SYDNEY, Australia – Australian banks probably didn’t mean to help credit unions down under, but as they continue to withdraw their services from regional and rural areas, credit unions are moving in and benefiting. This was substantiated by the Credit Union Services Corporation of Australia, Ltd. (CUSCAL) when it released new growth figures. “Nationally, credit union membership has grown by 1.1% from June 2000 to June 2001. Several States have witnessed significant increases over this national growth figure: with New South Wales recording 8.4%, Queensland 2.7%, ACT 17.1%, and South Australia /Northern Territory 1.3%,” Peter Hansen, CUSCAL’s public relations and media manager said. In some regional centers, over 50% of the adults are active members of credit unions. In smaller areas that figure jumps to 75%. Nationally 25% of the adult population belong to credit unions. Karin Hawkins, CUSCAL Head of Industry Development, said that it’s no surprise that credit unions are growing and taking up the banking and financial service void left when major banks pull out of regional centers. “Banking is really an essential service, and we’ve found that regional Australia willingly embraces the community ethos espoused by credit unions,” said Hawkins. “As banks leave a region, communities band together to find alternative banking services that are in tune with their needs. In most cases they turn to credit unions as they are based on community values of service, loyalty and a fair go,” Hawkins said. CUSCAL was an active member of Credit Care, which worked with the government to find financial service alternatives for people left without any. Interestingly, banks are also closing in more urban regions, and once again credit unions are moving in to take up the slack.
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