April 2, 2020

By Phil Usher

A word from the CEO

By Phil Usher

April 2, 2020

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It is impossible not to think about the unfolding pandemic as I write this, but above it all I think our business life must go on. While our travel has been cancelled for most of the year, we must do our outreach and engagement through the same mechanisms that the rest of the world must. For a charity that depends on support from industry, this puts us in a really challenging position – but all charities face trying times, and how we adapt and overcome will help define how we view our work in the future.

This is an exciting time for the First Nations Foundation, but there remains much to do.

In January, I was honoured to take over as the CEO of First Nations Foundation. While I am new to the role, I am well versed in the workings of our Foundation, having been a board member and Treasurer for the past four years.

I know first-hand how hard it is to keep a small charity like ours operating. This includes finding the funds year after year to keep the door open, through to finding industry partners to help us deliver our superb programs, including both our My Money Dream online learning platform, and our pioneering outreach program, the Big Super Day Out.

To enable us to reach the people we need to, we depend on the support of industry, and we are thankful to both the financial services industry associations and the individual businesses within that sector for the support they have given and continue to give. We would not have been able to achieve all we have in recent years without the financial and industry support of the Financial Services Council and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, in particular. We have also worked with the Centre for Social Impact on the groundbreaking Money stories report, which has helped define the magnitude of the challenges facing Indigenous Australians. I hope we can work together again soon.

In February we saw yet another disappointing report from government on its closing the gap initiatives – the traditional plans are not working. There needs to be a fundamental rethink of what it means to deliver strategies and services that create meaningful change for Aboriginal Australians.

We have long advocated for the inclusion of Indigenous organisations in the delivery of these initiatives, given these organisations fundamentally know best how to work with the people who need support. There is an inherent distrust of government agencies among our communities, through decades of mismanagement and below par outcomes. There needs to be real change.

We have clear metrics on the success we can achieve when we engage with our communities. We leverage this to bring government agencies along with us, under our banner. This approach has seen us achieve unprecedented success when it comes to creating change. For each dollar spent through the Big Super Day Out, we return $37 to the super system, under the control of its Indigenous owners. We can look to the one-off stories where people found over $100,000 in their super they weren’t aware of, but we prefer to look at the $24 million we have located across 21 Big Super Day Out events

As a charity that exists to provide financial support to Indigenous Australians, it is sad to see how many across the broader population will likely need this support in the near future. We were fortunate to have filmed a series of 20 educational videos in March – before the lockdown – and we’re trying to find a way to share these to the general public in a way that they can be seen. Once we find a mechanism, we will let you know and will ask you to share with your networks.

You can see an example of the videos we made if you click here.

Thank you for being a supporter of the work we do, and we hope this regular email serves to keep you informed about the work we do.

Phil Usher

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