The residents of Parkdale had no qualms in commenting on the anticipated benefits of their new Community Bank® branch of the Bendigo Bank. Before the branch opened‚ according to the manager of the local Tattslotto outlet Julie Freeman‚ customers who were lining up out of the door at other banks would say loudly "this won't be happening when Parkdale Bendigo Bank opens!"
For the bayside suburb of Parkdale‚ located approximately 45 minutes from Melbourne‚ lack of banking services was becoming a major talking point. Although Parkdale itself had an immediate population of 3‚000‚ the surrounding suburbs provided a potential 8‚000-10‚000 dissatisfied people.
"Ours is one of those suburbs which tends to be forgotten about because we are off the beaten track‚" Community Bank® chairman Alan Carter said.
"Certainly the big banks forgot about us because both our branches closed and left us without a bank."
Mrs Freeman first heard of the Community Bank® concept when Upwey‚ in outer Eastern Melbourne opened theirs in October 1998. After ringing the Upwey branch to inquire about its success‚ she contacted the Community Bank® team in Bendigo and was sent an information package.
To gather support from Parkdale traders‚ Mrs Freeman distributed a notice informing them of her contact with the Bendigo Bank. A meeting was held which was well attended and a small committee was formed. It was decided that lists were to be left in every shop where people could register and show their support.
"We collected about 1‚500 names‚ addresses and phone numbers from the register. This was a great response and doubled as an immediate database to work on for pledges‚" Mrs Freeman said.
The committee arranged a public meeting that the Community Bank® team attended and pledges were called for. Presentations were also given to several community groups such as the senior citizens‚ and the Rotary Club.
"We asked everyone who attended the presentations to network with us as being such a small committee‚ we needed all the help we could get!" Mrs Freeman admits. "We had a really supportive response. Those that couldn't pledge promised to help out in other ways."
Every bit of effort from the community counted as the moved closer to the Branch's grand opening which was held on the 29th November 1999 and turned into quite an event. Australian fishing guru and local resident Rex Hunt opened the branch‚ along with the City of Kingston Mayor Cr Lesley McGorgan‚ Mr Carter and Bendigo's head of the project Russell Jenkins. Other festivities on the day included Santa Clause‚ a jazz band‚ buskers‚ horse rides‚ free sausage sizzle‚ face painting‚ balloons‚ giveaways and prizes.
Branch operations began brightly‚ After just two days of operation‚ there had been loans applied for‚ several investment accounts opened and the staff were working non-stop.
Just weeks later‚ the difference in the community could already be felt.
"The opening of the branch has had an extremely positive effect on community morale"‚ says Community Bank® chairman‚ Alan Carter. "It has been a great talking point around town and there is certainly a good feeling in the shopping centre.
"All the businesses are also very happy with the results. Not only has the branch encouraged other people to stay in the area to do their shopping‚ but it also seems to have attracted other people to the area to do theirs."
Mrs Freeman agreed. "The fact that profits are returned to the community‚ and that it gives back some control has been an excellent selling point for the community.
"The level of excitement amongst people has been high and a strong feeling of pride has developed in achieving their own bank. People comment on it being a wonderful concept.
"A large part of my day has been taken up by people coming in to thank me for getting the ball rolling. It has been a pleasure for me and I have learnt so much."
Mentone East Community Bank® Branch
A significant amount of work and public consultation has been undertaken in relation to the feasibility of establishing the Mentone East Community Bank® Branch of Bendigo Bank. A group of interested business proprietors and community members established the Thrift Park Community Bank® Steering Committee in July 2002 to evaluate the local support for a Community Bank® branch to be located at the Thrift Park Shopping Centre.
A public meeting was held in July 2002‚ attracting more than 100 people and another public meeting was held at the Thrift Park Shopping Centre in August‚ attracting over 80 people. Within just 4 months‚ the community had pledged more than $500‚000 toward the establishment and ongoing costs for a locally owned Community Bank® branch.
As a result of the strong support‚ the committee engaged an independent consultant to conduct a feasibility study in relation to the proposal. The results of the feasibility study were presented to the committee at a meeting held in December 2002 and it was unanimously voted to proceed towards the establishment of the Mentone East Community Bank® Branch.