Banking

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (19 : 55): I very much enjoy the opportunity to contribute to adjournment debates and as much enjoy listening to them. I have been enlightened today by the member for Indi, who suddenly discovered anti-dumping issues in the manufacturing section. She is obviously very worried about them, and I look forward to going back to look at all the speeches and motions she moved on that issue when the coalition were in government. I am also going to go back and check all the statements made by the member for Tangney about TPI pension indexation.

Given that he does swim against the tide a bit, I give him credit for acknowledging that he may have been swimming against his own government at the time. But I will go and check to see how often he raised both issues when the coalition were in government.

I want to talk about a program that the Gillard government has introduced which may seem small in the grand scheme of things but will actually make a significant difference to the lives of some people in my area under the pilot and, I hope, if it goes well, more broadly across the nation. On Tuesday last week I had the great pleasure of participating in the launch of the Community Development Financial Investment Pilot program at the University of Wollongong function centre with Mr Peter Quarmby, the Executive Director of Strategic Development at Committee Sector Banking, which is headquartered in Corrimal in my electorate. Community Sector Banking is Australia's only specialist banking service for not-for-profit organisations and it has joined in partnership with another excellent local service, Access Community Group, to deliver a federal government pilot program aimed at addressing financial exclusion in Australia.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon. Jenny Macklin, announced on 17 February this year that the federal government will provide $6.27 million for a pilot to be run by five community development finance institutions across Australia to provide individuals and organisations with appropriate financial product loans for people who would otherwise be excluded from accessing such products. This measure recognises that Australia has a well-established banking industry but that there are individuals who suffer financial exclusion. They may suffer from low levels of financial literacy and poor knowledge of financial products and services. For these people, the standard services may be denied because of previous poor credit records or they may indeed exclude themselves because of the lack of trust in or knowledge of those institutions and services. Sadly, all too often these people also fall prey to less scrupulous operators in the financial loans market area, particularly when they are seeking funds often in the most desperate circumstances, which usually leads them into even more financial distress and difficulty and leaves them more at the mercy of the sharks. It is clear from many studies that this sort of pressure is also devastating on families and can in fact contribute directly to problems such as conflict and family breakdown.

The CDFI pilot seeks to build the capacity and resilience of disadvantaged and financially excluded individuals by attracting investment and injecting funds into community finance organisations which will then offer the appropriate product and, most importantly, education and support services to manage the repayment of loans. Importantly, this will provide financial literacy skills and improved saving and loan repayment records for these people. It has been proven in other programs that the successful management of a loan, accompanied by new knowledge and skills, can build self-reliance and confidence in the people in the target groups. In the Illawarra, the two local partners have been funded with $2.3 million to deliver the pilot for our region. I am thrilled that this support is now available to disadvantaged people across our area.

I welcome the fact that two very local organisations will be entrusted with its delivery—Community Sector Banking, which has been in Wollongong since 2002, and Access Community Group, which has been working with the target group in our area since 1986 and is ably led by Samantha Hill, who is well known to me.

It was a pleasure to join the local community support workers at this important local launch last week. I know there was much interest by those who are working with the most disadvantaged in our community in being part of this project in partnership with these groups. I look forward to the stories of individuals who manage to get themselves into the mainstream of reliable financial product service and out of the hands of the sharks that operate all too often in this sector—and, as MPs in this place, we are all very familiar with the devastating outcome of their intervention in people's lives.

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