First Nations Foundation has received a large grant for their Indigenous Women’s Financial Wellness (IWFW) project which seeks to empower First Nations women’s economic futures.

The $790,000 grant was provided to the Foundation as part of the Federal Government’s Women’s Leadership and Development Program.

The grant will enable IWFW to be implemented for three years and for the Foundation’s award-winning ‘My Money Dream’ financial literacy program to be available to 1,000 women across 20 regional communities.

First Nations Foundation chief executive and Wiradjuri man Phil Usher said ‘My Money Dream’ has a lasting impact on participants.

“Those who have completed the program are more likely to stick to a budget, engage with financial services and take positive action to improve their financial situation, alongside marked improvements to their attitudes and beliefs,” said Usher.

“These critical skills open opportunities for Indigenous women to gain control of their financial independence, create awareness of potential financial abuse and connect them to superannuation, insurance and legal support.

“It’s also important to note that this will be led by the Aboriginal women within the organisation. Essentially this is women’s business, and we want to create a safe environment for sharing stories and experiences.”

IWFW project participants. Photo supplied.

IWFW is dedicated to tackling work participation challenges, with projects aimed at increasing employability, retention and overall wellbeing of participants as they enter the workforce.

Larisha Jerome, IWFW project lead at First Nations Foundation, said the project is a holistic approach to financial health.

“Growing up these things were never talked about in my family, so it’s crazy now that we are talking about it more and people are sharing their experiences,” she said.

“‘Money shame’ is a very big barrier for a lot of people we work with and especially women. Our aim is to redress the economic injustice that we face — not only for Indigenous people but for Indigenous women in the community.”

The program works to also educate women about the signs of financial abuse.

“We focus on how we can empower women and how then we can empower the community around understanding and eliminating financial abuse,” said Jerome.

“We have to empower our women. We are so capable, but we just need to be empowered.”

IWFW project lead Larisha Jerome. Photo supplied.

In 2019, First Nations Foundation, the Centre for Social Impact and NAB released research which confirmed that one in 10 Indigenous Australians are financially secure, compared to one in two Indigenous Australians.

Usher says breaking down ‘money shame’ is the first step toward breaking down barriers for Indigenous women.

“By breaking down these barriers and empowering and inspiring through education, we embark on a more holistic approach to detect the underlying effects that it has on our Indigenous women,” he said.

Jerome said it’s about taking that first step.

“A lot of people feel that financial guilt when they are in hardship, but it is about starting somewhere. If you are aware, you’re taking the first step to change — there is always a way out of financial hardship,” she said.

By Rachael Knowles