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Connexus : Issue 37
www.abacus.org.au 46 Connexus At the East New Britain Savings and Loans Society, in Papua New Guinea, members are well used to the principle of saving. For them, it dates back many generations to a time when shells were used for money and villagers also used food products as a form of currency. The 30,000-member society is one of 20 organisations in PNG's credit union movement which has made impressive progress since it began in 1961 with some support from the Reserve Bank of Australia. Today it has a combined membership of 250,000. The peak body in PNG, the Federation of Savings and Loan Societies (FESALOS), was a founding member of the Oceanic Confederation of Credit Union Leagues (OCCUL) and recently became a full member of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). On September 9-16, CUFA will hold the fourth Pacific Credit Union Technical Congress in the PNG capital, Port Moresby, in collaboration with WOCCU, OCCUL and FESALOS. The event will be combined with a study tour to Kokopo, in the province of East New Britain. Kokopo is where the East New Britain Savings and Loans Society has its head office. The society was barely established in 1994 when its then base Doing the neighbourly thing in PNG The society was barely established in 1994 when its then base in Rabaul was destroyed in a devastating volcanic eruption. Learning more about the PNG credit union movement at this year's Pacific Credit Union Technical Congress. By Catherine Drummond in Rabaul was destroyed in a devastating volcanic eruption. It now has nine branch offices in the rural areas surrounding Kokopo. Its 69 paid staff serve cocoa and copra producers, fishermen and the waged middle-class. Members pay 20 kina (about $7.70) to join and are required to keep a minimum balance of 50 kina in their primary savings accounts. Targeted savings accounts for children's school fees, Christmas spending and business investment are also on offer. The average balance per member is about 500 kina. Most of the society's marketing is done through the local radio station and village meetings. The organisation also targets schools and sponsors the local rugby league team. At last year's inaugural congress in Port Moresby, the attendance of five PNG participants from other regions was sponsored by Australia's Circle Credit Co-operative as well as Fire Brigades Employees', CUA and Manly-Warringah (now Northern Beaches) credit unions. Maritime, Mining and Power Credit Union also demonstrated its strong connection with a Pacific neighbour by sponsoring the attendance of two staff from Tuvalu Maritime Credit Union. If you are interested in a similar act of sponsorship for this year's Congress, email Anne Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (02) 8299 9270. -- Catherine Drummond is CUFA's international projects supervisor. COMMUNITY