Credit union on the money

RECOGNISING that the Aboriginal community and its special financial needs were often ignored by exiting banking institutions, the Australian Nation-al Credit Union set up a subsidiary aimed squarely at the growing niche market.

First Nation Credit Union was established just more than two years ago, initially for the Victorian Aboriginal population, and has received widespread acceptance in WA, where it operates through the Westbond Australian Credit Union and has $13 million in deposits.

First Nation Credit Union manager Sharon Atkinson-Firebrace says it remains the only financial institution providing dedicated niche services to the indigenous population – though its membership base is not restricted to Aborigines.

Today the Credit Union draws approximately half of its membership base of 3000 from WA, with 700 coming from the Kimberley region. But while targeted specifically to Aboriginals, 40 per cent of the members are non-indigenous Australians.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commission provided seed capital to fund the initial infrastructure and pay for two posit-ions. Combined with State Government finance, $110,000 in grants has been provided to date.

Ms Atkinson-Firebrace says the long-term goal is to make First Nation financially independent and, to do that, it needs at least 20,000 members.

“Our main focus is providing an educational role,” she says.

“We want to show people how to set themselves up. We are about helping. It is about giving back to the community.”

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