The non-major bank is funding the social enterprise that turns unused farmland into market garden crops grown by migrants and refugees.
Toowoomba-based lender Heritage Bank has become the new major sponsor of The Mulberry Project, a social enterprise that aims to turn underused land into market gardens and create pathways to careers in farming and food for disadvantaged communities.
The social enterprise was started in 2016 by Louise Noble (founder and managing director) after a Congolese friend noticed unused land at the family property in the Queensland town of Nobby, and suggested members of the migrant community could use it to grow their traditional crops.
Ms Noble said Heritage Bank’s sponsorship would enable The Mulberry Project to appoint a part-time volunteer co-ordinator who will liaise with three target groups: refugees/migrants, Indigenous young adults, and schoolchildren – to participate in the program.
Under the sponsorship agreement, Heritage Bank staff will also be invited to participate in the project’s activities, including working with volunteers, and those volunteers will make regular presentations about current initiatives.
The project’s signature fundraising event, the long lunch, will be renamed “The Heritage Bank Mulberry Project Long Lunch” when it takes place in September 2022.
Ms Noble said: “The Heritage Bank major sponsorship is going to help make so many impossible goals possible again, including a migrant training centre, native plant nursery, expanded market garden, schools program, English language working bees and future NDIS psychosocial support program.
“We will be eternally thankful to Peter [Lock, Heritage Bank CEO] and the Heritage Bank team.”
Heritage Bank CEO Peter Lock said, “The Mulberry Project fits perfectly into the ‘helping hands’ theme that now over-arches our sponsorship approach.
“This initiative embodies the idea of providing a hand-up, with our support helping people help themselves.
“Toowoomba has a global reputation as a community which cares, particularly for refugees and migrants. The Mulberry Project is a very practical way for new migrants and refugees to gain skills and self-esteem, and to contribute in a very positive way to the local community.
“We’re thrilled to be able to throw our support behind The Mulberry Project.”
Heritage’s partnership with The Mulberry Project adds to the range of initiatives it has underway to support diversity and inclusiveness, in particular to assist new migrants and refugees.
This includes Heritage employing two community liaison officers from the Syrian community in Toowoomba to assist migrants with their banking needs, running seminars on the Australian banking system in Arabic, and providing the Speak Your Language translation service for members.