By Peter Dewar 

    Inner west – your bank sure knows how to party. In May, to celebrate their eighth birthday, Seddon Community Bank held a Pitch Night. And if this was any measure of community spirit, your neighbourhood is in good shape.

    The premise was simple: local community, sporting, and performing arts groups had three minutes onstage to persuade sponsors to dole out cash for a good cause.

    The bank co-opted 21 businesses as sponsors. 19 groups came to pitch, and with nearly $22,000
    in the kitty, pitchers walked away with upwards of $500. More than likely, double that – a helluva lot of sausages to sizzle on a cold Saturday arvo.

    Walking into the Yarraville Club’s function room at 7pm, you might’ve wondered if this was a buy swap and sell or the Logies. Around the auditorium-sized room, community groups had set up tables and banners. Sponsors could do the circuit, mingle, ask questions. But we’d come to hear pitches, and in turn, the brave took to the podium for their carpe diem three minutes.

    A 200-strong audience heard a song in aid of a female-friendly footy club room; watched a black and white Movietone-style video for an oven to bake scones; listened as the final minutes of a basketball game were re-enacted for two Wi-Fi enabled tablets. And in an unscripted moment, the MC was bumped, roller-derby style, in the service of team uniforms.

    For the work they do, the needs of community groups are relatively modest. A mobile coffee cart, a mahjong set, swimming pool hire, warehouse and hall rent, broadband fees. $380 will get an anatomical model of a heart to run a health program.

    A pitch night is a showcase of volunteer outreach, which goes far beyond addressing disadvantage. These groups record history, tell our stories. They encourage us to play sport, sometimes delivering Olympic medalists. They entertain us, show us who we are. They run weekend festivals. They welcome newcomers. They give individuals an opportunity to shine.

    Kevin Harrington was MC and host for the night. He’s a familiar face in Australian-made films and television. “That was once me,” he said, after a theatre group of spirited adolescents left the stage after pitching.

    Community Pitch 2017: they performed, sang a song, brought a baby along… all the way to the bank.

    Community Pitch is the brainchild of a handful of bank directors. “Thought it up over a few bottles of red wine,” says Andy Moutray-Read, CEO of the local company that owns the Bendigo Bank franchise. The Seddon Community Bank team were easy enough to pick out. For a start, they wore red Bendigo Bank polos. As well, they were beaming. “This makes it all worthwhile,” one says.

    And no wonder they’re smiling. Eight years ago, residents decided they wanted a local bank, so they bought one. Together mums and dads, tradies and small business owners formed Inner West Community Enterprises and bought a Bendigo Bank franchise.

    Each year, the bank invests $100,000 into the community – a savings program for schools, funds for community groups and sporting clubs. The Pitch Night is merely another way to churn money into the inner west. In total, over the course, they’ve managed to return half a million dollars to the community. On top of that, shareholders, perhaps your neighbour, received a 7 per cent dividend on their investment last year. And tonight they get to play the good guys, and girls.

    Pitching over, the room is a bubbling broth of happy faces. “Look,” says a bank director. For a few moments, we gaze at people chatting, shaking hands, discovering ways to help one another till she adds: “Even without the money, they’re more sustainable than they were three hours ago.”

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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