On Wednesday 21 March, more than 100 guests and speakers came together at the University of New South Wales to launch the Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP) program’s Phase One report. Held on Harmony Day, the breakfast event highlighted the role that the FIAP program and participants can play to address the issue of financial exclusion in Australia.
Master of Ceremonies, Caitlin Fitzsimmons, guided the conversation and provided some insightful commentary from her perspective as Editor of the Money Section for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Following the Welcome to Country from Aunty Lola Callaghan, of the La Perouse Aboriginal Community, Professor Eileen Baldry from the University of New South Wales welcomed guests to the University.
Eileen acknowledged that research has shown that there are significant numbers of students who face financial difficulties. For both the university and in regards to her own work, Eileen noted that, “Financial inclusion is right at the heart of the work myself and my division is doing.” She welcomed the thirty organisations who are part of the FIAP program and encouraged all to work together to improve financial inclusion across sectors.
Financial Inclusion Action Plan Welcome Address
Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Independent Chair of the FIAP Advisory Group took to the stage to give a welcome address. She pointed out that important work had been done in the 15 months since the launch of the first 12 FIAP plans, but the need for FIAPs hasn’t lessened in this time, as many people are doing it hard.
Delia also spoke about the need for all sectors to play a role, not just government, to give people the economic opportunities they need to overcome disadvantages.
Isabella shares her story
MC Caitlin Fitzsimmons then welcomed Isabella, a UNSW student, to share her story. Isabella moved from Darwin to Sydney to go to UNSW, and was awarded a scholarship, which covered her HECS fees. While waiting to be paid for freelance work, Isabella found herself with 58 cents to her name, which was all she had for nearly 3 weeks. She received help from friends and then from the University, for which she was very grateful. She thanked all the FIAP participants for the steps they are taking to improve financial inclusion and equity for students like herself.
Keynote Address from Minister Kelly O’Dwyer
Minister Kelly O’Dwyer gave a keynote address from her perspective as both Minister for Women and Minister for Revenue and Financial Services. Minister O’Dwyer noted that financial capability is a key pillar of economic wellbeing, but that Australian women and girls show lower levels of financial capability than men, across several measures. Minister O’Dwyer emphasised that both the government and her personally were very committed to addressing this challenge.
Keynote Address from Minister David Gillespie
Assistant Minister for Children and Families, Minister David Gillespie, noted that the investment by the Department in the FIAP program had been very worthwhile and he encouraged the trailblazer organisations to continue their progress, while leading the way for other organisations to follow. Minister Gillespie spoke about how the program can empower people to help themselves, which benefits the community as a whole.
Following Minister Gillespie’s address, Delia Rickard returned to the stage, along with Adam Mooney, CEO of Good Shepherd Microfinance. They jointly thanked and welcomed the 18 organisations who joined the first 12 trailblazers in the FIAP program.
The final part of the event was a panel discussion, which saw Hon. Anna Bligh, CEO, Australian Banking Association, Pat McCafferty, Chair, Water Services Association of Australia, Keith Besgrove, Senior Policy Adviser, Energy Consumers Australia, Jason McDonald, Chief Policy Adviser, Domestic Policy Group, Dept. of PM&C and Prof. Ross Buckley, Scientia Professor, King & Wood Mallesons Chair of International Finance Law, UNSW come together to examine the role each sector could play in promoting financial inclusion. Each panellist looked at the challenges and opportunities for their respective sector. The FIAP program was described as providing a structure within which individual organisations can think about the best way to organise financial inclusion programs, products and initiatives.
The event wrapped up with thanks to all from Adam Mooney and all the speakers.