In terms of our role in the community, one of the most important things that we do is finance economic activity. For local communities to grow these communities need the construction of infrastructure whether private or public. As a result of having branches and staff based in many Queensland communities, we have a deep understanding of the local economies and a genuine appetite to provide finance for business expansion and new home construction that is necessary to support economic development.
In the six months to 31 December 2023, we provided more than $420 million in new loans to help people buy homes and cars and make business investments. This compares with the total loans issued in the 22/23 financial year, which totalled $657 million.
Another important benefit we provide to communities is the provision of community grants. We have concluded this annual process recently and have announced approval for grants to 12 not-for-profit associations for a total of $144,000. These funds will assist the recipients to develop social infrastructure that include improvements to a BMX track, recycling machines and improvements to a kitchen for Meals on Wheels, to name a few. Our goal with the grants is to help make regional communities more liveable.
A major focus for the Bank in the next six months is making investments in digital systems to improve the banking experience for our Members. We will be making further enhancements to our mobile app and website to provide more convenience for people who want to transact or receive information online.
Another area we will be communicating to Members on is frauds and scams. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in the past six months of Members losing money as a result of being encouraged to make fraudulent transactions. These are payments and transfers our Members are willingly making that result in being a scam. These scams include overseas investments, online romance scams, online Marketplace purchases, etc.
We will be increasing our efforts to highlight what are considered risky transactions so Members can be better prepared to determine what might be a fraud or scam and avoid these. If you do believe you have made a payment that is fraudulent, please call us with urgency to see if we can assist you to recover the funds.
In addition to increasing the awareness of scams with Members, Queensland Country will be improving our systems to increase our protection of Member funds. The Government through their agency Scamwatch, the Australian Banking Association (ABA), Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA), and the National Anti-Scams Centre, have announced the new Scam-Safe Accord.
The Accord establishes six initiatives which are aimed at making banking safer for Australian consumers and creating friction and roadblocks for the perpetrators of fraud. Queensland Country, as a Member of COBA, is bound by the Accord and we have commenced planning work to ensure compliance with the initiatives within timeframes established. Scams and frauds are a financial burden on the whole community, and we will be making our contribution to the industry initiatives to reduce the opportunity for perpetrators of fraud.
As a Queensland based business, we make efforts to stay in touch with what is taking place in local communities. The Board and executives have recently spent some time in Ipswich, that included a Board meeting and a business lunch with local business people. This enabled us to better understand the challenges and opportunities in Ipswich and also what the banking needs of that community are.
In 2024, the Board and executives will be holding Board meetings and Member meetings in Mount Isa, Cairns, Townsville and Brisbane that should build on our understanding of these communities.
I wish everyone a safe and relaxing holiday period and would like to acknowledge your ongoing support of our Bank.