Heritage Bank lends a helping hand to refugees

9 December 2021

Innovative social enterprise The Mulberry Project, which turns unused farmland into market garden crops grown by migrants and refugees, today received a major boost with Heritage Bank announcing it had become the initiative’s new major sponsor.

Founder and Managing Director Louise Noble started The Mulberry Project in 2016 when a Congolese friend noticed unused land at the family property in Nobby, and suggested members of the migrant community could use it to grow their traditional crops.

That initial idea has grown into a social enterprise that aims to turn underused land into market gardens and create pathways to careers in farming and food for disadvantaged communities. It strives to transform lives and land from scarcity to abundance.

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,” he said.

“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.”

Louise Noble said Heritage Bank’s sponsorship would help the Mulberry Project take its activities to a whole new level.

“We could not have asked for better news,” 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 and the Heritage Bank team.”

The sponsorship will enable the Mulberry Project to appoint a part-time volunteer coordinator who will liaise with three target groups – refugees/migrants, Indigenous youngsters, 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 to officers about current initiatives.

The project’s signature fund-raising event, the long lunch, will be renamed “The Heritage Bank Mulberry Project Long Lunch” in 2022.

The event takes place in September at the Toowoomba Showgrounds. It will bring together bank staff, food industry leaders, migrants and refugees, volunteers, Indigenous agriculturalists and trainees for a meal prepared using produce grown at the Mulberry Project’s garden plots.

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.

PHOTO CAPTION: Celebrating the partnership between Heritage Bank and the Mulberry Project are (back, from left) Dakhil Al-Ali, Ricky Adams, Heritage Bank CEO Peter Lock, (front, from left) Michelle Oliver, Nofa Ilyas, Louise Noble, Guljana Abdula and Nergis Abdula.

The Mulberry Project supported by Heritage Bank
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