Financial literacy, or financial capability, is widely agreed as being fundamental for financial wellbeing. This is particularly relevant in 21st century Australia, where the government’s policy of self-funded retirement is a critically important issue for most.
Research by ANZ revealed that when it comes to financial matters, a large proportion of the population has insufficient levels of the financial knowledge and skills needed to manage their finances into the future – this is specifically true for Australia’s Indigenous population.
In a bid to address the disparity that has occurred over centuries, leading Indigenous financial literacy organisation – First Nations Foundation – is on a mission to achieve financial prosperity for Indigenous Australians.
Highlighting this continued inequality, recent research conducted by First Nations Foundation, in partnership with the Centre for Social Impact and NAB, uncovered an alarming trend; one in two Indigenous people in Australia lives in financial stress, across urban, regional and remote areas.
The research also revealed that in the case of an emergency, Indigenous people are less likely to be able to access $2,000 compared to non-Indigenous people.
First Nations Foundation Chairperson, Ian Hamm said Indigenous people have the lowest financial literacy in the nation.
“This silent epidemic, where we have failed to target and educate Indigenous people about the economy when finally permitted to participate in it in the 1970s continues today, with our national research showing one in two suffer severe financial stress and 9 in 10 have no financial security,” he said.
Committed to changing what has become an inevitable path for many Indigenous Australians, First Nations Foundation has created the My Money Dream program – an online money skills training program, designed by Indigenous Australians, for Indigenous Australians.
Developed with the support of Indigenous Business Australia and Australian Unity Foundation, the program helps First Nations people aged 16 – 60 navigate the financial obstacles unique to their communities, including lessons on money and culture, budgeting, banking, superannuation, insurance, loans and credit, buying a home, buying a car and financial first aid.
On the success of First Nations Foundation’s training programs, it’s reported that of the participants, 90 per cent stated they had more confidence in managing their money, 83 per cent felt better equipped to handle their affairs and 70 per cent were more confident about their financial future.
Growing up in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, Sarah*, one of the program’s participants admits that the concept of saving was not one discussed or considered within her household.
“We genuinely never spoke about good spending habits or budgeting, so growing up money was always a struggle for me. I worked multiple jobs and still never had any savings whatsoever.
“I decided to give [the My Money Dream program] a try since I wanted to learn how to start saving and understanding certain aspects of finance. The different modules the program offered gave me a lot of insight into how to save smart and I have already met my [savings] goal for this year. It has helped me be consistent which was a big issue for me in the past,” Sarah said.
Bridging the financial literacy gap between Indigenous Australians and the wider population, First Nations Foundation is centred around four strategic focus areas, including education, community, partnership and leadership.
First Nations Foundation was formed in 2006 by the First Nations Credit Union, teaching financial skills to Indigenous people.
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*Sarah’s real name has been concealed for privacy reasons