Published by the Federation of Netherlands Societies in NSW (1985)

The difficulties of the ‘first’ assisted immigrants were many, “housing” being one of the greatest problems. Although in post—war Holland housing was difficult to come by, eventually, if one was patient enough, the government would look after you. Not so in Australia, where capital was so scarce that even Australians themselves found it almost impossible to get finance for housing. The various Netherlands societies, confronted with the problems of their members, sought ways and means to obtain funds for housing and in 1956 they were successful. An amount of 100,000 pounds was made available by the Commonwealth Bank to start a Terminating Building Society especially for Dutch immigrants. The Board of Directors of the “Netherlands Co-operative Building Society”, consisting of representatives of the various Netherlands societies, was responsible for the allocation of the loans. The day-to-day running of the Building Society was in the very capable hands of an Australian secretary, the late Mr Keith Downing. The directors were faced with the mammoth task of dealing with a large number of applications for a limited amount of money. They spent many hours carefully judging each application on its merits and allocating the loans to the most deserving. Of that original Board of Directors, three members are still left.

In every respect the initial scheme was a great success. The Directors and the Secretary carried out their tasks competently and fully justified the trust placed in them by the Bank and the Netherlands Emigration Service. The Dutch proved to be reliable borrowers, who always met their commitments promptly. But there were still many Dutch immigrants in need of housing finance and the Netherlands Government, acknowledging their plight, succeeded in raising an amount of $A2,670,000 in the form of a loan from the United States Development Loan Fund, a unique and first loan of such a nature granted, and which reflected great credit on the initiative and standing of the Netherlands Government.

The Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia became deeply involved in the planning of how the loan from the Development Loan Fund should be utilised and its implementation. Mr W.P. Conley of the Bank was the architect of the three housing schemes and he has written the following synopsis of these schemes:-

“It was on the initiative of the Netherlands Government that the first overseas housing scheme was created to provide financial assistance to Dutch immigrants in Australia to build or buy their homes.

The Netherlands Government from the beginning of the post-war emigration programme, accepted the responsibility of assisting their emigrants to find jobs in Australia and in 1958, in view of the shortage of finance for housing, in addition, moved to assist their emigrants financially to obtain adequate housing.

In August 1958, at the suggestion of the Australian Government, representatives of the Netherlands Embassy in Australia approached the then Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr H.C. Coombs, with the news that their Government had been successful in negotiations with the U.S. Development Loan Fund for a loan on $A 2.67 m. to house their emigrants in Australia. The loan was granted on the condition that the $ 2.67 m. be matched dollar for dollar by Australian savings banks. The Governor was asked for assistance in implementing the loan.

The Commonwealth Savings Bank, in view of its experience in lending for housing, was nominated to act as Agent for the Netherlands Government in the disbursement of the overseas funds and to arrange the matching Australian funds; the Bank was also requested to devise a scheme by which the total funds involved of $ 5.34 m. could be lent to Dutch immigrants.

The CSB accepted the role of Agent under an agreement executed in April 1959 for a nominal service fee of 0.25% on the outstanding balance of the overseas loans. There were of course a number of complex technical and legal problems to be solved, including the exchange risk on the overseas funds, but the bank was able to overcome the difficulties. It was decided the best and most efficient way to disburse the funds was through State Government guaranteed terminating co-operative building societies in the various states in which such societies operated. The State Government Guarantee was an attractive factor to the Netherlands Government.

With regard to the matching Australian funds of $ 2.67 m. required, outstanding and instant co-operation was displayed by four other savings banks when approached by the CSB to form a consortium to provide the funds, the result being as follows:

Commonwealth Savings Bank    $ 1,070,000

Bank of N.S.W. Savings Bank      $ 700,000

ANZ Savings Bank                        $ 400,000

State Savings Bank of Victoria    $ 300,000

 CBC Savings Bank                        $ 200,000

Total                                             $ 2,670,000

In 1960 a second scheme was formed involving the same banks and an overall amount of $ 5 m. (including matching funds) was quickly disbursed.

A third and final scheme was implemented in September 1966, this time involving an overseas amount of $ 2.5 m. from The Netherlands and on the basis that this amount was to be matched on a $ 2 to $ 1 formula as against the previous dollar for dollar.

To provide the extra $ 2.5 m. the CSB on behalf of The Netherlands Government approached the various State Governments which readily agreed to provide the required matching funds under the Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement. This was considered fully justified in view of the ingredient of self-help contained in the proposal and that by joining in the scheme, overseas funds of $ 2.5 m. would be engendered into the Australian economy for housing, of which there was a grave shortage.

On this occasion, nine savings banks joined in the consortium to provide the matching funds of $ 5.0 The three Netherlands schemes combined, provided an overall amount of $ 17.84 m. as set out in Attachment “A”. (See Appendix 2). The schemes are unique in Australia and their outstanding success a great credit to all concerned.”

So far Mr. Conley.

For a complete resume of the three schemes see Appendix 2. When one realises that the average family who received a loan under the schemes consisted of father, mother and four children, some 15,000 individuals benefited from them.

Below is appendix 2

In the DAW below see page 12 for an article on the Building Societies. Indicating that in 1991 the Building Societies were dissolved. Remaining funds were transferred the the Queen Wilhelmina Benevolent Fund

See also: Netherlands Benevolent Trust Fund