Commonwealth funding for the Money Management Program ended in December – Where can Aboriginal People living In remote communities get help with money problems now?
Waltja Money Management service for remote communities ended on 31 December 2015 because the federal government ended the funding for Financial Capability and Well-being programs nation-wide. Waltja Directors are very sad that the Minister for Social Services has not continued the Money Management program.
Waltja has successfully provided Money Management services to 9 remote communities since 2011. Other organisations like Red Cross, Lutheran Community Care, Anglicare and Tangentyere Council have also provided Money Management or Financial Counselling services to remote communities and town camps in Central Australia.
Waltja Money Management program has involved two main types of work: community education about financial literacy, and support for individuals and families to solve money problems and to plan for the future.
The community education has included these training modules:
- Making the Money Last Until Payday, and Saving for the Future
- How can Banks, phone/internet and paperwork help?
- Credit and Loans: Hazards, Sharks and Traps
Waltja developed our own training materials to help workshop participants think and talk about money and share ideas and worries. We have made ‘the Waltja family’ of magnetic characters to enable participants to discuss income and expenditure, agree on budget priorities and develop savings plans without being shamed. Waltja has run these workshops for big and small community groups, for groups of workers (eg Aboriginal Education Workers, CLC Rangers, Night Patrol workers), and for family groups.
Over the years since 2011, more and more people have asked Waltja for help with personal money matters, like opening a bank account, internet banking, finding out about their Centrelink pay and CentrePay deductions, superranuation, taking out loans or finance agreements, and managing debt. Aboriginal people in central Australia are often vulnerable to scams or unfair money practices because of low levels of numeracy and English literacy, and also because money and financial management are not part of traditional culture. In addition, people living in remote Aboriginal communities have extremely high cost of living, due to massive mark-ups on food, and the high cost of fuel and travel. Our Money Management workers have helped people to talk up and ask questions about their payments and their entitlements, and we have referred them to financial counselors where they need more help.
Now the Money Management program funding has ended, but people are still asking for Waltja support. In the month of January Waltja staff directly assisted over 100 people with banking, internet banking, and enquiries about superannuation, family tax benefit and Centrepay deductions. This level of support is unsustainable, not just for Waltja but also for the other organisations which are trying to help in this crisis situation.
Where Waltja cannot help, we have referred Aboriginal community members to other services such as Regional Councils, Aged Care Services and youth services, none of which are funded to provide this sort of service. Lutheran Community Care, which receives funding for a Hub service in Alice Springs, does not have the capacity to do outreach to remote communities.
The crisis in demand is made much worse because Centrelink payments must now be made directly into bank accounts, and can no longer be by cheque. Community elders are speaking out about the problems of the transition from cheques to keycards, and also about the loss of a funded Waltja Money Management service.
STATEMENTS FROM COMMUNITY ELDERS
Audrey Turner: Mt Liebig 4th Feb 2016
I am worried about the old people. Who is going to help them? There is no one to help them.
Everyone needs keycard now, everything is changing, the government doesn’t want cheques to go to the community. It used to be that old people could cash their cheques at the store and the money would be kept in the safe at the store and be safe.
Old people don’t know how to use the keycard. People in families might steal that card, or take money out of their account. Even carers are stealing from old people. How can old people know how much money is going into that account, how much is left in that account? They need someone to help them.
Waltja Money Management helped old people. We want them to keep helping us. Out on remote communities people still need help, especially the old people and their carers.
ISOBEL GOREY: PAPUNYA 2nd Feb 2016
People on communities need help with money worries. We want Waltja to go there, especially for the mothers with kids. Some mothers don’t have keycards, they only have Basic Card. They are missing out on their money. Sometimes mothers lose their money on playing cards. Some come to town for a long time, not thinking about kids, leaving them with grandparents.
Waltja Money Management were teaching people the right way to look after their money and to look after their families. We want Waltja to go there to show and teach how to keep money safe.