Super fund bosses have been invited to join the corporate regulator on a meet and greet tour of remote Indigenous communities in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in 2017.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) wants senior representatives from super funds to join them on a trip, planned for late 2017, to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia.
As Investment Magazine has previously reported, Indigenous communities face barriers to financial inclusion and have substantially less superannuation coverage than the general population. ASIC hopes the trip will give the leadership teams of super funds some direct exposure to the barriers Indigenous people living in remote communities face to accessing superannuation. It comes after QSuper made a number of improvements in how it engages with members living in remote Indigenous communities following an outreach visit with ASIC two years ago.
“Consumers living in very remote communities experience the most obvious barriers to access and are often in the greatest need of assistance in accessing their superannuation entitlements,” ASIC Bianca Leigh told the Indigenous Superannuation Summit on Friday.
Leigh is a lawyer in ASIC’s indigenous outreach program.
Senior members of government departments have also been invited, as policies also need to improve if effective solutions are to be developed, she said.
“No date has been locked in at the moment but it’s likely that it will happen in the second half of next year.”
ASIC will cooperate with a local financial counselling agency on the APY lands. The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees is a partner in the initiative and will be coordinating workshops.
“In order to maximise the potential from the current momentum we’d like to offer the opportunity to see senior members of the funds to participate in a trip to an indigenous community with us, similar to what QSuper has done in the past,” Leigh said.
Leigh praised QSuper’s implementation of a range of “innovative” solutions in response to the senior leadership attendance on a trip with ASIC to the remote Aboriginal community in Lockhart River in 2014.
One of the problems that QSuper’s leadership became aware of was the unreliability of post in these types of areas and how this can lead people to lose access to their superannuation. In remote areas, post will often go to a central location, such as the police station or the community centre, and members may have to travel hundreds of kilometres to collect it.
Australia Post has systems in place where the mail that is not collected it is returned to the sender, which can cause difficulties for members when coupled with the super funds’ policies that once a number of items are returned that person is deemed lost and their funds are moved to the Australian Tax Office.
“QSuper has identified postcodes where it is likely the majority of their membership base is Indigenous and where significant number of members are lost or about to be lost. Qsuper has then worked to locate those members and return funds to their account, or where a condition of release has been met assisting the member in obtaining that entitlement,” Leigh said.
She added some initiatives may seem very labour intensive at first, but the tangible benefits include a growing awareness and engagement by the broader community in the superannuation system.
“Once a few people in the Indigenous community are able to understand superannuation and know how it works, then very quickly many in the community become more actively engaged in their super,” she said.
The Indigenous Super Summit is an initiative of the Indigenous Superannuation Working Group, a cross industry collaboration between AIST, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, the Financial Services Council, Women in Super, and a handful of super funds. The working group is chaired by AIST executive manager governance and stewardship Eva Scheerlinck.