Issues BMM help solve with clients . . .
A ranger from a remote community sought help for 12 months to consolidate her Super. She was refused help each time she visited the ‘closest’ agency, which does not visit her remote community. So she drove for six hours to visit a different agency in August 2019.
That agency found she is probably eligible for more than $60,000 in TPD insurance. She had no idea.
A ranger drove seven hours with his daughter to a ‘Big Super Day Out’ in mid-2019. While the local financial counsellor was away at lunch, a relieving staff member from the same local agency turned the man away, saying: “We’re not funded to help people from your area.”
Hidden Telstra debts
At a ranger workshop in a remote community in September 2019 two of the three rangers had Telstra plan debts over $4,500 each, with no idea how to get help, and no time in work hours. One of them was also stressed about a long-term car debt.
Saddled with the debt
A well-meaning Ranger Co-ordinator in a remote WA community talked recently about helping a ranger who was very stressed about an old debt to a collection agency.
Unfortunately, the Ranger Co-ordinator helped the ranger onto a long term repayment plan, whereas a financial counsellor would have examined the original contract for faults and advocated for a debt waiver, or negotiated a large reduction.
Based on years of Outreach experience in remote communities, the following financial counselling issues are the main ones encountered in remote communities.
Telstra phone plan debts
Aboriginal customers from poor remote communities have been targeted by Telstra for ‘upselling’ to unaffordable contracts.
Remote community members are highly mobile. So it’s highly likely people in other remote communities will have large Telstra debts.
Car loan debts
A common problem in remote communities is when a couple buy a secondhand 4WD for say, $20,000. The car yard organises finance through Toyota Finance. The car is written off; the couple later split up; the wife is forever pestered by debt collectors.
Same day loans and other online debts
‘Digital debt’ companies like Cigno are rampant in their online sales to remote people, lodging $250 to $350 loans in people’s bank accounts. We regularly see a $250 loan balloon to $1100 with added fees within two months. Internet gambling is also a problem.
Consumer leases (2400% pa interest for household goods) open the door for NILS (No Interest) loans to be explored via community stores.
Some companies exploit remote Aboriginal people for consumer ripoffs because of the guaranteed Government repayment called Centrepay. Cheap, poorly-made household items are sold at inflated prices via a two year, open-ended Centrepay registration with Centrelink.
Centrelink (under-payment or wrong payment)
Many people in remote communities somehow survive longterm on Jobseeker when they should be on Disability pensions. The difference in weekly income ($273 vs $440) is the difference between extreme poverty and modest comfort. Financial counsellors can get the ball rolling for a DSP application and also help refer people for assistance to other agencies that never visit.
Rangers, school teaching assistants, gardeners, clinic staff, and other remote community workers often have Super without knowing it. The 2019 Big Super Day Out in Broome (Super speed dating where Super Fund staff are matched up with Indigenous workers with lost Super) uncovered $2.64 million in one day for 68 people.
But these were all Indigenous people from Broome or other towns along ‘the ribbon of bitumen’. None of the people came from the remote communities.
Many remote community members would benefit from free assistance to do their tax returns. Some financial counsellors do an annual training course with the Tax Office to be registered ATO Tax Help volunteers. They have helped many remote people complete their tax returns and obtain refunds, or stop the ATO letters which threaten people with huge fines.
Hardly any people from remote communities understand TPD insurance — or that they may be eligible for payouts that dwarf their Super balance. For instance, BMM has helped someone with only $450 in Super to get a $177,000 TPD payout.
Death insurance & Wills
As with TPD, many people are unaware of potential death insurance benefits their family has paid for through monthly premiums. Taking $30 will kits into remote communities to assist people to complete basic wills can have a huge impact later on when claiming death insurance.
These cost $50 each and it is a long, torturous process to obtain one if you live far from towns like Broome. BMM would like to establish a budget to pay this cost for people in financial hardship.
Emergency Relief (ER)
Town-based financial counselling agencies often have an annual ER budget to help people in financial distress who cannot afford urgent needs like food, shelter, bus fares, petrol money for funerals, power cards, birth certificates, or clothes.
But there has never been an ER budget allocated for people who live in remote communities who have the same problems as town-based Indigenous people.
BMM would like to apply for an ER budget to provide assistance.