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Indigenous counsellors to combat scammers

Reported by Patrick Caruana
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
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A group of indigenous financial counsellors have been drafted into the fight against shonks and rip-off merchants in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities.

The nine men and women will graduate as fully qualified counsellors in Cairns on Wednesday, having done an 18-month course through the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN).

ICAN chief executive Aaron Davis said the nine, who were already employed in the industry, would go straight to work in an effort to improve financial literacy in indigenous communities.

"We all know that if you have a lot of financial stress, it can have some severe health implications," Mr Davis told AAP.

"Skilling people up to provide advice and help to those residents has huge benefits."

Mr Davis said indigenous communities were particularly vulnerable to scammers.

"It's a huge problem because of the issues of education and a lack of understanding of contracts and terms and conditions," he said.

"There are these door-to-door traders and telemarketers who pray on these communities, and there's been a real power imbalance between consumers and traders."

One of the graduates, Melanie Noble of Yarrabah - an indigenous community south of Cairns - said people often found it easier to deal with a familiar face.

"As a money management officer, we would have to take details and then pass it on to a counsellor," she said.

"But as financial counsellors, we can be the first point of contact and actually act on their behalf.

"We see firsthand the difficulties of going into communities when you're an outsider or not indigenous, but for us this isn't an issue. These are our people, we can communicate with them and they can approach us."

23/10/2014 16:49Sydney, Australia. 23 October,2014
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