New take on First Nations finance

A recent report by the First Nations Foundation (FNF) and the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) reveals widespread financial exclusion among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 75% of whom reported having difficulty getting help from a financial services provider over the previous 12 months.

The report also revealed a cultural divide in attitudes toward money, with three-quarters of survey participants saying they regularly give money to family and friends. “For First Nations people, the idea of financial wellbeing is viewed through the lens of family and community,” says FNF CEO Amanda Young. “It’s not just confined to dollars; it’s how well an Indigenous family and the community around it are faring.” Half of the 620 participants in the survey are not faring well financially. CSI CEO, Professor Kristy Muir, says it’s time for a rethink.

“The research shows that much more work needs 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.”


It would be interesting to know if the statistics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is similar to other Australians in similar locales and socioeconomic classes.

If it was significantly different, it would then demonstrate whether there is some unfairness of the sector towards ATSI people. If not, it may demonstrate that it is reflective of the locale/socioeconomic class as a whole.

Assuming there is a difference, the wording of the 75% also doesn’t provide enough to determine the case (the wording being ‘75% of Indigenous people struggle with accessing financial services’). Does the 75% relate to:

  • remoteness of many ATSI communities, or
  • reluctance of ATSI people to seek services/help or
  • is it more about refusal of services when asked by financial service providers.

If it is the first, there is opportunity to overcome this through mobile service provision which visits ATSI people in their homes/community rather than a reliance for travel to another centre for such services.

The second may be more challenging to overcome but could be done with relationship building and involvement of the service sector in the communities.

The later may need addressing if it is different to other parts of the community as it may show some form of financial service discrimination.


From personal knowledge there is not much if any hesitance for ATSI people to access finance. Again from personal knowledge they, if they live in remote communities do not have access many times to F/T jobs of a nature that pays well or are solely on Welfare payments and thus not meeting the requirements of many larger lenders eg Banks. Many are disadvantaged in the workforce as many tend to have police records that make it difficult to obtain work, a lot have poorer education that doesn’t help either, others have health issues even at young ages that make it difficult to find good work situations (eg fetal alcohol syndrome, drug abuse incl alcohol). Those who would otherwise meet criteria for lending are sometimes discriminated against based on their ATSI heritage eg skin colour or looks (not said but the discrimination is there).

What then occurs is they either obtain finance from less well intentioned or higher interest charging lenders eg Payday loans or a local loan shark. This puts them at greater financial disadvantage if they then seek finance from better providers to get out of the bad situation. Some in remote areas get “trapped” by what is called “book up” to the local Station.


Which responses and solutions should be encouraged?
It may be that in trying to draw comparisons with what we are more familiar with, we add to the confusion and lack of understanding.

The way forward needs to involve all communities. Some are remote, some are part of larger rural communities, and others within larger urban environments. Many of the challenges they face are shared. It would seem likely that there is also a need for flexibility in any response, listening for differences and in meeting requests.

The situation is not unique, with recognition and empowerment critical to success, fundamental to success for all in our broader community. What future for a convict until they had their ticket of leave’, or immigrants residency?

Recognising who was here first respectfully is also critical.


No, determining if the problem is systemic in all similar groups or whether ATSI people are treated differently. If these are known, then the issues leading to the barriers can be addressed appropriately.

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We could get into the semantics of can and could or even would, but history has shown regardless, it will likely not be although arm waving and perhaps pretty window dressing will be rolled out with no ATSI people needing to be involved.