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Banks are happy to promote reconciliation, so why aren't they financially committed?

Guest Author -

Reconciliation has become a loaded term in Australian politics with many people claiming to know what it means but few actually committing to its practical implementation.

Reconciliation can be achieved in small ways as well as large ones, and one such way would be for banks to commit themselves to reconciliation through financial inclusion.

Banks are the main source of finance for Australians and they have the largest share of our wealth.

They are the lifeblood of our economy, but they are also gatekeepers to that wealth which is why they have a duty of care to First Nations communities.

Banks make more money than any other industry in Australia - we have no choice but to use them so it's important they take responsibility for their actions towards customers, particularly during times of hardship like a recession or housing crisis when people can't access credit as easily as they might otherwise do.

Reconciliation is about moving forward together and has been described as a process of seeking to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

It involves acknowledging past injustices, continued effects of those injustices and the imperial legacy built on the genocide of sovereign First Nations, and taking actions to redress them.

Reconciliation is an international human right that should be supported by Australian banks.

If they don't, they are not fulfilling their fiduciary duty as one of the main institutions tasked with helping people create wealth for themselves and their families through sound financial management.

This is a reality for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia, who are more than twice as likely to be financially excluded than the rest of the population.

We need to fix the problem of financial services being inaccessible to First Nations people.

A report from 2019 showed 75 per cent of First Nations people had some difficulty getting help from financial services in the past 12 months.

Access to capital is the most critical challenge for people to overcome the poverty cycle and empower them to achieve their self-determination aspirations.

At the end of the day, it's not enough for banks to pay lip service to reconciliation.

They need to commit tangible resources in order to make a difference.

This is what Indigenous Australians are calling on banks and corporate Australia to do right now.

It is unacceptable, and we need to take action now.

Dean Foley is a Kamilaroi entrepreneur and Founder at Barayamal (Black Swan)

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