For over 150 years the Sisters of the Good Shepherd have been strongly supporting the poorest and most disadvantaged people living in our communities.Thirty years ago they used their own funds to provide a small number of no interest loans. A surprise to many, but not to the Sisters, was that 97% of these loans were fully repaid. Thus began a great programme which continued to expand. In 2003 the National Australia Bank came onboard to offer assistance and to provide capital funds for the loans.
In late 2011, the Board of Good Shepherd Australia and New Zealand approached me to become the inaugural Chair of an expanded microfinance programme. Their intention was to create a new Not For Profit entity aimed at bringing together their very successful No Interest Loans programme (NILS ) and Step Up programme (low interest loans). My task would be to set up the new organisation with a Board, CEO and staff, to dramatically expand the number of loans, to look for new opportunities to support people who are financially excluded and to build a research and advocacy programme.
Good Shepherd Microfinance has been created, a CEO appointed and a Board with great diverse skills and experience established.
Good Shepherd Microfinance is Australia's largest micro finance organisation. Simply put, GSM delivers loans with low or no interest to people on low incomes through accredited partners across 650 locations throughout Australia.Our loans help people, often in crisis, to meet essential living costs such as buying a fridge, education or medical expenses. Loans of up to $1200 attract nil interest and are paid off via fortnightly deductions from pensions or bank accounts. Low interest loans attract interest of approximately 3% and can be used for a variety of purposes such as buying a car.
Another growth area we have identified is the financing of microenterprises. Whilst GSM will not actively participate in the entrerprise we will provided support.
Our aim together with our partners, National Australia Bank, community organisations, Federal and State governments is to enable clients to realise their own economic wellbeing through appropriate financial services and, in the process, to feel valued, accepted and included and in control of their lives and finances.
In 2012 we launced our 5 year plan Count Me IN which aims to dramatically expand access to our loans and to improve the economic status of our clients.We also want the broader community to understand the issues facing the three million Australians who are excluded from the mainstream banking system and who often have no recourse but to use so called "pay day lenders" with ruinous interest rates.
If you are interested in reading more about GSM please click here.