Without a community bank Max Papley says there was a real possibility his vibrant town could have withered.
A director of Gippsland’s Lang Lang Community Bank Branch, Mr Papley is one of 700 Bendigo and Adelaide Bank delegates gathering in town this week for a national conference.
They will turn their focus on Wednesday to immediate community banking directions as well as the next 20 years, but many delegates’ thoughts will be turning to their own journey’s so far, including Mr Papley’s.
His community was the third to jump on the community banking concept when it was floated in 1998.
At the time, banks had pulled out of town and jobs were being lost with the closure of government depots.
The situation in town, and in others nearby, was so bleak that there were discussions about whether they would be left to die.
“That’s were we were heading. Some of us said that was not good enough, so we formed a town committee to see what we could do,” Mr Papley said
That group forged a strong relationship with the local council and, with the help of a local Rotary club, began work to revive the town and to establish a community banking branch.
Mr Papley said the build up to the community bank’s opening was phenomenal.
“We had a public meeting in a little township of 800 people and we had 330 people turn up … and we raised all the pledges we needed on the night to proceed to the feasibility stage,” he said.
Community banks are locally owned and operated companies which function as franchises of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.
Part of their appeal is the investment power they can bring for community causes.
In Lang Lang’s case, the community bank has reached the stage where it can help address a “deplorable” lack of sports-specific infrastructure in town with multi-million dollar investments, Mr Papley said.
In the past government investment had proven a stumbling block because of concerns about the location where sport could be played.
So the community bought some land for $1 million and gave it to the local council with the understanding something new would be built. They were also able to provide $2.2 million for works including a new grandstand.
The community’s actions and their ability to bankroll part of the project had helped attract investment from governments, Mr Papley said, breaking the deadlock over sports facilities and empowering the community.
”It’s going to be our field of dreams,” he said.
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