A little of the Macarthur NILS story
"Macarthur NILS is an innovative and exciting program which aims to provide help where and when it is needed. I really enjoy working with our NILS staff, volunteers and Committee members to make a difference in the life of each person and family who receive a loan." Sr. Cecilia Wiltshire pbvm AM.
"It (Macarthur NILS) has been one of the most practical ways in which I have been able to work with others to help people help themselves. So many people just need a bit of support and they can help themselves. NILS is a wonderful way to empower people," wrote Franciscan priest, Father Kevin Goode.
The Nagle Centre has been operating in Campbelltown since 1993. It offers services including Emergency Relief, Counselling, Community Kitchen, Budget Counselling, Clemente Program, Tax Help (July to October) and more. Through their work it became evident to the staff that amongst the difficulties encountered by families was their inability to access credit to purchase household or essential items which would enable clients to participate more equitably in life.
Part of the solution, the Presentation Sisters believed, seemed to be in the introduction of a No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) which, among other advantages, would address immediate needs e.g., washing machines, refrigerators and medical appliances, in a way that didn't foster dependency. This scheme would provide basic human rights to those who lived with great financial hardship. Moreover, it would, they hoped, provide people with affordable credit. Above all, it was seen as a movement towards justice and equity, a means to bring about social change in an economic system which tended to exploit the disadvantaged. The Macarthur No Interest Loan Scheme which evolved has never lost sight of this principle of social justice. The key principle and program philosophy states:
As a project of the Presentation Sisters, Macarthur NILS is based on principles of Social Justice with emphasis on an adherence to principles of equity and access, treating people with dignity and respect and supporting them to gain increased financial control and empowerment in their lives.
It was anticipated that the scheme would provide a real and dignified opportunity for low-income families to have an opportunity to participate more fully in society, and to contribute to its development. The stories below demonstrate that not only does NILS assist low-income earners to access significant household items and essential services, but that the process itself is empowering.
So in November 1998 the first NILS loan was issued from the Nagle Centre. The Presentation Sisters and volunteers offered NILS to the people of Macarthur and the first Program Coordinator Josephine Hindmarsh was employed in 2001. Josephine, Sr Cecilia Wiltshire AM and a group of volunteers worked hard to grow Macarthur NILS into the robust program it is today. Having now served the Macarthur community for over 18 years Macarthur NILS has issued over 2400 loans worth over $1.9 million.
Cases are factual but names are fictitious to protect privacy.
John, twenty-something, unemployed, attended the first briefing on the scheme. He successfully applied for a loan for a TV, video and vacuum cleaner. He was a regular user of emergency relief prior to this and had spent some of his youth homeless. John kept up his repayments for a short time, then his payments began to become irregular. We tried to contact him to invite his participation in a survey without success. His mail was returned and his phone cut off. By now his repayments had ceased. We feared the worst. One day the worker received a call from John, it was quite out of the blue. He was now living in Queensland. His father had died and he had gone up to help his family. He wanted to let the scheme know that he had been using the money from the repayments for funeral expenses but would begin repayments shortly. He concluded by saying that this was the first time he had ever been honest! True to his word, repayments recommenced. We recalled that at the initial briefing session John had exclaimed "I get it, if I don't pay it back no one else can borrow it."
Peter obtained a loan to replace his front tooth. After receiving the dental treatment he visited the NILS worker. While grinning he told her that he could now face the world. Peter paid back his loan and became eligible to reapply for another loan if he so wished.
Jenny borrowed money for a lawn mower and lawn edger. She regularly made repayments and as soon as her loan drew near to completion she began to increase the amount of money she paid back. "It's so exciting seeing the amount of money I owe diminishing - I can do this" she exclaimed.
Samantha a 30yr old mother of four children borrowed money to replace her washing machine that had broken down 4 months previously. She had been hand washing for all of them as she was not aware that Macarthur NILS existed. When she collected her cheque she was amazed that she was actually excited about going home to do the washing! She laughed as she said "Even the children want to help!"