MoneyMob Talkabout
Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles

Overview

Practice focus

Financial literacy, money management and financial counselling in remote Aboriginal communities.

Delivered by

Matrix on Board is a private organisation that delivers the MoneyMob Talkabout (MMT) program in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands (see www.moneymobtalkabout.com.au).

The information provided for this Practice Profile was supplied by the Program Manager of Matrix on Board.

Location(s)

The program is delivered in remote communities within the APY Lands (South Australia), Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Issue being addressed

This program addresses financial vulnerability, crisis and exclusion within Aboriginal communities. It focuses on building the financial capacity of clients, which in turn may contribute to improving family wellbeing. Research has indicated that improving financial literacy and money management can help Indigenous families build financial assets to achieve their aspirations (and thus individual and collective wellbeing) through improved money management. For more information see: http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129546986

Service type

Financial education, money management and financial counselling.

Target population

Aboriginal people in remote communities in the APY Lands in north-western South Australia.

100% of the program's clients are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Aims and objectives

The program aims to provide relevant accessible financial education and counselling for Aboriginal people to increase their financial literacy and to prevent them from getting into further financial crisis. It supports the development of independent financial skills so that Aboriginal people can manage their own financial matters. It also aims to assist Aboriginal people who are in financial crisis to receive timely and appropriate help. Where possible, it also aims to address the structural barriers which contribute to Aboriginal financial exclusion and transfer of skills to local Aboriginal staff. The program also aims to deliver its services in a way that fosters two way learning, so that non-Aboriginal staff gain an understanding of Aboriginal culture in order to more effectively communicate financial knowledge to the community.
The program also works with other service providers (e.g. social workers) to provide intensive family support by providing financial management for families where there is a child protection notification or vulnerable person.

Program basis

The program logic which informs the MMT program can be described as follows: people on the APY Lands need money management education and skills; communities were made aware via community consultation of the education and case management services provided by MMT; people can then access these services which are culturally appropriate and sensitive to the circumstances and cultural beliefs of people in the APY Lands; people change behaviours and benefit from the actions they take in response to the services; and as a result financial literacy and money management in the APY Lands is improved.

Cultural relevance

Local community context

The MMT team gave a commitment to the APY community that it would not deliver the program anywhere it was not wanted. The team spent time talking to people on the ground about their money issues, and thus about what could be the program's focus.

Initially it was difficult for people to nominate what the initial program focus should be, as they did not know the full range of possibilities available, nor what MMT could deliver. Thus, MMT began by opening one office and being open to assist with whatever people presented with. As the program was employing local Aboriginal people who could communicate this to their families and connections, knowledge spread quickly of the types of services MMT could provide to the community.

The APY community made two key requests of the program when it commenced: that it establish a base in two communities, and that it work with local Aboriginal people who could act as "malpas" (cultural guides for the program). The program was only able to establish a base in one location but staff have continued to work on an outreach basis with the local council in the other nominated community.

After two years of delivery, the community has a much better idea of the scope and purpose of the service, as well as familiarity with staff, and accordingly it is now providing rich input into planning. This underscores the need for adequate time in the planning and delivery of Aboriginal programs.

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

Before commencing, the program engaged and sought permission from local councils and the APY Land Council (who are seen as the appropriate community leaders) to operate in the remote communities of the APY Lands. Before setting up a base, the program also sought the agreement of the local council. In one community, this entailed waiting four months before approval was gained. The MMT staff continue to work with local councils on a formal and informal basis, particularly when significant program issues arise.

The MMT program deliberately set out to employ local Aboriginal people in the program. There are six local Aboriginal staff and five permanent non-Aboriginal staff. The Aboriginal staff learn the relevant financial skills needed to assist the community by working with support and training from non-Aboriginal staff. It is expected that the Aboriginal staff are at the forefront of service delivery whenever possible. The program emphasises that non-Aboriginal staff are merely "visitors" in Aboriginal country. Thus the program is always conscious of teaching and leaving skills behind for the local population.

The non-Aboriginal MMT staff routinely seek the input of its Aboriginal staff through team meetings, planning sessions, involving them in the translation of documents and administration of evaluation surveys, and actively seeking their views on important matters. In particular, non-Aboriginal staff remain conscious that many concepts are new to Aboriginal staff, and people need to learn new information so that they can form an opinion and make a meaningful contribution. Wherever possible, the program works with staff and/or local interpreters to undertake program evaluations and invites a local person to sit on the ethics committee review of a part of the evaluation.

The MMT program also stresses the importance of delivering education and case management services within a context that is meaningful for local people. This includes trying to find ways in which "healthy" or "harm minimising" money behaviours and attitudes can fit with people's lives rather than trying to transfer a western model of money management directly onto remote communities. For example, budgeting needs to take into account the Aboriginal values of sharing with family. Thus, in teaching an individual about budgeting, the program incorporates a discussion about family income, budgeting to share with family and where possible, MMT completes a family budget with the family group.

Cultural practices and materials

There are no specific cultural materials used in the program, however the MMT staff work to deliver the content in a culturally appropriate way. Financial literacy requires the ability to acquire an understanding of complicated English language terms - many of which have no Aboriginal language equivalent (e.g. insurance, percentages, interest, credit and debit).

Aboriginal MMT staff spend time exploring and crafting appropriate translations so that local staff can properly understand what they are learning and in turn convey it effectively to clients. The Aboriginal staff greatly value the opportunity to do this as a group, as there are various ways in which things can be expressed.

In the program's school-based work, staff also try to work with examples that will make sense to remote children (e.g. shopping at the community store, coin recognition by talking about animals featured on currency which also occur in the children's environment (e.g. kangaroos, echidnas).

Evaluation

Evaluation status

A multi-staged evaluation of the program is currently underway at the time this profile was published. There have been a number of evaluation progress reports completed to date, commencing with a baseline in December 2012, and then subsequent progress reports to December 2013. The next progress report in the evaluation is likely to be in September/October 2014.

Link to evaluation

http://www.moneymobtalkabout.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/MMT_Evaluation_Progress_Report_Dec_2013.pdf

Evaluation details

The evaluation of the program was undertaken externally, using:

  • a pre-test and post-test comparison following client participation in the program
  • ongoing feedback from clients and/or staff
  • interviews with other service providers and key stakeholders

The program's Aboriginal staff (and other local Aboriginal people) have been involved in the evaluation by acting as interpreters/translators, and in helping to refine the questions to be included in community surveys. When working with Aboriginal interpreters, staff try to ensure that there is time for an exploratory workshop prior to commencement of conducting the evaluation to ensure that everybody in the group has the same understanding of the words and concepts being used.

The program has a partial monitoring system in place. The data collected for reporting to government funders reflects tangible change in client engagement with the service ( e.g. by moving from assisted banking through to self-service). However, financial literacy encompasses a wide range of skills and knowledge across several high level domains. It is thus complex to measure. The program is developing assessment tools that link to case plans to enable it to better track the client's change over time. These need to be both valid for measuring financial literacy as well as being culturally sensitive.

The program responds to change by focussing on areas which the community has shown a strong desire to learn about (e.g. developing relevant educational materials) and by continually reflecting on the program's practice. The staff also work collaboratively with other service providers to align with their priorities and thus to achieve maximum impact between the services. For example, if the local housing authority or fines payment unit is focussing on collecting arrears, staff try to work collaboratively with them to assist people to repay and/or do a budget to assist them to manage money.

Effectiveness

Most effective aspect

The aspects of the program that have been most effective are delivering services while being based in the community and working from a community development perspective that focusses on working with the community, respecting their views and trying to bring two worlds together in a negotiated way. Employing local staff is also considered absolutely vital. Local Aboriginal staff are indispensable for effective transmission of program goals and information to the broader community. As local staff learn on the job, their development creates positive environment and awareness with other family members. It also builds staff confidence and self-esteem. Employing local Aboriginal people is also a fundamental demonstration of respect and confidence and sends the message that the MMT program sees people in remote communities as people with capabilities and potential.

Demonstrated outcomes

The November 2013 community surveys (which informed the most recent December 2013 evaluation progress report) provided insights about money related knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours in both MMT clients and members of APY communities who had not yet accessed MMT services. The survey's findings illustrate that MMT services are beginning to positively impact on the financial capabilities of residents. Compared with non-MMT clients, MMT clients are:

  • more likely to know their bank balance
  • less often broke before pay day
  • more likely to have saved some money in the previous six months
  • more likely to have a legal will
  • more likely to have superannuation
  • more likely to have insurance of some kind
  • more likely to be able to access funds from their bank in an emergency; and
  • more likely to seek help from MMT for financial matters. In communities where MMT has an office, people choose to see MMT in relation to those issues before other services and supports.
Other evidence

The program receives continuous and wide ranging feedback about its effectiveness. For example, the program partnered with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to become a registered tax help centre, providing free tax returns for low-income remote residents. The ATO has provided staff with feedback that it has exceeded their expectations of what could be achieved (in the first year, MMT completed more than 100 tax returns where the ATO did not expect to complete more than 50).

There has also been positive anecdotal feedback including:

  • Local community leaders have commented on the importance of the service for the community. Aboriginal staff report how important it is for the community to be able to access services and assistance locally, and that they believe this has contributed to a reduction in violence in some communities by alleviating the stress and conflict resulting from money problems.
  • Local child-protection social workers also believed the program had had an impact on the level of domestic violence in families it had worked with.
  • Local government have reported that their workload in relation to providing people with assistance for financial matters has decreased substantially.
  • A local arts centre reported that following the introduction of the program it was now able to operate profitably because it could spend more time focussing on resourcing artists and selling art rather than assisting the artists with their financial matters.
Resourcing

The program has primarily been resourced through funding from the Federal and South Australian governments.

Evidence base and opportunities

For more information on Indigenous entrepreneurship and financial counselling see:

http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129546986

http://www.aifs.gov.au/cafca/ppp/profiles/pppdocs/la_manage_income.pdf

 

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