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29 January 2020
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australia
Helping Australian Small Business Grow & Succeed

Foresters Community Finance is an ethical lender that not only provides fast and affordable loans to people in need of assistance, they also provide loans to many small businesses.

Foresters offers two loan products specifically to assist small businesses. The Enterprise Loan is available to any type of small business needing finance to start-up or for established businesses to take their business to the next level. Whereas QuicksART, is a micro-loan designed specifically for individual artists and small-scale cultural enterprises. QuicksART loans are the first step in the ladder of loan financing for the cultural sector and Foresters encourage individuals and enterprises to consider these loans within a mixed income portfolio of grants, donations, sponsorship and earned income.

Over the years Foresters has provided loans to social not-for-profit enterprises that support the community and/or benefit the environment. Recent examples include providing micro-finance loans to a specialist sporting club to purchase new rowing sculls; various businesses providing services for the disabled including schools, dancing groups, circus troupes; and local community stores.

Foresters believes in lending responsibly an amount that they can afford to pay; to help small businesses grow and become financially successful, therefore benefiting the whole community. There is a single loan establishment fee, which can be capitalised into the loan balance. There are no hidden monthly costs or early exit fees.

Foresters mission is to lend responsibly so that all customers are treated fairly with only products that are suited to their needs and individual situation.

To find out more or to apply for a small business loan visit foresters.org.au/enterprise-loans

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29 January 2020
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australia
Bryan’s Journey with Foresters

In November 2018, Foresters Community Finance first heard from Bryan. Bryan had recently retired and was seeking a loan for rental bond as he moved to better accommodation in far north Queensland. As many people know rental bond is quite a significant amount for a person to have on hand and for Bryan applying for a loan with Foresters made it easier for him to live better. Bryan started with a $1,400 rental bond loan.

Bryan is a respected member of the community and is highly in tune with his budget, how to calculate loans and interest rates. He runs a personal ledger of all his spending, income and repayment timings. Bryan also lends very small amounts out to family and friends in need.

Shortly after taking out the loan, Bryan was diagnosed with cancer and spent several months undergoing chemo treatment. During the times he was in hospital for treatment, Bryan would arrange with Foresters to delay his loan repayments, however each time he would promptly catch up with them once out of hospital.

Bryan would also arrange with his housekeeper to make his loan repayments and pay for other expenses. Unfortunately, in trusting this person to do the right thing he gave them $400 to pay off his loan and sadly this person went on a vacation with that money. Bryan learnt the hard way that he should only pay us directly. Bryan then arranged with us to extend the loan until such time that he could complete the loan.

After some great news on his cancer treatment success and some 12 months later, Bryan renovated his kitchen and also took the opportunity to renew all his small and other appliances. This time Foresters assisted Bryan with a No Fee and No Interest loan.

Shortly into this new loan Bryan’s illness returned. To avoid repayment issues, Bryan changed to a better bank account and arranged for the loan to remain in good standing, without reliance or ability of others to access that bank account for withdrawals.

Foresters Community Finance has been providing support to those in need for over 100 years. Bryan is one of many the customers that Foresters is able to provide with no or low interest loans to help them during times of need.

The Foresters and Cufa teams wish Bryan a speedy recovery.

Should you want to find out more about the loan products Foresters has to offer, please visit foresters.org.au and for our new cash loan product freshpath.com.au.

Cufa acquired Foresters in mid-2019.

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19 December 2019
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australia
Fighting Pay Day Lenders

Foresters Community Finance recently expanded its loans product suite with the launch of it’s new product – FreshPath.  FreshPath offers cash loans of up to $4,000 for the times when people need extra cash fast for whatever reason. 

Foresters launched FreshPath cash loans as a cost-effective alternative to the high-interest loans offered by pay-day lenders, where annual interest rates charged are often between 112% and 407.6%, with the majority tending to be at the higher end permissible under law.  The difference with a FreshPath Cash Loan is the low establishment and monthly fees, along with the commitment and core belief that all lending should be responsible, fair and ethical.

The application process is quick and easy and all online. The cash loans are paid directly into a nominated bank account for fast and easy access as needed.

Cufa acquired Foresters, a long-standing a not-for-profit micro-loan organisation in July 2019. Cufa CEO, Dr Peter Mason then said about the amalgamation: “it is a union of two like-minded organisations, both having a strong social impact on economically disadvantaged individuals and communities through providing financial services and education with the aim of preventing people plunging into a spiralling cycle of debt.” Both organisations have a principle of helping people help themselves. Foresters is also a Certified B Corporation which means that it uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

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27 November 2019
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australia
Should Charities Strive for Redundancy

Redundancy is a word with negative connotations, but not according to Weh Yeoh who says all charities should be aiming to make themselves redundant. If charities focused more on solving problems rather than addressing symptoms, they would create a space for local people to create solutions to their own problems. 

In this Conversations in Development podcast, Weh and Dr Peter Mason, CEO Cufa, discuss whether it is practical to have a clear exit plan from the outset of a charitable enterprise in a country, and whether it is always possible to completely solve a problem and move on.

Photo: Dr Peter Mason, Cufa CEO with Weh Yeoh.

About Weh Yeoh

Weh Yeoh is the founder of OIC Cambodia, established for the 600,000 Cambodians with communication and swallowing disabilities. According to Weh, OIC is one of a handful of charities in the world working towards its own exit. OIC will exit Cambodia in 2030, when there are 100 Cambodian speech therapists integrated into the public sector. Weh is also the co-founder of Umbo, an initiative to improve access to services for children in rural and remote communities. He has been featured on TEDx, The Huffington Post and The Sydney Morning Herald. Find out more about Weh’s work at wehyeoh.com.

This podcast is brought to you by Cufa, an international development agency alleviating poverty across the Asia Pacific .

To hear more topical discussions about issues in the foreign aid and development sector go to http://www.conversationsindevelopment.com.au/

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27 November 2019
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australia
3 million steps

This year Teachers Mutual Bank managers were set a step challenge to see who could walk the most steps across the week and staff paid to guess which manager would win. There were some impressive results with 35 managers walking over 3 million steps, equivalent to walking from Sydney to Townsville! One manager walked over 38,000 steps in 1 day and the winner walked a total of 173,000 steps for the week. TMB staff celebrated with morning tea festivities and games including Prize Pong on 21st November. 

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30 October 2019
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australia
Getting MAD is okay!

Cufa's Make A Difference Day (aka MAD Day) is usually aligned with the Anti-Poverty Week - a nationwide movement that is committed to raising awareness and helping those living in poverty. This year though we thought why not run it through until the end of October giving people more time to organise some fun. 

MAD Day is all about celebrating the difference we can bring to those living in poverty. While the majority of people in the Asia-Pacific region live on just a few dollars a day, companies and individuals across Australia unite to lift these people from poverty and help them build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.

BankFirst got into the spirit and had a loud/colourful shirt day on Friday 18th October and ran a raffle with all money raised going to Cufa for MAD Day. The first prize was a day off work but Cufa was the real winner! Thanks to the team at BankFirst for your support!

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01 July 2019
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australia
Women, Violence and the Law

Conversations in Development PodcastA unique new episode had been released this week in the Conversations in Development podcast series. The podcast was started by Cufa to discuss a diverse range of topics within the development field such as advocacy, child labour, voluntourism and many more. The series has had a range of expert guests and the next episode features Clare Brown, a human rights lawyer who currently works as the Legal Program Manager at Legal Action Worldwide (LAW).

The episode, Women, Violence and the Law, was released on Monday 24 June as Clare discusses a range of issues facing women in countries like Somalia and Lebanon with the podcasts usual host, Dr Peter Mason.

www.ConversationsInDevelopment.com.au

The regions surrounding Somalia and Lebanon have some of the lowest rates of gender equality in the world. Peter speaks with Clare about her experiences working in the region. They discuss the lived experience, many of the issues that women face and triggers of sexual-based violence, as well as exploring the current climate for legal advocacy work and the overall progress that has been made in these countries.

Clare Brown is an international human rights lawyer and currently works as the Legal Program Manager at Legal Action Worldwide (LAW). Clare has been in this position for almost six years after working as a legal intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Her work sees her based between Kenya and Somalia with travel to South Sudan and Lebanon, developing and implementing creative legal interventions to address human rights violations with a focus on sexual violence and violations committed by security forces.

Catch up by listening to the previous episode, Advocacy and Health, available on Apple Podcasts or your favourite podcast app. Women, Violence and the Law is streaming now!

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04 June 2019
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australia
Advocacy and Health Podcast

Conversations in Development PodcastA new episode has been released in the Conversations in Development podcast series. The podcast has explored a range of issues from the development field such as voluntourism, urbanisation and faith-related work. The latest episode welcomes Amelia Christie, CEO of RESULTS Australia, to discuss advocacy work and the effect it has on the field of health.

The episode, Advocacy and Health, was released on Monday 27 May and Amelia appears alongside Cufa CEO and podcast host, Dr Peter Mason.

www.ConversationsInDevelopment.com.au

Advocacy has the capacity to have an impact on a massive scale and in the field of health, it can save millions of lives. We speak with Amelia Christie about the power of a grassroots approach and dealing with everyone from volunteers to politicians. We also delve into foreign aid and the growing focus on the Pacific and Amelia teaches a thing or two about tuberculosis and its growing prevalence in our closest neighbour Papua New Guinea.

Amelia Christie is the CEO of RESULTS, an advocacy organisation that informs political decisions by empowering everyday voices to bring an end to poverty. RESULTS trains, supports and inspires volunteers to become skilled advocates and is a partner of ACTION, a global partnership of advocacy organisations working to influence policy and mobilise resources to fight diseases of poverty and achieve equitable access to health. Amelia has also worked with Ministers of Parliament and for both small and large NGOs. She is passionate about human rights and using people power to bring about positive change.

 

Health and Advocacy podcast

 

Get up-to-date by listening to Episode 11, Cambodia to Cabramatta: A refugee journey before catching up with the latest episode. Simply search “Conversations in Development” into Apple Podcasts or your favourite streaming service. Episode 12, Advocacy and Health, streaming from Monday 27 May 2019.

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17 April 2019
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australia
Cambodia to Cabramatta: A Refugee Journey

Conversations in Development PodcastA new episode has been released in the Conversations in Development podcast series. The podcast has explored a range of issues from the development field such as child labour, urbanisation and microfinance. The latest episode, however, takes a different angle and hosts Veronica Nou, a migrant entrepreneur and refugee advocate, to discuss her refugee journey from Cambodia to Australia.

The episode, Cambodia to Cabramatta: A refugee journey, was released on Monday 15 April and Veronica appears alongside Cufa CEO and podcast host, Dr Peter Mason.

www.ConversationsInDevelopment.com.au

Understanding the drivers behind development issues is imperative to organisations engaging in the field of work. In this episode, Veronica tells us about her journey, how she came to Australia after her family fled the Cambodian Genocide and following Vietnamese occupation. She shares her experiences fleeing the country and arriving in Australia, living in abject poverty through her childhood and becoming a business owner. Now in her spare time, Veronica has set her sights on advocacy work and is a National Convener of the group Mums 4 Refugees, fighting for humane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

 

Cambodia to Cabramatta: A refugee journey 1

 

Veronica Nou is a pharmacist and proprietor of two pharmacies in Western Sydney. Veronica was born in Cambodia during the time of the Khmer Rouge and her family fled the country, arriving in Australia in 1991 by way of refugee camps. After earning a scholarship at a private girl’s school, Veronica overcame a tough start in Australia to complete a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney. She now dedicates her spare time to speaking out about refugee advocacy.

Listen to the latest episode with Veronica or get up to date with the podcast by listening to previous episodes. Simply search “Conversations in Development” into Apple Podcasts or your favourite streaming service. Episode 11, Cambodia to Cabramatta: A refugee journey streaming from Monday 15 April 2019.

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17 April 2019
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australia
Foreign Aid: Failure and Effectiveness

People use high-profile aid failures as a weapon to rail against aid expenditure.  Rather than arguing that aid has failed, it might be more useful to critique how it is delivered, who is delivering it and the accountability mechanisms in place.  The mechanism of aid is not at fault, it is the way it is deployed that is sometimes problematic. 

There are many channels of aid delivery, such as through bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements, through intermediary banks such as the Asian Development and the World Bank or through local or international NGOs.  Each of these delivery mechanisms has an agenda and a reason for their engagement.  International or local NGOs may have a humanitarian, philosophical or faith-based rationale for their engagement, whereas bilateral engagement may be for geopolitical purposes.  Regardless of the rationale it is all lumped into the one term of “aid”. 

If we are to explore the concept of aid failure we need to unpack it to understand the location of the failure.  If you have a leaking pipe you don’t necessarily replace all your plumbing, you analyse where the leak is coming from and change out the offending leaking pipe.  Likewise, if there are components of the aid sector that are not working and not achieving the impact that the Australian public as stakeholders demand and deserve, it should be addressed in a similar manner. The Australian public works hard to pay their taxes and need to be assured that the funding that is given for a specific purpose actually achieves the stated objectives, not necessarily because they want economic efficiency but because as a society they believe in helping where they can and don’t like to see the suffering of others.  So if aid is designed to alleviate poverty the Australian public should expect the expenditure of aid dollars to result in tangible impacts.

There are many roads to achieving the goal of alleviating poverty but each is problematic in both implementation and delivery.  As mentioned there are also multiple delivery methods, but likewise, the conditions within the recipient countries are also varied as David Cameron said, there needs to be a “Golden Thread” of a stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law and transparent information

Aid can create dependency, it can create structural power issues and it can be less effective without coordination between the various agencies, governments and civil society.  The perception of failure also occurs when inadequate time has been given to achieving the desired results or when aid is commercialised inappropriately.

Showering of aid on recipient countries can do a lot of harm and manufacture dependence, Malawi is a great example whereby in 2012 they were given 1.17 billion dollars equating to 28% of the country’s gross national income.  This led to corruption within the government and the attempted killings of investigators.  While Malawi still gets substantial aid there is now an attempt to keep it out of the government hands.

In many cases, the flow of aid through governments that are less accountable to their people creates power and economic structures that inhibit the ability of people to help themselves.  The poor don’t pull themselves out of poverty because the ability to do this is not available to them.  For example, the infrastructure in places such as Bougainville and Timor Leste is poor, farmers can produce crops and goods but roads and transport is so poor that they can’t get their products to market. While the latest report on the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation  (GPEDC) argues that with only 51% of aid being channelled through the recipient countries own state systems is a poor result, the question must be asked is it always a good investment? 

The development sector and I include all actors, have a strong desire to do good work, but this is sometimes compromised by the competitive nature of raising and accessing funds.  There is a substantial lack of coordination between aid agencies, governments as well as multi and unilateral agencies. It is not that there isn’t a desire to do better, it’s just hard to do, it is hard to fit together with each actor’s agenda and programs or to modify what has already been planned.  Given the chase for the donor dollar is competitive, be that at an NFP agency level or a multilateral level, the culture of the organisations tend to be very guarded and therefore in any coordination efforts, the sharing of resources or information and the willingness to adapt programs or even agendas becomes problematic. 

Aid also fails when there is inadequate time to achieve results and when assumptions about the people being helped are wrong.  The variables are vast and often the voice of the local people is left out of the decision making. There is an unequal relationship whereby timeframes are agreed to under the duress of not receiving the funding.  The mobilisation and empowerment of civil society are being further compromised by the movement of aid away from civil society to that of the private sector.  The power structures inhibiting people to lift themselves out of poverty are further compounded by corporate interests in keeping wages low and labour rights suppressed.  We now see aid being used to counter the achievement of universal human rights, higher levels of education and access to health care in the name of achieving structural or macro-economic development.

As Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director at Oxfam has argued, “Development cooperation between nations is very important because it is one of the building blocks of shared peace, prosperity and human rights for all.” It is a counter to nationalism, closed borders, hatred and xenophobia. 

Most Australians in one way or another contribute to aid so we need to be active in identifying how we can achieve better results not only from an economic approach, (although we should always strive to achieve the most with our resources) but with an eye on the future. As the World Bank stated, "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." 

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Dr Peter Mason is the CEO of Cufa and host of the podcast, Conversations In Development. The podcast explores a range of topics in the development field ranging from child labour to voluntourism and microfinance.

The first episode, Blurring the lines between good intentions and good business,  focuses on the increasingly common business interests associated with foreign aid, blurring the line between philanthropy and financial gain. 

Learn more about this episode and listen today!

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