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Financial inclusion and First Nations peoples

04 July 2023
• 5 minute read
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Financial inclusion is part of Great Southern Bank’s DNA. We began life as a collection of member-owned credit unions back in the 1940s and are today squarely focused on our purpose to help all Australians own their own home.

One guiding principle has remained consistent throughout our history: to support the aspirations of all Australians, including those who have traditionally found it difficult to access financial services.

Great Southern Bank’s commitment to financial inclusion was formally documented in September 2020 with the release of our first Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP). We have since completed all its actions and released our second FIAP on June 30 this year.

The reality of financial exclusion

One group of Australians has suffered more than most from financial exclusion – namely Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. ASIC’s Indigenous Financial Services Framework , published in February 2023, suggests historic legislation, policies and events prohibited and excluded First Nations peoples from engaging with the financial system.

The continuous impact of these means access to money and financial services has generally only occurred in the last two or three generations for many First Nations peoples.

In March 2019, the Centre for Social Impact released a report called Money Stories, which gave a more detailed picture of the situation than had previously been revealed.

Among its key findings were the following:

  • Almost 50 per cent of First Nations peoples are in severe financial stress (compared to 11 per cent of the general population).
  • Only 10 per cent are financially secure.
  • 52 per cent have no savings.
  • 75 per cent struggle to access financial services.
  • 25 per cent use fringe credit such as payday loans.
  • 38 per cent have no insurance.

While these statistics are concerning, ASIC’s Indigenous Financial Services Framework encourages financial institutions to take a strengths-based approach. We acknowledge that the cultural values, norms and resilience of First Nations peoples are a strength, and we appreciate that their aspirations (including financial goals) sometimes differ from those of broader Australia.

Housing and homeownership

It’s a similar story when it comes to housing and homeownership. A report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2021 revealed the extent of First Nations peoples’ disadvantage in the housing market. Once again, it should be noted that this situation has arisen due to complex and layered issues.

  • Only 30 per cent of First Nations adults are homeowners  (compared to 66 per cent of the general population).
  • 20 per cent of First Nations households experience unacceptable standards (defined as having at least one basic household facility that was unavailable or having more than two major structural problems).
  • 10 per cent of First Nations households experience overcrowding.
  • First Nations adults living in remote areas are less likely to own their own home and more likely to live in social housing.

Great Southern Bank’s Reconciliation Action Plan

In December 2021, Great Southern Bank released its inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). In doing so, we joined a network of more than 2,000 corporate, government, and not-for-profit organisations that have made a formal commitment to reconciliation via Reconciliation Australia’s RAP program.

The RAP’s primary purpose is to build the foundations needed for Great Southern Bank to meaningfully contribute to reconciliation. For us, this starts with helping our leaders and team members increase their understanding of and connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their unique cultures and languages.

Ultimately, the aim of this RAP and all future RAPs is to build a pathway towards successfully:

  • Building the cultural capability of our team.
  • Attracting and retaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team members.
  • Considering the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the design of our products and services and how we deliver on our purpose.
  • Including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses in our supply chain.

These strategies were chosen specifically because they contribute to the financial inclusion and wellbeing (or economic participation if you prefer) of First Nations peoples.

A series of 35    targeted actions were identified to begin our journey to the above (all of which have now been delivered upon), with a second RAP due for release later this year.

You can read the full plan by clicking on the link above, but highlights include identifying and building partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders in the communities in which we operate, encouraging and empowering team members to take part in external reconciliation events such as NAIDOC week, and actively seeking to recruit First Nations peoples and businesses to our workforce and supply chain.

Now and into the future

Following consultation with First Nations stakeholders, we recently publicly supported the Uluru Statement from the Heart. As a customer-owned bank founded on fairness and social purpose, and one which today strives to help all Australians own their own home, we felt it was the right and proper thing to do.

Going forward, our second RAP, due later this year, will be an ‘Innovate RAP’. This is in recognition of the fact that it will contain innovations such as increasing First Nations representation among our workforce and supply chain to improve the economic participation of First Nations peoples, and exploring solutions to better support existing and new First Nations customers, particularly when it comes to owning their own home.

Responsible banks aren’t necessarily more expensive

There is a perception that you should expect to pay a premium for  socially and environmentally responsible goods and services. However, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, a responsible bank could even save you money. To find out how, check out our article on the subject here.

Important Information

Great Southern Bank, a business name of Credit Union Australia Ltd ABN 44 087 650 959, AFSL and Australian Credit Licence Number 238317. Conditions, fees and charges apply. This is general information and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Consider the appropriateness of the information, including the Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) booklet, before acting on it. The Financial Claims Scheme may apply to this product; refer to the T&Cs for more information.

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