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Building steps to financial independence

"We really wanted to target women with this program and to empower them to take control over their financial wellbeing.” - Caroline Trevorrow

Caroline Trevorrow knows about the “tyranny of distance” in Gippsland that makes harder the job of helping families that have experienced everything from poverty, bushfires, and even domestic violence.


As the manager of the Heyfield Community Resource Centre, Caroline helps provide services - not only to the immediate town community of 2000 people – but to scores of other towns stretching hundreds of kilometres.


“Gippsland is quite a broad community. It's a very remote and rural community. We're in the west of Gippsland and our region and our reach as lone local organisations spreads all the way to the New South Wales border,” Caroline says.


The Heyfield Community Resource Centre has been the town’s local neighborhood house for the last three decades.


It works with the community to deliver a range of different programs including adult education, a men's shed, childcare, digital skills and even community lunches.


“We try and grow a lot of produce from that in our community garden,” she says.


Caroline says it is the job of the community resource centre to listen to the community and help meet its changing needs.


And she says that in the last couple of years there has been a growing need to help often isolated women become more financially independent as issues like the cost-of-living crunch put pressures on families. This could result in worsening family situations, including domestic violence.


She decided one way to tackle this was by last year applying for funding through ANZ’s Seeds of Renewal community grant program.


Applications are now open for the 2024 ANZ Seeds of Renewal program, with grants of up to $15,000 available for not-for-profit organisations and community groups in remote, rural, and regional Australia.


For just over two decades, ANZ has partnered with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) to fund more than 850 community groups through the Seeds of Renewal program, with a total investment of more than $6 million.


Now in its 22nd year, the program is this year again offering a funding pool of $250,000 to community groups in remote, rural, and regional locations for projects aligned to four areas: Environmental sustainability; Financial wellbeing; Housing access; Assisting local communities to thrive.


The program called Money Matters engaged women who have experienced and were impacted by the current economic climate, COVID or were at risk of or experiencing family violence.


It sought to improve these women’s knowledge of and comfort in talking about money, control of decisions about money, and knowledge of where to seek financial services assistance. It also supported pathways into employment and further education.


“We tried to focus on a financial literacy program for women. It should be no surprise women suffer from more social disadvantage than men. We've got a lot of women that earn less than men. Women retire with a lot of less super than men.”


“We really wanted to target women with this program and to empower them to take control over their financial wellbeing.”


“We've got communities in rural and remote areas that have gone through bushfires. We've got a lot of disengaged people, so we wanted to target them and to give them a safe and secure environment, to give them control over their financial health.”


The grant application was successful and has allowed the organisation to engage a facilitator to go out into towns to offer the courses face to face.


“Being a neighborhood house and then having the funding from the Seeds of Renewal grant enabled us to go into remote communities. We wouldn't have been able to do that without the funding. We wouldn't have been able to engage a facility to organise her travel to go there. You are looking at really vulnerable communities.”


One person who has seen how crucial the funding has been is Christine Brooks, who works for the Wellington and East Gippsland Learn locals and as a trainers for the Money Matters program.


Christine says there has been a huge advantage for those people from smaller communities who are now getting face to face help.


“As a result we've contributed to the financial independence of women in those communities and we've been able to give them some tips and tricks on how to support their financial independence.”


Christine Brooks

The tyranny of distance


But Christine says many of the issues being faced in the region will not easily be overcome and more work is needed.


“People are feeling very isolated, but we can also put it down to the general cost of living that's gone through the roof. And we're seeing that people combined with that isolation and the cost of living, people are feeling like they haven't got the resources, they haven't got the knowledge, they haven't got the information to be able to support themselves and or their families.”


“ I think in remote communities in our part of the world, in East Gippsland and Wellington, the whole thing around tyranny of distance is huge.”



Ripple effect



But Christine says that what is crucial about these face to face encounters is the larger impct they have on the community.


“The importance of this isn't just about the people that turn up for the programs or the workshops,” she says.


“It's about them and their families and then the community. There's three layers in there. IPeople come along to the course of the workshop, they get information.Then the next layer is they take that away and talk to their families, their mates, their neighbors, the people at the coffee shop about what they've learned.”


“And then that infiltrates into the local community. And I reckon that part of what we're trying to do with this money Matters program is gold, because we're not just impacting on the individuals, we are impacting more broadly than that.”


Caroline Trevorrow and Christine Brooks

Vision of the future


But Christine says the importance of the recent achievement is that they are something that can be built upon.


She says the community centre would like to continue to roll out the programs across the region as a top priority. But Christine says a next step will also be targeting other demographics including older people, and younger parents of children at primary school.


“That would be a really good outcome,” Christine says.


Either way, Christine and Caroline view the success of the program as a first step in a bigger effort to help the disadvantaged across the region.


Mark Bennett is Head of Agribusiness within Commercial at ANZ

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