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Indigenous people record high rates of financial stress

Eelemarni Close-Brown -

First Nations people are experiencing financial hardship at twice the rate of non-Indigenous peers and increasingly turning to the independent umpire for support.

Financial complaints from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have soared by 13 per cent in the past year.

More than 2500 disputes from Indigenous people were lodged with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority in 2022/23, comprising three per cent of its overall workload.

The three most complained about products were transaction accounts, personal loans and credit cards.

And the most common issues were unauthorised transactions including scams, delays in insurance claims and service quality.

But the rates of financial hardship are of particular concern to the ombudsman.

"The fact that there are more than double the proportion of complaints about hardship among First Nations peoples is of great concern," the agency's June Smith said.

"We call on financial firms to do more to address this.

"We encourage firms to be more proactive about identifying First Nations customers in hardship and working with them to alleviate their financial problems."

Dr Smith also stressed the need to improve financial inclusion for Indigenous people.

"First Nations peoples should be served by organisations that are culturally aware and engaged in culturally sensitive practice," she said.

Indigenous consumers and small business owners under financial stress were encouraged to ask for flexible options such as longer deadlines and seek referrals to free support services.

"People can appoint a representative - whether that's a friend or family member or a financial counsellor - to walk alongside them during the process," Dr Smith said.

Eelemarni Close-Brown - AAP

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