November 25, 2015

An Indigenous financial counselling service that works with some of the poorest people in Australia is being forced to close its doors due to Federal Government funding cuts.

The Tangentyere Financial Counselling service has been operating in Alice Springs for more than 20 years, supporting people living on town camps and in remote communities.

Tangentyere Council CEO Walter Shaw said the loss of the specialised financial counselling services will directly impact on people who most need assistance dealing with money matters.

“Our financial counselling and capability services have helped 1083 separate clients on 2582 occasions over the past two years alone,” Mr Shaw said.

“These are people struggling with debt and credit issues, who need support to increase their financial literacy and awareness.

“Tangentyere has built up a reputation as a safe and culturally appropriate place to seek assistance on sensitive financial issues over more than 20 years. Losing this service will penalise people who most need it.”

Mr Shaw said under new tender arrangements the Federal Government had implemented a ‘one size fits all model’ with Northern Territory financial support services and slashed available funding by almost half while increasing the scope of the work.

“Tangentyere has great respect for the organisation that has won the regional tender but they will not be able to fill the gaps left by the funding cuts.

“For example, our financial counselling service regularly helps:

·         Clients with payouts such as insurance. We operate a trust account that allows clients to meet their family obligations in relation to the sharing of money in a financially responsible way. This is very important culturally and no other service offers this

·         Clients who have disability (TPD) claims under superannuation policies. Many are not aware these avenues of support exist. As an example, clients who stop work because of illness such as renal failure have been assisted to make TPD claims which have helped address short and longer term financial issues

·         Assisting families locate funds to pay for funerals and estate issues. Our service assists around 200 families a year after the death of relative.

“The reduction in funding and change in service delivery means that people already facing financial hardship will no longer be able to access trusted and culturally appropriate services to assist them.

 “Minister for Social Services Christian Porter will be seen as Malcolm Turnbull’s Ebenezer Scrooge with this decision.

“It strikes at some of the country’s most destitute, already struggling to cope with low incomes, high levels of debt and increasing costs of living.

“The cuts to our service will have flow on effects for emergency relief organisations, as people struggling to pay debts will need to seek food and other assistance to make ends meet.

“Financial stress is also associated with poor health, homelessness and increased levels of family violence.

“And of course there are the job losses, many of them Aboriginal workers, associated with this decision to slash funding. All this in the lead up to Christmas – a financially vulnerable period at the best of times.

“We are at a loss to understand the rationale behind this decision and call on Minister Porter to reinstate the $150,000 Tangentyere needs to continue our successful financial counselling service that empowers Aboriginal people to take control of their finances.”