Family comes first for Indigenous Australians
29 May 2019 at 5:35 pm
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in financial stress are putting the wellbeing of their family and community ahead of their own wealth, according to new research.
The First Nations Foundation (FNF), NAB and the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) surveyed more than 600 Indigenous Australians on the topic of financial resilience, finding that 49 per cent experienced severe or high levels of financial stress compared to just 11 per cent of the general Australian population.
More than three-quarters of Indigenous people said they had given money to their families in the last year, and while most did not mind being asked for this, some admitted it put them under financial stress.
FNF CEO Amanda Young said Indigenous money aspirations were traditionally modest, with the idea of financial wellbeing viewed through the lens of family and community.
“It’s not just confined to dollars; it’s how well an Indigenous family and the community around it are faring,” Young said.
“The report highlights a revealing, but not unexpected, fact: that one in two experience financial stress. That is why 75 per cent give money to family and friends.
“This research has the potential to reframe the conversation in Australia on what we truly value.”
For Indigenous people surveyed, simply having a full fridge or not having to worry about money was considered being “rich” or “wealthy”.
Putting a bit of money away and being able to look after family was listed as a money goal, with half of people surveyed admitting they did not have any money put away.
Fewer than two in five people said they could access $2,000 if an emergency arose, while 41 per cent said they had borrowed credit from a bank or Centrelink in the past year.
CSI CEO Professor Kristy Muir said this research showed that much more work needed to be done to include Indigenous Australians in the economy.
“We need to come together to improve the availability, accessibility and appropriateness of financial products and services,” Muir said.
“We need to support people who are financially excluded to avoid predatory or high cost products that lock them into perpetual poverty.
“This research provides guidance for where financial services organisations, governments, and not for profits can focus to help create meaningful social change for our First Nations people.”
NAB’s general manager of social impact, Sasha Courville, added that the bank would use these insights to better support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to improve their financial resilience.
She said the bank has already provided more than $15 million in microfinance loans to more than 16,000 Indigenous Australians since 2015.
“This research will continue to inform our understanding and the actions we take to better help our customers,” Courville said.
The report said further research with Indigenous Australians was needed to assess what financial products and services were most appropriate, accessible and effective for the community.