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The Australian National University

Banking on Indigenous communities: Issues, options, and Australian and international best practice

Working Paper 18 / 2002


The ability of people to manage and budget their incomes, arrange to pay third parties, purchase food, goods and services, and maintain a level of financial and economic independence and planning, all rely on maintaining informed access to appropriate banking and financial services.

The rhetoric of economic independence is commonly employed as a laudable objective for Indigenous peoples. However, there is little evidence of systematic attention being applied to ensuring Indigenous Australians can even enjoy equitable levels of access to those essential banking and financial services that are taken for granted by other Australians (Reconciliation Australia Strategic Plan 2001–2003).

Aims of the workshop

This background paper has been developed to inform and stimulate discussion on some of the issues that will be discussed at the workshop on ‘Improving banking and financial services for Indigenous Australians’. It is not prescriptive, nor does it attempt to cover all the issues involved.

A key aim of the workshop is not merely to describe current challenges but to identify and debate possible options for the future. The options contained in this paper identify potential ways of improving Indigenous people’s access to banking and financial services by building on positive initiatives and experiences. To this end, workshop conveners are conscious of the need to identify realistic and practical ways forward, as well as recognise that there are no instant or magic solutions to what are often complex problems. Reconciliation Australia believes the workshop provides an important first step in br