Friday , February 26 2021

"How bad can it be to think that the police will arrest you because you did not pay an account?"

The endemic exploitation of indigenous Australians has been well documented but is expected to be little more than a passing note in the final report of the royal commission of Hayne when it is handed over to the government today.

Lack of financial literacy has been fueled by over a century of European restraints on the ability of the indigenous population to maintain their own money, intergenerational dependence on social welfare, low educational levels, geographical constraints and a perception that the financial world is out of the limits.

"You can not be what you can not see," said Benson Saulo, who at age 15 was the third indigenous trainee at ANZ for more than a decade, administered millions of dollars in assets at age 20, and was appointed as the Australian youth for the United Nations in 2011.

"There was little generational understanding of making money, saving, and planning."

Saulo, who is now head of partnerships at Australian financial services company Unity Wealth and Capital Markets, said there are unscrupulous traders because there is a real market that is not being properly serviced.

"We absolutely know that there is an industry that exists for the financially vulnerable that banks and other financial services can not or will not get involved in," he said. "It's in the basket very hard or they do not even know where to start."

The result has been chronically poor financial outcomes for the indigenous population.

On average, the retirement balance of the indigenous Australians is half that of the non-indigenous population.

Super is their greatest equity and only savings, but for those who live remotely, they have only about a 2% chance of navigating the system. In two weeks, First Nation's "Big Super Day Out" events located more than $ 14.5 million in lost superfores for more than 1,000 indigenous workers.

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, up to 50% of the funeral insurance is sold to Aboriginal consumers under the age of 20, at the same rate as non-indigenous people over 50 years of age.

Demand for financial advisors is already so strong among those in Arnhem Land, Cape York and other remote communities that need to get away, two in five seeking help. The First Nations Foundation expects the royal commission to convene the establishment of an Indian financial center, services that have existed in the US and Canada for more than 20 years.

Counselor and general manager of Cape York Audrey Deemal saw her clients sign water supply contracts for $ 14 a week, just to have a delivered and never refilled, free laptops distributed in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in HECS debts and baby photos that take years to pay and are only delivered when the child is a child.

"The emotional stress of these debts leaves them in a panic," she said. "How bad can it be, socially and emotionally thinking that the cops will accompany you and arrest you because you did not pay an account?"

Yorta Yorta chief Ian Hamm, chief executive of the Aboriginal Community Aboriginal Health Control Organization and the First Nations Foundation said that the scope of the actual commission and the limited time available meant he was being disappointed with his recommendations.

In September, the preliminary report concluded that "basic transactions" were baffled because financial institutions did not give proper recognition to Australian natives and that this evidence pointed to predatory behavior.

Hamm said the sector needs to look beyond charity and start building indigenous results in its core business units, developing financial literacy.

First president of Ian Hamm.

First president of Ian Hamm.Credit:Justin McManus

"We need to start talking about the future of the Aboriginal economy not just about individual stories about financial difficulties, to which the commission has limited itself," he said.

"Dealing with immediate problems is comfortable and lazy but you never get anywhere – a good day is just making sure things do not go back."

Ms Young said she was "so tired of Aboriginal people just being a dove in conversation about poverty".

"The first peoples of the nations are doctors and lawyers," she said. "I had doctors who called me to say that they do not know what to do with their money."

Eryk Bagshaw is an economic correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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