Microfinancing. Unleashing the potential of new Australians.
Microfinancing and microloans have gone through a tumultuous adolescence since the concept arrived in the late 1970s.
Certainly, there have been success stories of small enterprises bringing families out of poverty and into prosperity. However, for every good-news story, it seems the system has also saddled families of failed ventures with debt they cannot repay – despite the relatively low amounts being loaned.
However, as the process moves into maturity, Aussie banks are again looking at the concept – particularly regarding refugees and other new Australians. The Australian Financial Review has recently reported on the efforts of Huy Truong who, as the child of a Vietnamese immigrant family – has a rich history of entrepreneurship. His success in business and first-hand experience of the benefits enterprise can have for new Australians, has led to the establishment of Thrive – a new microfinancing project that is being backed by Westpac.
In fact, Westpac is so excited by the opportunity to link with these sectors of the community that they are seconding the bank’s COO to help establish the operation and see Thrive through its first rounds of funding - $2 million of which has been provided by Westpac.
John Curtis, Thrive Chairman, said the private sector has a role to play in supporting refugee enterprise: “We are absolutely delighted to have Westpac’s support to help establish and provide funding for Thrive. We want refugees to succeed for their own well-being and for the benefit of Australia.
In fact, it seems that the entrepreneurial spirit is hard to quash. Even in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Syrian refugees are recognising opportunities to set up small businesses – some of which are being watched by microfinance companies and even business incubators such as (Oasis500) to take full advantage of the talent on offer among the displaced persons.
There is plenty of drive, talent and experience within the refugee population. Hopefully, operations such as Oasis500 and Thrive and offer a pathway for those looking to re-establish themselves in a new country, and make a better life for themselves, their family, and the community.