In the late 1990s‚ banks were withdrawing services from communities across Australia in the pursuit of economic rationalism and greater efficiency. The problem with this strategy is that local communities were being left without the critical economic and financial services needed to keep communities vibrant‚ and both individuals and businesses struggled to manage financial and banking needs with extended travel and further inconvenience.
With the withdrawal announced in 2000 of the last full branch of a bank operating in Freshwater‚ the community decided to do something about it‚ and called a public meeting. From this meeting a Steering Group of local people were formed to begin the challenge of raising the profile of an opportunity for a Community Bank® through Bendigo Bank Limited and to gain sufficient financial pledges of support from the community to make it happen. HFS Limited was incorporated and the Steering Committee formed the inaugural Board of Directors to oversee the implementation of the branch.
In February 2002‚ the new Freshwater Community Bank® Branch of Bendigo Bank opened in the old Westpac building at 20 Albert Street, Freshwater. Now managed by Sandra Kleiner‚ a Bank Manager with many years of experience, and since 2002 the Freshwater branch has been able to donate over $1.8 MILLION back into our local community in the form of sponsorships‚ grants and donations.