Australia’s tiny pool of qualified Indigenous financial counsellors grew last week when ten newly qualified men and women from Derby, Port Augusta, Alice Springs, Western Sydney, Cairns and Yarrabah graduated with a Diploma in Community Services (Financial Counselling).
The ten graduates; mostly employed as Financial Counsellors in communities across Australia are active in reducing rip-offs and improving financial literacy in Aboriginal communities.
The Cairns-based Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network which provides consumer education, advocacy and financial counselling services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples partnered with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to offer the Diploma of Community Services (Financial Counseling) course as part of its first National Indigenous Financial Counseling Mentorship Program.
ICAN CEO, Aaron Davis says the new graduates will increase the pool of accredited Indigenous financial counselors across Australia. “The low levels of financial literacy, coupled with high levels of poverty in Aboriginal communities leave these communities vulnerable to financial exploitation and targeting by unethical and predatory sales representatives.
“The best way of combating rip-offs is to empower the communities themselves with the skills and confidence to deal with the shonks at the community level and our graduates, now armed with proper accreditation, are already taking on the rorters and assisting community members with financial counselling and other services”, said Aaron Davis. “The beauty of this result is that most graduates are community members themselves who live 24/7 in these communities and who are employed by agencies to lift the financial literacy of the whole community.”
He said that one of the reasons for ICAN’s success was its partnership with strong mainstream financial corporations such as the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Government. “It’s a partnership model that works very well and builds on the strengths of the three sectors; community, corporate and government.”
Executive Manager of Indigenous Banking, Peter Harm said, “CommBank is very proud to support the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network as it empowers indigenous people and enables them to protect and enhance the financial needs and wellbeing of their community, something that is very important to us.”
New graduate Bettina Addo works out of ICAN’s Cairns and Yarrabah offices and says her qualifications have given her greater confidence in assisting residents to understand their consumer rights and responsibilities.
“I recently received two complaints about door to door sales of Vacuum Cleaners in Yarrabah with contract values of $2000.00 each. The clients were unaware that they had signed direct debit forms and questioned why money was coming out of their accounts. Through our investigations the vacuum cleaner franchise manager identified that one of his employees who visited Yarrabah to drop off a vacuum, signed up 36 residents in one day to boost sale figures. The franchise manager was deeply concerned about his employees actions and waived the 36 contracts, resulting in a $72,000 windfall for the community.”
For more information or to watch the video on the Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program follow this link http://ican.org.au/programs/ .