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Opinion: Indigenous financial support, a driver of change

As the Big Super Day Out approaches, for the first time we at First Nations Foundation can feel that there is change in the air.

In the short time since the federal election result was announced, there has been a boost in optimism around the providers of indigenous financial support and counselling. With the appointment of Minister Ken Wyatt to the role of Minister for Indigenous Australians, there is a belief that meaningful change may be on the way. It is needed.

The Big Super Day Out is the largest initiative to reunite Indigenous Australians with their superannuation, and this year the event will kick off in Darwin on Sunday July 14, before visiting Kununurra (Tuesday July 16) and Broome (Thursday July 18) in Western Australia. Across four dates in August, the roadshow will travel across East Arnhem in the Northern Territory.

The need for this type of engagement is clear since we launched our Money Stories report in tandem with the Centre for Social Impact last week. It is the largest deep dive into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ relationship with money and highlights just how difficult it is for Indigenous Australians to engage in the financial system, and this exclusion is leading to clearly poorer outcomes. Events like the Big Super Day Out help to bridge that gap.

To date, the Big Super Day Out events have returned more than $14.5 million in Indigenous super to its owners across 13 communities, with more than 1100 people helped. In one case, and elderly man was reunited with a defined benefit account holding $750,000, which helped him away from relying on the Aged Pension and into an annual $60,000 pension.

There is $1.98 billion of lost superannuation in WA and NT collectively, so we expect to dramatically change the lives of many more Indigenous people who struggle to access financial services.

First Nations Foundation is an Indigenous non-profit that receives no government funding to carry out its activities. The cost of reaching the WA and NT targeted communities is high but we know the returns will be significant for both Indigenous Australia and the superannuation sector.

The Big Super Day Out is a one-stop shop, helping First Australians with all superannuation needs across urban, regional and remote communities, and connecting super funds, as well as associated insurers, with Indigenous members.

The roadshow would be unable to operate without the support of industry, and in 2019 is gratefully supported by a range of financial organisations including AIST, AustralianSuper, Rest, Statewide Super, Sunsuper, TelstraSuper, Australian Catholic Super, Cbus, Christian Super, Equipsuper, HESTA, MLC, MTAA Super, Suncorp, WA Super and ASFA.

When 50% of the Indigenous population are in financial stress — compared to 10% of the general population — we need to do more.

Superannuation has a very important role to play in Indigenous financial wellbeing: if 9 in 10 Indigenous people are financially insecure, it might be the only way to reversing that position.

Amanda Young is the CEO of First Nations Foundation.

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