Improved financial wellbeing, one new home at a time
“Home ownership and improved financial literacy has become a reality, with the program helping approximately many members of the Karen community so far.” Daniel Gore.
Photo credit: NONI HYETT Bendigo Advertiser, August 2021
Located in central Victoria, Bendigo is a charming, thriving regional city home to more than 100,000 residents which was once the centre of Victoria’s gold rush. Today it is also home to a growing community of Karen people, an ethnic minority from Myanmar.
Most Karen refugees come from small mountain villages. That’s not quite Bendigo but life in a beautiful regional city surrounded by forest and farms is more suitable for Karen people than life in a huge, densely urbanised city like Melbourne or Sydney.
Around Bendigo, older Karen refugees who have problems learning English have been able to get work on farms, giving their lives dignity and meaning as well as income.
For so many of us, buying a home is an aspiration for many and it is usually the largest financial investment a person will make in their lifetime. Karen people are no different and over the years I’ve been working at the ANZ Bendigo branch, I’ve been fortunate to help many members of the community buy a home.
For some members of the growing Karen community however, home ownership was something that seemed impossible, due to language barriers, limited resources and not having a clear knowledge of the process involved.
That’s where ANZ has been ablate provide support to the community through the Home Loan Introducer program, where any funds ANZ make are donated back to the Karen community.
Home ownership and improved financial literacy has become a reality, with the program helping nearly 30 members of the Karen community so far.
These people have worked hard to be where they are now so it’s great to see they are now in a position to walk into a branch and apply for a home loan.
Daniel Gore and Moonieinda. Picture: Photo credit: NONI HYETT, Bendigo Advertiser, August 2021
Over the past decade, Bendigo has seen a significant increase in the settling of migrants and refugees. The first seven Karen Burmese refugees arrived in Bendigo in May 2007. By 2016 the Census found Karen was the second most commonly spoken language in Bendigo, with approximately 1,000 Karen people now living in the city.
The successful re-settlement of Karen people in Bendigo is a fine example of how regional refugee resettlement can work. The benefits are not only to the community that are re-settling but also to the local culture and economy.
A study from Deloitte Access Economics and Adult Multicultural Education Services (AMES) Australia estimated the Karen community has contributed a staggering $67.1 million to the Bendigo economy since first settlement.
Re-settling involves a myriad of things from employment, to social integration, to financial education, all of which have a flow on effect. The Deloitte study also found additional employment generated in Bendigo - comprised largely of Karen workers - increased from a small number of individuals in 2007 to 58 people (54 FTE) in 2011, and to 204 people (177 FTE) in 2016.
The arrival of Karen people in Bendigo has had flow-on employment impacts on other local employers, who provide goods and services to the Karen.
Following employment success, it’s important to support and assist the community with managing their money, to ensure they are on the right track for a financially stable future. A large part of this is helping them to achieve their goals of home-ownership.
ANZ's Home Loan Introducer Program is a way that ANZ can reward businesses and community organisations for referring customers and members with home loan needs to us. Any funds ANZ makes through the ANZ Home Loan program are donated back to the Karen community. That small percentage which goes into a bank account can be invested in education and bit and pieces for the community.
The process is simple. Introducers can earn additional income for a business or community organisation by introducing potential customers to ANZ's home loans. ANZ Home Loan Introducers receive support from ANZ specialists.
Bendigo is hot property
A rise in Bendigo's average house price recently reflects a growth in interest in people moving to regional areas. Last year, regional values rose at a far greater rate than metro values. This was partly because relocating to regional areas became more appealing to people during the pandemic, especially those who were able to work remotely.
- Over the 12 months to 31 March 2021 property values have increased 12.2 per cent and there have been 1,972 property sales.
- The median value for properties in Bendigo is now getting close to half a million dollars, at $442,835, as at 31 March 2021.
- Bendigo property prices have increased twice as much as the national regional average, 12.2 per cent compared with 6.3 per cent (between March 2020 and March 2021).
Source: ANZ CoreLogic Housing Affordability data, April 20201.
With the Karen community, funds go towards educational programs (including English lessons) to help them improve their financial literacy and therefore build skills to develop greater financial freedom in the future.
In addition to making sure ANZ staff are available to provide financial training and coaching for anything that is required, I regularly contribute towards the Karen community in other ways as well, for example donating stationery items to the local school.
The branch as whole ensure members of the community are financially educated by connecting them to support services, including Saver Plus. We ensure we make ourselves available to the community for any events they run. (Although unfortunately, COVID has prevented us from participating in recent events.)
The ANZ Bendigo branch is proud of the strong relationship it has built over the years with the Karen community. Getting to the know the community, building friendships and being able to support them with their banking needs and see them thrive is hands down one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.
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