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Financial literacy is empowering.

Chaired by Dr Luisa Lombardi, Deakin Business School (DBS) recently hosted its 2016 Indigenous Accounting and Business Conference.

A common theme by many of the keynote speakers, and across the panel sessions, was the financial literacy knowledge gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Financial literacy enables Indigenous people to become active members within the economy and gives them the tools to control their own financial independence.

The overarching aim of the conference was to raise further awareness about the role that business and finance can play in furthering the economic development of Indigenous peoples in a positive and culturally-inclusive forum.

Key sessions included a keynote address from Amanda Young, CEO of First Nations Foundation and panel sessions on the role of financial literacy in Indigenous communities and embedding culture in business.

In her keynote, Ms Young passionately shared the mission for First Nations Foundation which is to provide education, engagement and solutions.

The Foundation aims to provide Indigenous people with the tools and knowledge to understand and increase their engagement with financial literacy.

‘Financial literacy is empowering … [but] financial literacy without financial inclusion is meaningless. Financial inclusion without financial literacy is dangerous,’ said Ms Young.

Rebecca Harcourt, Program Manager, Indigenous Business Education at the UNSW Business School, supported this viewpoint and reassured conference delegates that financial literacy is not a foreign concept within Indigenous culture.

‘Business practices have been happening across the many first nations of this country for 60,000 years’ she said.

Mere George, Executive Member of Nga Kaitatau Maori o Aotearoa, GHA Chartered Accountants & Management consultants, also shared how the Maori people had successfully integrated financial literacy into their everyday conversations and traditional values.

‘Financial literacy is an absolute necessary for Indigenous communities,’ she said. ‘The Maori are traditionally innovative, entrepreneurial and adaptive.’

By transforming traditional Maori culture in modern economy, through Maori trust investing and economic growth, he said that the Maori were able to create intergenerational wealth by growing their asset base to NZ$42.6B in 2016.

Ms George explained that the Maori are an example to Indigenous Australians about the successful integration of financial literacy within a traditional, first nations’ culture. 

‘Financial literacy does not have to come at the cost of culture.’

Shelley Cable, Miss NAIDOC Perth 2016, said that if Australia’s Indigenous people are given the tools to access the knowledge to gain financial intelligence, there is no limit to the economic enhancement and financial freedom that can be achieved.

‘Financial intelligence (I think) is linked to self-empowerment… Financial intelligence equals empowerment; when we can control our own wealth we can control where that goes.’

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