A finance program will tour through the Northern Territory and Western Australia to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders reunite with superannuation they might have never known they had.
Run by the First Nations Foundation (FNF), the Big Super Day Out will travel through communities providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with free help to recover their lost superannuation that could be split across several funds.
Since 2014, the event has returned more than $14.5 million of Indigenous super to its owners across 13 communities.
Amanda Young, the FNF CEO, told Pro Bono News that because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have some of the lowest financial literacy rates in the country, many were not aware that their superannuation existed, let alone how they could find it.
“It’s been news to many of them when we explain that 9.5 per cent of your wage is kept for your retirement,” Young said.
“They also need more help to find it than non-Indigenous Australians because they’ve got to get the internet somehow, they’ve got to find a tax file number, which a lot of them can’t find because of identification problems. The list goes on and on.”
On Wednesday, a report by the FNF found that 49 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders experienced severe or high levels of financial stress compared to just 11 per cent of the general Australian population.
Young said it was vital Indigenous people were able to access their superannuation.
“Around one in two Indigenous people are under financial stress, and they are trying to access their super at a greater rate than non-Indigenous people,” she said.
“So when Indigenous people are trying to access this super it’s really hard because the system is designed for your money to stay there until you retire.”
A number of financial organisations including AustralianSuper, Rest, Statewide Super, Australian Catholic Super, Christian Super, Suncorp, and HESTA have partnered with the foundation for the tour.
Young said that with the help of the finance industry, they could achieve long term change to create a finance system that benefited Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
“Success also hinges on the future involvement of the industry to participate, both in the roadshow but also in helping us define a long-term plan for engaging Indigenous Australians with their superannuation,” she said.
Representatives from the Australian Tax Office, the Department of Human Services, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and local Indigenous community organisations including financial counsellors will offer their services during the tour.
Young said that with nearly $2 billion in missing super in the communities they would be visiting across the NT and WA, what was really needed was a First Nations Financial Centre that provided consistent, culturally appropriate financial services.
“We’ve seen these really alarming figures with 75 per cent of Aboriginal people are struggling to access financial services, so we’re going to need a place to come together and work on this,” she said.
“We hope that as a part of that, Big Super Day Out… becomes a five day a week service where we can help people with their super any time they need it.”
The Big Super Day Out will kick off in Darwin on 14 July for two days, before moving west to Kununurra on 16 July, and Broome on 18 July. It will then finish up in East Arnhem during August.