13 February 2018
Cufa Chair Receives Order of Australia
Cufa congratulates our Chair Margot Sweeny.  

The Cufa team is proud to congratulate our Chair, Ms Margot Sweeny for receiving an Order of Australia today.

Ms Margot Sweeny has played an active role in the Australian community for more than 40 years. Arriving from her native Canada as a teenager in the 1960s, Ms Sweeny has worked tirelessly to create a cohesive and robust community in regional New South Wales, as well as contributing to international outreach. Her work has often focused on financial inclusion and providing appropriate and accessible financial services to local communities, otherwise underserved or excluded.

Ms Sweeny is the Chair of Cufa (previously known as the Credit Union Foundation Australia). She has held this office since 2010. Under Ms Sweeny's leadership, CUFA has gone from strength to strength. The organisation now reaches 4,000,000 people directly and indirectly, and achieves a social return on investment of $8.07 for every $1 invested. Ms Sweeny takes a hands-on approach to her board role, willingly travelling to remote communities in Cambodia, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea. She has guided the organisations strategic direction and worked to support both the operational staff and her fellow board members. Additionally, Ms Sweeny is a financial donor to Cufa, providing public philanthropic leadership and encouraging other like-minded individuals to support the organisation.

Ms Sweeny has been the Chief Executive Officer of Summerland Credit Union in Lismore since 1999, having previously participated in the credit union as a member and on the board. Under her leadership, Summerland Credit Union has grown in membership and now plays an important role in the identity of the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, as well as serving the financial services needs of locals.

Ms Sweeny is an active corporate citizen in the Northern Rivers of NSW and has participated in various regional development organisations and advisory groups over the past two decades. She was a founding member of the Northern Rivers Community Foundation and served five years as Secretary of the Northern Rivers Area Consultative Committee and five years as Chair of The Northern Rivers Regional Development Board, both positions were Government appointed.

Ms Sweeny also has a strong academic background in finance and accounting, having eight years of experience as lecturer at the Southern Cross University, where she has held several governance roles such as the member of University Council, Chair of Finance Committee and Deputy Chair of Audit & Risk Committee. Additionally, Ms Sweeny is a tireless advocate for the environment and the preservation of wildlife. At present, she is the Patron of Friends of the Koala Inc in the Far North Coast of NSW.

Ms Sweeny is known and recognised for her unbridled energy and enthusiasm, as well as her willingness to tackle all issues big or small. She is generous with her time and supportive of the individuals around her. She believes in the importance of the community and uses her finance and banking skills to grow communities by promoting inclusive and accessible financial services.

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21 November 2017
Creating Infinite Value in Myanmar

Since 2015 we have been working with Self Help Groups in 30 villages across Myanmar, supporting them to develop their own village savings bank through our Credit Union Development (CUD) Project. The impact has produced life-changing results for the village women, men, children and their community. 

Our Myanmar Country Manager, KZ (real name Kyaw Zin Myo), thinks there are many ways to alleviate poverty. But KZ believes that our CUD Project "is the best way because it provides affordable and accessible financial services tailored for the villager." 

Villager and member, Daw Aye Pone (pictured above), explains; 

"Now I will keep saving in the Self Help Group so that my family
will not have to struggle, and so they don't need to worry about money." 

Another member, Daw Than Than Cho, shares some of the benefits she experiences;

"By having the Self-Help Group in our village,
there is no need to leave the village to save money.  It is also good for creating business in our village, and for our children's education."

We will soon be releasing a new video filmed in Myanmar, sharing some of the personal stories directly from the villagers themselves!  

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25 October 2017
Our New Podcast!

In more exciting news, further to our new look and website, CUFA will also be launching its very own podcast series called Conversations in Development.

Co- hosted by CUFA's very own CEO, Dr Peter Mason, and audio producer and journalist, Olivia Rosenman, each podcast will deliver lively, witty, and thought provoking discussions among the co-hosts and a special guest, who is an expert in any one of a wide range of development related topics.

Podcasts will explore diverse themes around development covering everything from; what do women bring in resilience, disaster response, and recovery? How can aid prevent conflicts and violence, rather than just help to restore peace after it has occurred? How can refugees contribute to economic growth by creating jobs for themselves and others? Plus much, much more!

Get set to be inspired, intrigued and enriched by Conversations in Development, CUFA's brand new podcast series, streaming to you soon. 

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28 July 2017
CUFA Empowers Youth at Congress in Bougainville

CUFA is delighted to announce that the 3 day Bougainville Youth Initiative Emerging Leaders Congress, held at Arawa in late May and attended by more than 400 young people from across the island, was a resounding success.

The Youth Congress was the culmination of more than two years’ work and collaboration between CUFA and young local men and women aged from 15- 25 years, coupled with the support of village elders, as part of the Bougainville Youth Initiative (BYI) Project.

Known in the local language as the ‘Rot Bilong Ol Angpla Blo Bihain Taim’, the Bougainville Youth Initiative Project was run by CUFA and was sponsored by Australian Government. The purpose of the project was to help young people from across Bougainville to improve their livelihoods and increase their employment opportunities.

Throughout the Congress, the youth showed community leaders and council of elders how the last two years of participating in the CUFA- run project has positively impacted their lives.

There were employment expos for the young people to meet with employers and to speak about the prospects of getting a job, as well as opportunities to express their own business ideas.

Each region of Bougainville’s youth presented on how their community was specifically impacted by the education and assistance they had received from CUFA.

Selected by the local communities themselves, the Youth Project participants created social enterprises made up of at least 20 young people. In developing their social enterprise, each group had to work together and share their existing knowledge and skills, as well as learn new skills guided by CUFA, so that their social enterprise could grow and thrive.

The stories that have already emerged from the social enterprises are empowering and inspiring, such as Bill’s story here.

Watch Bill’s inspiring 1 minute video here.

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26 June 2017
Scholarship winner shares her “unique and humbling” award experience

The last time we heard from Julie Scharf, Queensland Country Credit Union, she was busy fundraising and preparing for her Harry Zaphir Scholarship prize– an insider’s view into some of CUFA’s empowering development projects in Cambodia.

Julie has since returned from her life-changing trip where she saw first-hand how CUFA works to improve livelihoods and alleviate poverty.

“Spending an unforgettable seven days throughout the provinces of Cambodia was a unique and humbling experience…

Before setting off to Cambodia I raised over $4,500 to assist in CUFA programs such as the Village Entrepreneur (VE) Program. The fundraising itself was hard work, but rewarding with so many of my colleagues from ECU and QCCU helping out.

I met the board of the local agricultural co-operative (credit union) and we discussed how well the credit union was going and what it is doing for the local communities – reinvesting profits back into the credit union and villages. They have recently moved to using a computer and software to record transactions and calculate interest – something they used to do manually! The credit union continues to grow and the board were very passionate about helping members and the villages within the area.

I could see the benefits of the VE Program and how it can help to lift an individual and their family out of poverty and support the village in which they live.  One lady told me how she was upset that she could not send her own daughter to school as she could not afford to do so.  She then joined the VEP about a year ago and is now helping to send her grandson to school! Each VE appreciated the support and they all said they would continue to implement what they have learned and continue to run their microbusinesses.

I was also fortunate enough to also visit a local primary school in Takeo Province.  I sat in a class and learned about the Children’s Financial Literacy program (CFL) … The teacher said this program has helped to make a difference in the children’s spending behaviours and that many already have some savings.”

-       Julie Scharf, Queensland Country Credit Union

2016 Recipient of the Harry Zaphir Scholarship Prize

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11 April 2017
Transitioning to independence in the Pacific

A decade ago, CUFA helped establish the Oceanic Confederation of Credit Unions (OCCUL), a membership organisation with the purpose to assist financial cooperatives, village banks and credit unions in the Pacific region with technical assistance, alongside the annual Pacific Credit Union Technical Congress.

Now, CUFA is proud to announce that as of 1 July 2017, the Oceanic Confederation of Credit Union will become independent!  Board representatives from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia, the Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Australia met to sign the Deed of Arrangement to transfer ownership and governance functions from CUFA to the OCCUL Advisory Board. The transition from establishment to independent governance is a major step forward for OCCUL, and we’re delighted to see the transition!

CUFA wishes the OCCUL team a successful future. If you would like to find out more about the Congress, held in October 2017 in Nadi, please visit or email Secretariat Officer, Luse Tamani, at

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