What is Bush Money Mob?
Welcome to Bush Money Mob (BMM) - the financial counselling program of the Earth Garden Foundation Australia.
BMM offers free and confidential financial counselling to a number of Aboriginal clients in the Kimberley region of WA. Our clients live from one end of the region to the other, from Kununurra in the north east, to the edge of the Tanami Desert in the south east, and across to the West Kimberley region and Broome.
BMM staff have lived and worked in the Kimberley for more than 20 years. Remote community members have made it plain to BMM staff that they want to work with Kimberley-based agencies - not agencies from Perth, Sydney, or Melbourne.
What is financial counselling?
Financial counsellors help people with intractable financial problems. We work with families and individuals facing financial crisis. We work with clients to advocate on their behalf to banks, debt collectors, Telstra, Super Funds, car finance companies, utilities, fine enforcement agencies, the ATO and more.
We try to help people get back on their feet financially by negotiating debt solutions that are equitable and realistic. Financial counsellors also help people to manage their money with budgeting, accessing interest-free loans, setting up automatic payments for household essentials, and savings plans.
Financial counsellors approach their work from a commitment to social justice and a strengths-based approach to working with their clients.
BMM has been helping clients during 2020 on a range of financial counselling problems including:
• helping a couple who face losing their family home through bank foreclosure;
• assisting a young woman who has been severely ripped off by Telstra;
• helping a struggling mum who needed urgent budgeting assistance and a home loan repayment holiday to stabilise her family life while recovering from workplace bullying;
• convincing a major bank to write off a large personal loan debt for a young woman who has had mental breakdowns and is recovering from addiction and family disintegration.
As well as helping individuals, BMM has contributed to important national campaigns this year on the following topics:
1. Assisting the ACCC as it investigates Telstra for its systematic sales campaign over four years to rip off remote Aboriginal customers with unaffordable mobile phone contracts that sometimes totalled over $18,000. BMM will continue to advocate for:
a) debt waivers;
b) refunds; and
c) compensation for remote Indigenous Australians ripped off by Telstra.
2. Reform of the ATO Indigenous Helpline, which is supposed to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access tax information more easily - but in fact has made it harder to deal with the Tax Office.
3. Reform of the Indigenous helplines operated by some of the major banks. For instance, until March 2020 the CBA insisted on “faxing-only” to any remote customer who rang their helpline wanting copies of their statements emailed to their financial counsellors.
EGFA financial counsellor and Chairperson, Alan Gray with community members in the remote Aboriginal community of Ardyaloon.