We couldn’t be happier to welcome our new CEO Phil Usher to the First Nations Foundation. We sat down for a chat…
Tell us about your background…
I’m a proud Wiradjuri man from Central NSW. Dad grew up around the Parkes Dubbo area and that’s where a lot of family are, but I grew up in Tamworth so I have a strong cultural connection there. I went to a high school that had around 30% Aboriginal student population which meant there was always a lot of culture about; plenty of food, dance and music. I’ve actually been fortunate enough to share the stage with uncle Roger Knox and play in a band with his grandsons.
After high school I went to University to study a Business degree that lead to working in the public service. I managed the Sydney Indigenous community team for Centrelink, which was equal parts challenging and rewarding.
I obtained financial planning qualifications and moved into a financial consulting role before leaving the public service to be a business advisor.
Why are you so passionate about financial prosperity for First Nations people?
We are at a really exciting time for Aboriginal people around financial prosperity. We are now seeing Indigenous employment go beyond the entry level roles and into management and quite senior roles in the workforce. This means a significant growth in income where we now have that opportunity to start creating a wealth legacy for our families. With the right education and implementation, we’ll start to see intergenerational wealth being passed down and finally having Aboriginal people start in front of the eight-ball.
What are your priorities for the first 90 days as CEO of First Nations Foundation?
The first 90 days will be all about people. Internally that is ensuring that staff are on board with the strategic direction of the Foundation and providing them with the necessary tools and support to excel in their role. Externally, it’s about getting face to face with our current partners whilst building new partnerships to propel the organisation forward.
What is your long-term vision for First Nations Foundation?
My vision for the foundation is to be the leading educator and authority on all things relating to Indigenous finance and wealth. We are seeing a rise in the Indigenous middle class and there is a real opportunity to consolidate that and turn it into intergeneration wealth.
Becoming a core component of a Reconciliation Action Plan will be a big part of that. If we can motivate organisations to commit to the financial wellbeing of their Indigenous employees, that would have massive flow-on effects for the wider community.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
On a week-to-week basis it’s either playing guitar or playing with my two Schnauzer pups that are too cute to ignore! Outside of that I love travelling with my wife. We managed to get to fifteen countries last year including spending Easter lunch in Italy with my wife’s family. That 9-course meal was something to tick off the bucket list!
What is one fact about yourself that might surprise us?
I love baking! My new year’s resolution in 2019 was to learn how to bake. I find the process of making breads, pastries and desserts almost like a meditation, not to mention tasty. In my down time I’m often watching SBS food to get inspiration for my next cooking conquest.
AUSTRALIA, 12 November 2019: First Nations Foundation (FNF) today launches the world’s first digital financial literacy education program to help First Nations people develop their financial knowledge.
While the content of My Money Dream has been developed by Indigenous people for Indigenous people, FNF has added the might and scale of Australia’s largest industries by offering this to the financial services industry, government and employers to engage with their Indigenous customers and staff. The training is a validated training program, adapted from 10 years of face-to-face delivery by the foundation and transforms the lives of individuals, their family, friends and communities.
“We released research in 2019 showing the alarming statistic that 9 in 10 Indigenous people have no financial security. This cannot be transcended without financial literacy, and we are enlisting the help of government and industry to help reach and build a financially-savvy Indigenous population.” First Nations Foundation CEO, Amanda Young, said.
“This is the first step in our Indigenous financial wellbeing strategy. My Money Dream is a brilliant and low-cost way to bring financial knowledge into the lives of Indigenous people at scale. Potentially we can teach tens of thousands of people, because everyone has a digital device.
“We are asking financial services who want to connect with their Indigenous members to buy My Money Dream and offer it, as a powerful way to build skills and trust. We ask governments to help prepare our Indigenous workers of the future with money skills, for people on cashless welfare cards to skill up and exit that system and for employers to attract and retain their Indigenous staff with this professional development tool. We have done the hard work: expert content. All they need to do is buy licenses and start offering to their desired audience.”
Developed with the support of Indigenous Business Australia and Australian Unity Foundation, the program helps First Nations people aged 16 - 60 navigate the financial obstacles unique to Indigenous people, including lessons on money and culture, budgeting, banking, superannuation, insurance,
loans and credit, buying a home, buying a car and financial first aid. Using a clever blend of culture, humour and deep knowledge, it is an engaging learning platform.
“Financial knowledge is a powerful tool for prosperity across communities,” Australian Unity Head of Partnerships Benson Saulo said. “Our ongoing commitment across the Indigenous community is enabling economic empowerment – financial literacy and wellbeing is a critical element of that.”
The platform gives philanthropists who want to create social change in Indigenous communities the power to do so, by allowing them to fund the purchase of user licenses to be distributed on their behalf.
The first philanthropic organisation to purchase licences is the Rowe Family Foundation, managed by Perpetual as trustee. Perpetual’s General Manager of Community & Social Investment, Caitriona Fay, commented on the support of the Rowe Family Foundation:
“As trustee of the Rowe Family Foundation, Perpetual is proud to support Indigenous businesses and communities. Philanthropy has a responsibility to back Indigenous-led organisations who are looking to tackle issues like financial literacy and who are seeking to improve the overall wellbeing of our nation’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”
The Wunan Foundation will be the first recipient of donated licenses. “Financial literacy education is a vital educational tool in building necessary life skills that equips people both young and old with the financial knowledge, resilience and awareness to manage effectively in mainstream society today” explains Tanya Hill, Manager Financial Wellbeing & Housing Services, Wunan Foundation.
My Money Dream is built on the success of FNF’s in-person financial literacy training, delivered to 1200 people over the last 10 years, where results showed 90% of participants had more confidence in managing money, 83% felt better at managing money, and 70% were more confident about their financial future, confirming recent research that Indigenous-led products work (Oxfam In Good Hands, 2019).
The adaption to an online format was completed by edu-tech leader Androgogic “Androgogic is proud to be a key partner supporting First Nations Foundation and we were delighted to be able to provide both the Educational Technology infrastructure and the courseware development for the My Money Dream project,” said Alexander Roche, CEO/Founder Androgogic & Principal Educational Technologist.
“We are at a time where First Nations people have digital access,” FNF Chair and Yorta Yorta man Ian Hamm said. “This Genesis Generation now have the digital tools for Indigenous economic participation. We offer a meaningful way to learn about money which has personal development elements to work within their community expectations, while still achieving personal goals.”
To purchase licenses for My Money Dream please visit mymoneydream.com.au or email email@example.com.
How did a tiny charity of two people manage to find $24 million Indigenous superannuation in 21 Indigenous communities across six States?
Amanda Young, CEO of First Nations Foundation explains: "Never doubt a small group committed to financial wellbeing for Indigenous Australians!
“We have all the ingredients that are needed. We are agile, and we made a one-stop-shop caravan for all superannuation needs. We are trusted by both the Indigenous communities around Australia and the superannuation sector; and we are driven, because our First Nations people deserve their hard-earned work entitlements.”
With a specialist team of people from the Department of Human Services, the Australian Taxation Office and 14 superannuation fund volunteers, Amanda and project manager Emma McCashney led 45 people to seven communities in 2019, visiting Darwin, Kununurra, Broome, Gapuwiyak, Galiwin'ku, Milingimbi and Ramingining. There they met with Indigenous community partners who had prepared the way, including bringing in financial counsellors.
Along the way the Big Super Day Out broke record after record.
"The most superannuation we found in one day was $2.57 million in Kununurra, Emma said. “Our community partner Wunan generated so much interest, people drove six hours to see us. It was a pretty lively day in the park in Kununurra!"
“Each trip results in more superannuation being located and now we average above $1 million each day,” Young said. “In tiny Milingimbi, home of the 2019 Young Australian of the Year, Baker Boy, we helped a record-breaking 97 Yolngu people reconnect with $1.97 million of their super funds, located thanks to the promotion in Arnhem Land by ALPA, under CEO Alastair King's leadership."
First Nations Foundation is quick to point out it has had much help in refining its program with laser-like focus. ASIC helped the Foundation to develop a remote service model by leading an expedition into APY Lands in Central Australia, and bringing Firs Nations Foundation along as a partner. The Australian Tax Office placed a staff member on secondment in the Foundation to share knowledge. The AIST, as a superannuation peak body, has been the principal sponsor the past four years and its CEO Eva Scheerlinck has personally attended five events. Our other community partners have included MoneyMob Talkabout in central Australia, Cape York Partnerships, NCIE in Redfern and Broome Circle, and all have been invaluable in helping on the journey.
What was the critical factor for success?
"Trust. Indigenous people turned out in droves because they trust Indigenous non-profits when they hit town,” Chair of First Nations Foundation, Ian Hamm, explained. “Sadly, among Indigenous communities that trust is lacking when it comes to government and financial services, so we are proud to take a leadership role in bringing everyone together: with stunning outcomes. Just imagine what $24 million does to 21 small Indigenous community families."
First Nations Foundation has been overwhelmed with calls from Indigenous communities requesting a visit. It hopes to turn this into a national program, visit more locations and find hundreds of millions of Indigenous superannuation entitlements.
Maybe this is why First Nations Foundation has been nominated as Best Small Charity in Australia? They find out if they have won on 27 September 2019.
Do you think Big Super Day Out should become a national program? Vote here:
Many Indigenous Australians are not receiving a warning that if they have less than $6000 in a superannuation account, it will be on the move to the Australian Tax Office and when that happens, automatic insurance cover will be lost. First Nations Foundation is trying to alert people around the country to these changes, coming on 1 July 2019.
Amanda Young, CEO of First Nations Foundation said: "Now is the time to tell everyone you know to check their superannuation. First Nations people deserve to make informed choices". This includes whether people want to keep paying insurance premiums in case something happens and they can't work any more (called TPD or total permanent disability insurance) or to keep track of where their superannuation is going.
First Nations Foundation is the only non-profit that travels around Australia helping Indigenous people with their superannuation. Their Big Super Day Out program travels to Darwin, Kununurra and Broome in July 2019 and then to four remote Arnhem communities in August 2019.
For the ABC story on this go here: ABC story
For a website to help you decide what to do: timetocheck
Groundbreaking research by First Nations Foundation reveals the extent of financial disadvantage Indigenous Australians are struggling with. Chair Ian Hamm says it's not good enough. We think it is time to create a place where financial services, Indigenous communities and government can come together, collaborate and fix this. We need access to our money. We need education on financial products and services.
INDIGENOUS FINANCIAL RESILIENCE PUT TO THE TEST
In a ground-breaking collaboration between First Nations Foundation and the Centre for Social Impact, research into the financial position of Indigenous Australians has been released. Forming part of a research series conducted by one of Australia's largest banks, the National Australia Bank, the research tells us much work still has to be done but there is hope for a brighter future.
For the first time, the superannuation industry is helping give guides to people to understand how much superannuation they need. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers can now compare where they are with where they need to be. Check now, the sooner you get onto this the better. If you fall short, consider making contributions (extra payments). If you talk to your payroll they can explain how - you can do it before tax or after tax.
The national Indigenous financial foundation has been left scratching its head on how the Banking Royal Commission recommendations will fix a 43% financial exclusion rate for First Nations people. In a disappointing blow, very little has been done to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's and build Indigenous financial knowledge.
For our media release: