy will be a framework to guide organisations, governments, and industry to work together to build financial capability, and financial wellbeing across Australia.

Our response includes recommendations and suggestions to better support financial literacy in Australia. Read more for our outlined proposals and issues for discussion.

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s response to the draft legislation to implement Small Amount Credit Contract (SACC) reforms. Our response focuses on two issues we believe are fundamental to these reforms: extending protections to all consumers and immediately implementing cost caps and affordability protections.

Additional comments supporting the submission are made by our colleagues at the Consumer Action Law Centre. These reforms are vital to safeguard people on low and middle incomes who choose to access credit through these channels from becoming more financially stressed.

The Australian Government released a Social Impact Investing Discussion Paper in January 2017 identifying the potential opportunities arising from the unmet needs of more than three million adults experiencing financial exclusion in Australia.

We were privileged with the opportunity to be involved in this important debate and respond to the discussion paper. Our response addressed a number of consultation questions regarding barriers to growth and the future of social impact investing in Australia. Read the paper here:

In 2017, Good Shepherd Microfinance made a submission responding to the Department of Social Services Financial Wellbeing and Capability Activity (FWC) Discussion Paper.

Our response incorporates feedback from a number of community organisations who deliver NILS together with other FWC services. Fore mostly, we support the objective of increasing the capacity and capability of the FWC sector, and to improve outcomes for vulnerable people in Australia. Concerns arise however, that the proposed approach is inflexible and potentially excluding of those who are in low-paid and insecure work.

We also call on the Australian Government to review the financial wellbeing continuum that Good Shepherd has developed, and enact the changes to the Small Amount Credit Contract laws as proposed in the recent independent review. Read the submission here:

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s submission to the Senate’s Inquiry into Australia’s General Insurance Industry.

Our submission discusses:
- Good Shepherd Microfinance’s Good Insurance program
- Education and advocacy for people on low incomes
- Challenges and solutions for the ‘barriers to entry’ for insurance to people on low incomes
- Future opportunities to expand the Good Insurance Program

In collaboration with the Queensland Government, Good Shepherd Microfinance produced the Money Ready Toolkit to help people prepare, respond and recover from the financial impact of natural disasters. It is a valuable resource for Queenslanders and anyone living in disaster prone areas.

The Toolkit provides information and tools on preparing, responding and recovering from natural and human-made disasters.

Money Ready Toolkit

This report investigates the knowledge and attitudes of millennials (consumers born between 1980 and mid-2000) towards credit.

As Australia’s credit reporting framework shifts, we consider the future implications of these changes for millennials, policy makers and industry.

Our findings reveal valuable insights from younger Australians towards their credit history, and on managing expenses in general.

Take Charge: credit reporting and millennials

The launch report of the Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP) program, ‘Collective actions, leading change’, outlines the reasoning, design and expected impact of the program. It also includes the commitments made by the first twelve organisations to participate in the program.

Collective actions, leading change

In Australia, around 3.1 million people (16.9% of adults) lack access to safe, appropriate and affordable financial products and services such as bank accounts, credit and insurance [1].

The financial inclusion continuum provides Good Shepherd Microfinance with the framework to consider and guide an understanding of our clients and the kinds of support they might need to become financially included.

Pathways to Resilience: the Financial Inclusion Continuum and economic mobility

Good Shepherd Microfinance, Consumer Action Law Centre and Financial Rights Legal Centre have made a joint submission in response to the Australian Bankers’ Association’s Terms of Reference paper 'Independent review of product sales commissions and product based payments'.

The submission discusses:
- How commission and product based payment systems affect lending and sales practices
- The negative nature of sales-staff behavior as result of product sales commissions and product based payments
- Ethical banking practice
- Case studies drawn from Consumer’s Federation of Australia, outlining the ongoing problems that consumers experience with Consumer Credit Insurance
- Customer-focused banking practice as a focus of financial inclusion

In 2016, Good Shepherd Microfinance submitted a response to Financial Counselling Australia’s Everyone Needs a Savings Buffer consultation paper.

Research demonstrates that having a savings buffer is an important prerequisite for the ability to cope with financial shocks and develop financial resilience.

Our response addresses several questions laid out in the consultation paper, read the report here:

Read our ‘Pathways to Resilience’ research report which focuses on the impact that financial conversations - a core component of our NILS Program offered by Good Shepherd Microfinance and network partners - has on building financial capability for our clients.

Topics typically discussed in the conversations between clients include: budgeting, avoiding bank fees, managing bills and the high cost of fringe lending. The conversations are designed to provide a combination of support, information, and positive reinforcement to people who are reaching out for assistance.

Pathways to resilience: The impact of financial conversations on the financial capability of NILS applicants

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s submission on the Queensland Government's 'Working together for better housing and sustainable communities' discussion paper.

Our submission highlights a number of opportunities to enable people to define and realise social and economic wellbeing, including:
- Leveraging existing networks and alignment between financial and housing services
- Taking action on private rental sustainment
- Taking action on home ownership
- Financial Inclusion Action Plans
- Mitigating the impacts of the rising cost of energy
- Improving access to and flexibility of home loan products

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s submission on the Victorian Gender Equality Strategy Consultation Paper. Our submission highlights the work we are doing to increase gender equality in Victoria, and makes a number of recommendations on advancing gender equality.

The submission discusses:
- Safe and affordable financial alternatives for women
- Micro-enterprise development for women entrepreneurs
- Raising awareness of financial abuse
- Financial Inclusion Action Plans
- Encouraging gender equality in the future of superannuation
- Transitions to home ownership
- Good Shepherd Microfinance’s Good Insurance Program

In 2016, Good Shepherd Microfinance made a submission to the Australian Government’s Affordable Housing Working Group. Our submission recognises the range of viable housing initiatives available for consideration and highlights the essential role of Good Shepherd Microfinance in providing trusted, client-focused, community-led support for people on low incomes. Read here for more:

In 2005, around 84,000 women had used payday lending, however over a decade on this has grown to 177,000 in 2015 - a 110% rise compared to growth in the total industry in Australia of 80% over the same period. Good Shepherd Microfinance commissioned Digital Finance Analytics to examine how women access and use payday loans, addressing the four specific questions:

1) Are women increasingly using payday lending in Australia?

2) What are the household characteristics of women who use payday lending in Australia? This includes additional analysis by age distribution.

3) How are women using payday lending in Australia (e.g. repeat lending, online lending, loan purpose)?

4) What are the motivations and drivers of women using payday lending in Australia?

The report found women are using payday loans at an increasing rate.

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s submission in response to the 2016 review of the small amount credit contract laws – Interim report.

The submission discusses the need for:
- More accurate record keeping by lenders to improve ASIC’s ability to enforce new laws.
- Mandatory participation in comprehensive credit reporting to improve compliance and enforcement capabilities.
- Tighter limits for repeat lending to enhance consumer protection and financial inclusion.
- Cost caps (along with improved disclosure requirements and lease length limits), to improve affordability and fairness in the consumer lease market.
- The interaction of carefully considered new consumer lease laws to ensure financial inclusion and consumer protection are in balance.

We were particularly pleased to see the Panel emphasise the role of regulation in facilitating financial inclusion especially for vulnerable consumers.

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s position on consumer leases. The paper elaborates on how consumer leases are ‘credit-in-disguise’ and should be subject to the same regulations as payday lending. We call for the introduction of mandatory positive credit reporting for consumer lease companies, the introduction of ‘protected earnings provisions’ to all people on low incomes and a cap on the cost and length of leases.

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s position paper on payday lending.

Our position is that payday lending produces harmful consequences from high cost credit and spiraling debt. The paper calls for the introduction of mandatory positive credit reporting for payday lenders and the expansion of ‘protected earnings provisions’ to all people.

Good Shepherd Microfinance, Consumer Action Law Centre and Financial Rights Legal Centre commissioned Digital Finance Analytics to produce a report on the use of payday loans in Australia. The report, 'The Stressed Financial Landscape', reviewed data from 2005, 2010 and 2015 surveys as a means to dissect and analyse trends on the financial behaviour of Australians, with a particular focus on the role and impact of payday lending on households.

The report found that many households that use payday loans are in financial distress, and are increasingly likely to apply for a payday loan online. As online services become more mainstream, the clientele of payday lenders are expanding from financially distressed to financially stressed households, which is a trend likely to continue in the future.

As payday lending and consumer lease sectors continue to grow, there is a necessity for consumers to be protected from becoming trapped in debt cycles. Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s submission and key recommendations to the Small Amount Credit Contract review:

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s submission to the Essential Services Commission’s Inquiry into the current policies, practices and procedures of energy retailers.

From our experience working with vulnerable consumers, we have identified several areas for improvement in the delivery of hardship programs by energy retailers.

The submission suggests that a concerted effort should be made to better understand the precursors to financial stress and the best way to implement early identification procedures.

'Life Changing Chats: The Impact of the financial conversation on StepUP applicants’ financial literacy and capability' explores the impact of the financial conversation held between a microfinance worker and an applicant for a StepUP loan.

The report found that the financial conversation had a positive impact on clients’ financial behaviour, skills and knowledge, particularly when the applicant had received a microfinance loan. Read here for more key findings:

Good Shepherd Microfinance Director, Dr Vinita Godinho, has published her thesis Money, Financial Capability and Well-being in Indigenous Australia. It explores the historical, cultural and familial context of money as it flows through Indigenous households in remote, regional and urban Australia (‘Indigenous money’), and considers how this influences Indigenous views on financial capability and well-being.

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s submission on the Financial System Inquiry’s draft terms of reference. We argue for the inclusion of several important issues, predominantly financial exclusion, and welcome the Federal government’s announcement of the intention to conduct an Inquiry of the Australian financial system. Read here for more:

Good Shepherd Microfinance’s CEO, Adam Mooney presented the 'Employment and education panel' to the 2014 C20 Summit. The presentation discussed:

- How scarcity of income effects behaviour and choices
- Economic resilience and financial inclusion in East Asia and the Pacific
- Economic mobility through microfinance
- Challenges and behavioural design for microfinance

The Microfinance, Inclusion and Economic Growth Report was commissioned by Good Shepherd Microfinance to estimate the increase of the nation’s annual gross domestic product if just a small percentage of Australia’s financially excluded were able to improve their wealth position.

The report outlines the problem (access to financial services), the potential benefits from greater financial inclusion, and future initiatives to be explored as a result of this study.

‘Life Changing Loans at No Interest’ is an evaluation of our flagship program the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS). The report is the first extensive evaluation in the program’s thirty-three year history, confirming the large positive impact of NILS, and highlighting the key insights which provides us with strategic direction to reach more people.

Through NILS we have reached 125,000 people, providing safe, fair and affordable credit for essential goods and services. The evaluation provides evidence of the economic case for program expansion with only 6% of estimated demand met in 2012. Australia has a long way to go before everyone it is truly financially included.

Good Shepherd Microfinance and Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service have made a submission to the Financial System Inquiry, which will establish a direction for the future of Australia's financial system.

Read our submission, in which we argue strongly for financial inclusion and resilience building as a means to encourage economic mobility and to eliminate the consequences of financial hardship in Australia. We believe that financial inclusion and building resilience should be a stated aim of the Australian financial system.

The key recommendations from this submission are:
- Strengthening microfinance and alternative financial service options to encourage economic mobility
- Strengthening focus on financial inclusion and resilience
- Strengthening protective regulation
- Strengthening community banks and credit unions as middle ground

‘Putting good practice at the heart of NILS’ identifies the most effective and important practices of our No Interest Loan Scheme providers. It was borne out of the need to ensure loan capital was repaid and recycled to as many people as possible and that it appropriately met clients’ needs.

This project showed that good practice is more than just specified protocols, and relates to an approach where staff are engaged, proactive and responsive to individual need.

The Good Shepherd network launched its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). The RAP covers the key areas of focus for the Good Shepherd Network as a means to deliver real change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This includes our plan for continuously strengthening our relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders, having respect and cultural competency, exploring opportunities for human resources, service delivery, procurement, and research.

Good Shepherd Microfinance has made a submission on the Financial System Inquiry's draft terms of reference. We argue for the inclusion of several important issues, predominantly financial exclusion, in the Terms of Reference of the Australian Financial System Inquiry.

‘Covering the essentials: increasing access and affordability of insurance for people on low incomes’ summarises the feedback received from Good Shepherd Microfinance’s discussion paper on insurance access for people on low incomes.

The report discusses our desire to collaborate with community, government and industry to develop sustainable, easily accessed insurance products.

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance’s discussion paper calling on the Government, insurers and the community sector to work together to provide insurance cover for low-income Australians.

The paper looks into:
- The benefits of insurance
- Microinsurance as a solution to the problem
- The industry barriers to providing microinsurance
- The current insurance products available in the market

Read Good Shepherd Microfinance, National Australia Bank and the Centre for Social Impact’s report regarding the impact that StepUP loan clients have in being closer to financial inclusion. The report also discusses how this lessens the likelihood of those individuals borrowing from fringe-lenders.