Sector News

The local and global charitable impact of the Australian Mutuals Foundation


As the industry’s leading charitable organisation, the Australian Mutuals Foundation (AMF) supports disadvantaged young people in Australia, helps victims of natural disasters and assists aspiring small businesses in developing nations.

We spoke to AMF Manager Paul Dawson and AMF director and Australian Mutual Bank CEO Mark Worthington about the foundation’s key projects and how other customer owned banks can get involved.

Customer owned banks are familiar with the idea of the co-operative: communities come together with a shared economic, social and cultural goal.

The concept also underpins the important work AMF does internationally and domestically. The organisation helps provide safe access to credit and education in developing nations, while addressing social disadvantage and providing disaster support here in Australia.

The foundation started as a discussion between Select CU CEO Mark Worthington and Encompass CU Brian Bennett following an Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (ACCU) conference in Thailand.

Shortly after that conversation, the duo took action and established AMF in 2016 with as a way to help credit unions, mutuals and building societies improve their charitable footprint.

“We wanted to be the main international development charitable vehicle of the industry with tax-deductible status,” Mark Worthington said.

Since then, AMF has been able to raise and donate over $2 million dollars to mostly disadvantaged youth and children in Australia and impoverished communities in Asia. AMF has also been able to help Australian communities greatly affected by natural disasters (bushfires and floods).

Today, AMF continues to raise funds from mutual banks and credit unions and has also received donations from organisations who have had a long association with the customer owned banking sector.

AMF has been supporting Barnardos Australia since 2017, impacting young people from a range of diverse backgrounds through programs such as before and after school care, providing domestic violence refuge and education for new mums.

During the recent bushfires and floods, AMF provided disaster relief by supporting 75 community and charity organisations.

“People are just blown away with the impact we’re making on lives,” AMF Manager Paul Dawson said.

Overseas, the AMF works with the ACCU on a variety of social responsibility projects. Its work has helped people who have limited access to credit in places such as Timor-Leste and Laos.

“We raise the funds, give the money to Asian Confederation and they provide training and expertise on the ground,” Mark explained.

Mark and Paul together with the rest of the board of directors oversee AMF, ensuring money is allocated fairly to the causes that need support.

Initially, the key pillars of support were local charitable activity, international development and disaster relief; however, more recently, AMF has added training and education in the co-op sector to its remit.

“We want to reinforce the principles of mutuality in Australia,” Mark explained.

The AMF has direct access to cooperative development education workshops overseas, in places such as Thailand, and to date has trained around 40 people.

How other customer owned banks can get involved

While Mark acknowledged that many customer owned banks have their own charitable outlets, he said international development is often the missing piece of the puzzle.

“We’re able to provide that support through our partnership with ACCU,” he explained.

Other customer-owned banks that are interested in participating in the activities the AMF offers – such as volunteering and input on charitable causes – can do so by making a donation.

“We deliver delivers tangible results that fit firmly into the category of social responsibility, and we create a real impact with what we do,” Paul explained.

Paul encouraged customer-owned banks to get in touch with him if they are interested via info@australianmf.org.

For more information about AMF, head to https://www.australianmf.org.au/

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