Banking Beyond Borders: How an Australian Credit Cooperative is Supporting Ukrainians Displaced by War

WOCCU

Ivanna Bernyk immigrated to Australia from Ukraine 25 years ago, joining the Ukrainian Credit Co-operative, Dnister, as a teller in 2000. Ivanna is now the Credit Co-operative’s Lending and Member Services Executive and says working more than 20 years at the organization was a simple decision thanks to the amazing team, who feel like an extended family.


So, when Ukraine was invaded by Russia earlier this year, it was second nature for the Dnister team to come together and do everything they could to support their fellow Ukrainians in Australia and abroad.


“It’s a personal thing for many of us. We are all from Ukraine or have family and connections there,” Ivanna said. “We set up a special application form so people could apply for an account while they were travelling and displaced. Part of our office space has also been set up so Ukrainians who have arrived in Australia can access donated clothing, food, and other supplies."


Within days, Dnister had set up online resources in Ukrainian that explained the Australian banking system, community and products available to those displaced by the war and considered a move to Australia.


Alina Muliarchuk was one of those displaced Ukrainians grateful for Dnister’s support. Having fled to Western Ukraine from Kyiv when the invasion began, Alina and her family made their way to safety in Poland. With no job and an insecure future, Alina looked to her friends overseas for support and advice.


Searching for opportunities around the world, she found a job in personal banking advertised with Dnister, applied immediately, and was interviewed and appointed shortly afterwards.


“When I came to Australia, I was really surprised there was such a large Ukrainian community – people who could speak my language and understand my culture,” Alina said. “I didn’t expect Australia to be like Ukraine, but I had a warm feeling when I arrived and it’s a place where you can build a future and there are lots of opportunities.”


Now Alina works to support others who are coming to Australia to find safety and new opportunities.


“When people first arrive, they are coming from a war to a country with a different culture and a different language. They come to us and need a lot of help, and we treat them like a friend," she said. "At first, they are stressed and panicked. But we understand their situation, we can speak their language and answer their questions. It’s important for them to know we understand.”


The Customer Owned Banking Association is proud to have Dnister as a member, and their work to support displaced Ukrainians is another example of how customer-owned banks provide essential services and support for their community.


To find out more about Dnister Credit Union and how they are assisting Ukrainians coming to Australia, visit their website.


This post was provided by Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA), World Council's direct member organization in Australia.