How Indigenous communities are tackling financial challenges with BPAY Group’s help

- By Collaborative Media & Publishing
The historical financial identity of Indigenous Australia is rich with a tapestry of complex trade agreements between hundreds of nations.

"They lived with the resources and traded them," says First Nations Foundation CEO Phil Usher. "People from Blacktown traded with people from Redfern who were closer to the water to get different plants and medicines."

It created a strong fabric between community, family and the economy over thousands of years, which endures to this day.

Unfortunately, it has not blended well with today's foreign financial system, leaving Indigenous Australians vulnerable to money problems and attacks from scammers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Scamwatch division received more than 3,400 reports last year from Indigenous people – one-quarter more than the previous year. It cost Indigenous communities more than $2 million.

“Indigenous everyday-culture is about sharing and helping others out. I think that's where they get caught up with this empathy for the other person in a difficult financial situation,” Usher says.

The most financially damaging scams for Indigenous communities were dating and romance scams, followed by investment scams and online shopping scams, according to the ACCC’s latest Targeting Scams report.

The First Nations Foundation, which is led by an Indigenous majority board, helps tackle these issues by providing customer centric financial education, training and information.

Scammers target bills and emails

Usher says email and bill scams are also areas commonly targeted by scammers.

“They're getting really clever. I'll get a whole week of scam emails and some of them are pretty spot on to what you'd get from a normal organisation,” he says.

And it isn’t just Indigenous Australians being targeted.

Scammers stole almost $34 million last year from vulnerable people who identified as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), as well as people with disabilities, according to the ACCC[1].

“Unfortunately, scheming scammers try to target people who by virtue of their background, disadvantage, language skills or disability may experience vulnerability and be more likely to fall for their tricks,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said when presenting the data earlier this year.

“Remember, never give your credit card details or personal information to anyone who contacts you out of the blue no matter who they say they are, as scammers can do an excellent job impersonating the government and private sector organisations like banks and telephone companies."

Usher says BPAY’s Biller Code system can help stop scams because you don’t have to pay by clicking on a link in an email or over the phone. It allows people to confirm the organisation they're transferring money to before they make the payment.

“The Biller Code system creates one extra step away from just clicking on a link and putting in your credit card details.”

Tackling the problem at its source

Disproportionately low levels of financial wellbeing have made the Indigenous population vulnerable to attacks from scammers.

A 2019 report showed Indigenous Australians had less economic resources and trust for financial products, low levels of financial knowledge, and higher debt and stress when compared to the general population[2].

BPAY Group's recent $40,000 donation to the First Nations Foundation’s My Money Dream financial literacy training program is helping bridge this significant economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“The thing that we do differently is address some of the historical cultural issues as to why we have challenges with our money. We look at our perceptions of money and our different perception of wealth,” says Usher.

“The whole concept of money for Aboriginal people is still relatively new. We’ve got universal challenges across the community. We know that expectation to give back.”

BPAY donated $1 every time someone watched its 'Get Better at Bills with BPAY' video tutorial, which is part of the 'In Your Corner' campaign featuring Melbourne drag queen Leasa Mann.

“It was a really cool initiative. The YouTube video was real cheeky, which is just fantastic. But it also showed how you can use BPAY to manage your bills,” Phil says.

Usher says the money was distributed to different communities so they have access to on-demand, financial education training. More than 6500 Aboriginal people have since completed the program.

“We’re just now getting that really exciting feedback where people who did the training are tightening up their budgets, minimising expenses and they’re actually getting house ready. They’re starting to get into the property market because everything is lining up and they are beginning to understand how the rules of the game work.”
[1] Culturally and linguistically diverse community lose $22 million to scams in 2020, reports from Indigenous Australians up by 25 per cent. (2021, June 10). Retrieved from
[2] Money stories: Financial resilience among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. (2021, June 10). Retrieved from 

Published by BPAY Pty Ltd (ABN 69 079 137 518) email: The BPAY Scheme is managed by BPAY Pty Limited.  When you use BPAY payment products, the BPAY Scheme is paid fees relating to processing costs and BPAY Scheme membership.  Contact your financial institution to see if it offers BPAY payment products and to get the Product Disclosure Statement.  Any financial product advice provided by BPAY Pty Limited in relation to BPAY payment products is general advice only and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on such advice, you should review the Product Disclosure.

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