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Building the opportunity to give back

"As a young person when you are twenty, saving money is something that is not in your head. It is, what sort of clothes are you wearing? What is the car you drive? What is the cologne you wear? What is the trip you have planned for the weekend coming?” - Ali Al Battaat

How do you quantify the impact of a savings program, like Saver Plus, that has been enabling financial literacy for two decades? Stand at the shoulder of some of the people who have been through it, and you can see the direct benefits.


The inspiring story of Ali Al Battaat shows how the program is a first step, empowering the journey to a larger life.


Growing up in Shepparton, as the youngest of five children of an Iraqi refugee family, Ali Al Battaat knew plenty about the world at a young age.


Ali knew of the oppression his family faced under Saddam Hussein.


He had heard the stories of the family’s perilous journey on a boat to Australia as he was held – just a baby – in his mother’s arms.


And now he saw how his father, a maths and Arabic teacher by profession, had become a community leader for the Iraqi community in Shepparton.


“During Saddam Hussein’s regime I lost five of my uncles and my grandfather due to the regime.”


“At that point dad had to escape Iraq to the nearest country to make sure he wasn’t the latest victim to that regime.”


The family left Kirkuk in Iraq, and sought refuge in Qom in Iran, where Ali was born. From there the family came to Australia.


“I always say I’m really grateful and privileged that I was a very young person in the majority of the struggles that my family went through. I would say my older siblings saw and experienced it much more and have stronger memories of everything.”


Grateful for the chances his family and community had given him, as a young man he knew he wanted to give back -  but wasn’t sure how to.


Two years into studying a health sciences course in Bendigo and driven by his family’s respect for the medical profession Alirealised he wanted to do social work.


“At high school I would always put my hand up for any volunteering opportunities.

I did volunteering with The Smith Family back in high school – I’d finish the school day and go across and help kids with their homework.”


To reach his  goal of giving back to the community, Ali recognised he needed a new laptop to simply get through his education, however he was unsure of the steps to save for it.


“As a young person when you are twenty, saving money is something that is not in your head. It is, what sort of clothes are you wearing? What is the car you drive? What is the cologne you wear? What is the trip you have planned for the weekend coming?”


When Ali told a friend about the problem with his laptop, the friend recommended a financial literacy course he had just completed named Saver Plus.


“At the time I was talking to a friend about how annoying my laptop was. I had a laptop which was such a struggle in terms of how old it was and how it keeps turning off in class. It was the laptop my brother used and it was passed onto me – I think I paid him $300 or $400 for it. It got me through the first year of Uni but the second year was a struggle.”


“I would rock up to Uni and some days I would be embarrassed to take it out. I’m looking at all the other Uni kids with their MacBooks. Everyone had a MacBook Air at the time – for me when I saw that I was like I look like a little kid in the group.”


“My friend who had just been through Saver Plus said ‘Ali you should join the program you save $500 dollars and you get another $500 matched at the end of it. I thought ‘that’s not a bad idea to be honest’.”

Developed in partnership with the Brotherhood of St Laurence and delivered with Berry Street and The Smith Family, Saver Plus is a matched savings program where eligible participants, who successfully achieve their savings goals and complete a series of MoneyMinded financial education workshops, receive matched funds from ANZ up to $500.


Saver Plus has been running for two decades with funding from both ANZ and the Australian Government Department of Social Services and it’s the world’s largest and longest-running financial education and matched-savings program.


It has helped more than 58,000 participants to collectively save more than $29 million and receive more than $24 million in matched savings from ANZ to date.

When Ali decided to attend Saver Plus– his dad did as well.


“Dad wanted to motivate me to actually stick to it and do it.”


“He’s a great human and he is definitely my role model – he will always be my role model.”


His dad, being a community leader, also wanted to see what it was like to recommend it to others.


The Saver Plus program was an eye opener for Ali who quickly adopted its practices and advice – and it helped him aim to buy a MacBook Pro.


“The MacBook was about $2600, I knew that whatever I’m saving in the program was not exactly enough to buy the MacBook. But I knew that if I learned the skills of saving, I could also save on the side as well.”


“Learning in that program – how to set priorities, what to pay first, the difference between our wants and needs - I still remember that. I recall the trainer from Saver Plus mentioned things I want, I used to say ‘I need this’ and she would say ‘is it a need or a want?’.”


“Until this day when I’m about to buy something I pause for a second and say ‘do I want that or do I need it’?”


The 25-year-old now runs his own social work business in Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley, supplying services for the Federal National Disability Insurance Scheme. His business is tailored to helping young people from age 5 to 26 with special abilities including autism, schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar and the legally blind.


The trusty MacBook is still a part of Ali’s life – used everyday to help him in his work caring

for people across the Goulburn Valley, helping with family paperwork or even used for advocacy work for people in the region, including working with Amnesty International.


His advocacy for Amnesty International, specifically for the “My New Neighbour Campaign” aimed at reducing the fees and costs for assisted refugees coming to Australia, drew great attention.


“We wrote a proposal and made it to the Federal Parliament and our names were all read out.”


He also uses the MacBook to plan community events in Shepparton – particularly for its diverse groups hailing from everywhere including Macedonia, Greece, Italy, Albania, Turkey, Iraq, parts of Africa, Afghanistan and Syria.


“In terms of the younger Iraqi population, soccer is the thing that brings us together. I am not the best at it, but I enjoy playing it.”


“In October we organised the first Iraqi Golden Cup – me and few leaders in the community.”


In January he also helped organise Shepparton’s ‘Nations Cup’ soccer tournament, in which ten different ethnic groups played together.


Ali says the MacBook – and financial education via Saver Plus – has been a “one hundred per cent” priceless investment for him.


And he is grateful to have an opportunity to give back.


“I always say all this journey would not have been possible without my family and my community.”


“A lot of people from my community have helped me through this journey.”


Paul Presland is General Manager of Small Business Banking at ANZ


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