In its third year of running the Indigenous community outreach program, First Nations Foundation is quadrupling its efforts. Is your fund involved yet?

All the speakers and chairs at the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds (CMSF) 2018 will be thanked with a donation to First Nations Foundation on their behalf.

The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) is a community partner to First Nations Foundation, which provides leadership to enable First Australians to achieve financial prosperity. The donations raised via CMSF 2018 will be used to support the foundation’s Big Super Day Out events. These are outreach programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The objectives of the Big Super Day Out are to help people find their lost super, to consolidate accounts, and generally to educate the community on the benefits of superannuation.

Ahead of heading to Brisbane to attend CMSF 2018, First Nations Foundation chief executive Amanda Young took some time to answer a few questions for Investment Magazine, and discuss the plans to make Big Super Day Out even bigger this year.

Q: You spoke recently about there being a ‘three-speed economy’ in Indigenous Australia. What did you mean by that?

A: Within the Indigenous population, the gap is widening between the haves and have nots.

This was evident in the results of the 2016 census, which showed the employed cohort (mostly urban workers) increasing their income faster than the mainstream, which is excellent news for superannuation.

But among the middle cohort, those dealing with insecure work and underemployment (and mostly residing in remote locations), incomes are standing still.

The cohort we should all be most concerned about, however, includes those living in very remote Australia, where the average incomes of Indigenous people are contracting.

The Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at the Australian National University has done some excellent research on these trends.

First Nations is quadrupling the number of Big Super Day Out events it runs in 2018. Can you tell us more?

That’s our plan and we need superannuation sponsors and volunteers to do it!

Now with Big Super Day Out in its third year, we want to expand the number of outreach locations − from two in 2017, to eight in 2018.

At each event, we offer members of the community a complete health check on their super as general advice and refer them back to their fund (or funds) for further action.

Since 2016, the Big Super Day Out has been held in Sydney (twice), Melbourne, and Brisbane.

This year, we plan to visit five very remote communities on the APY [Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara] lands in central South Australia, then Brisbane, Cairns, and three very remote communities in Cape York.

In 2019, our focus will move to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.

What benefit do these events provide for the community?

We are so proud that in four days of Big Super Day Out events we have reunited nearly $1.2 million of lost superannuation with Indigenous Australians and helped 120 people with 1450 queries about their super.

We keep data that shows low financial literacy means awareness of insurance cover, investment options, and choice of fund are low.

We get a few queries about binding nominations and mothers being able to sleep at night knowing their children have been covered. The most constant feedback is people wanting us to come back. Far from being reluctant, once people start talking about their futures, they become highly engaged.

Superannuation can be a blessing for Indigenous Australians because it is mandatory savings and most likely the greatest asset in their lives. It has the potential to change lives but there is a catch: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders still have a 10.6-year life expectancy gap, so many, sadly, do not make it to preservation age. As incomes increase in the Indigenous working cohort, the opportunity to create a comfortable standard of living increases but, at the same time, it has great power to alleviate poverty in hardship, either for the individual or their family as beneficiaries.

At the Brisbane event last July, one man had no clue that he had $37,000 in superannuation until we pulled him into our tent (voluntarily), searched with our partners at the ATO, and delivered the news. He left a pretty happy customer, because he was also at preservation age.

Why should super funds become a Big Super Day Out sponsor?

Plenty of reasons. Firstly, it’s good corporate citizenship and if you have a Reconciliation Action Plan, you can tick off a range of achievements, all aligned with your core business.

Your staff get a great experience assisting people with queries while learning cultural competence, and we offer tiered sponsorship packages across the events starting from $10,000. The pleasure of helping change someone’s life in one day is such a rewarding experience and volunteers want to sign up for more.

Previous volunteers have learnt a lot from witnessing firsthand the challenges members face in trying to engage with their super on patchy wifi, deal with not having enough identification, and in many cases just figure out something new when they weren’t previously even aware they had super!

Volunteers will also get to experience the stunning country in which Indigenous people live.

Any other big opportunities you see for the superannuation industry to get more engaged with closing the gap?

It would be terrific to see super funds support impact investing into items like Indigenous affordable housing, youth employment outcomes, aged care. Superannuation is all about the future, so here is an opportunity for the $2.4 trillion industry to change the future for the two cohorts of Indigenous people stuck in neutral or travelling in reverse. First Nations Foundation is the financial literacy partner in the first Indigenous impact investment into affordable housing.

We also know that 40 per cent of the Australian mainland has been returned to Indigenous people with controlling interests. Investments into nascent solar industries, carbon sequestering and other Indigenous economic drivers could dramatically change the economic face of Indigenous Australia and leap towards our vision – economic freedom for First Australians.

 Is your fund on board for the Big Super Day Out yet? If not, then be sure to catch up with First Nations Foundation chief executive Amanda Young at CMSF 2018 to find out more.

READ MORE: All the coverage from CMSF 2018