This paper provides context for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers’ interactions with banking and financial services, especially in remote areas across Australia. It also provides background information and detail on Australian government policies and programs relating to Indigenous Australians which may assist the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry as it undertakes its inquiry.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face unique barriers to participation in the financial sector due to historic economic marginalisation and low intergenerational wealth transfer. Historical policies which restricted Indigenous wealth, home ownership and business ownership continue to burden Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This has led to Indigenous businesses being undercapitalised and the need for government interventions which are improving the lives of Indigenous Australians.
These barriers are compounded in remote Australia, where access to essential financial infrastructure and fit-for-purpose banking and financial advice is limited. There are also more fundamental barriers such as lower levels of financial literacy, and limited exposure to people with higher levels of financial literacy.
Some of the major banks have Indigenous banking units. However, despite these units, some banking products are not tailored to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in regional and remote areas. For example, a lack of appropriate support relating to mining royalty or native title payments, and financial and banking support being unavailable in Indigenous languages, can create additional barriers for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Indigenous Affairs is a national priority for the Australian Government. The Indigenous Affairs Group within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) provides advice on the Closing the Gap policy and programs to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.