Michelle Sainsbery, Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services, and Rashid Habib, Community Development Worker with the Neighbourhood Centre, at the launch of No Interest Loans Scheme at the Fountain Room, Lismore City Hall.
Michelle Sainsbery, Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services, and Rashid Habib, Community Development Worker with the Neighbourhood Centre, at the launch of No Interest Loans Scheme at the Fountain Room, Lismore City Hall. Cathy Adams

Interest free loans on offer

WHO would have thought a band of 19th-Century French nuns would have anything to do with a Lismore mother of four getting a loan for a fridge?

Through the Northern Rivers No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS), the mother, who did not want to be named, was given a loan of $799 for a much-needed fridge.

Where do the nuns come into it? All was explained at the launch of the scheme at Lismore City Hall yesterday.

In 1980, a worker went to the Good Shepherd nuns, who had been working in Australia since 1964, and suggested that women exiting domestic violence situations needed a helping hand with household items.

So the nuns got the ball rolling and the Good Shepherd service now oversees more than 300 scheme outlets across Australia. The loans are aimed at people on low incomes who would not meet the suitability criteria of banks.

“It is a hand-up, not a hand-out,” Michelle Sainsbery, Good Shepherd Youth and family Service national microfinance manager, said.

The approach is endorsed by Lismore Neighbourhood Centre manager Paul Cruickshank, who with $60,000 assistance from NSW Fair Trading six years ago, started administrating no-interest loans up to $500.

Today sees the rollout of the first NILS scheme in regional NSW and the biggest across the eastern states.

The Northern Rivers NILS with assistance from National Australia Bank, has given Mr Cruickshank ‘a revolving million bucks’ to work with and can offer loans up to $1200.

There will be 50 outlets in the Northern Rivers including community centres and councils. Private organisations, such as TAFE, The Buttery or women’s refuge centres can apply to administer loans themselves.

“This time next year, I’d like to see 500 loans going out every month,” he said.

The person must be able to pay back the loan, and money cannot be borrowed for debt consolidation or for non-essential items, he said.

Mr Cruickshank said it was about empowering people to make their lives better.

“You’re asking for a loan, not charity,” he said.

WHEN HAVE YOU NEEDED FINANCIAL HELP?

Phone 6624 3266 or SMS 0428 264 948



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