February 16, 2020

Connecting our financial ecosystem

Dr Archana Voola writes about the importance of bringing together the entire financial ecosystem of stakeholders to improve the well-being of all Australians.

One year on from the release of the Royal Commission’s final report into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry in Australia, there have been some significant changes - banks have paid billions for remediation, policies related to commission on salaries have changed, customer hardship has been recognised, and even exploitative products, such as add-on junk insurance, have been discontinued (ABA 2019).

But the problem of financial hardship and vulnerability is much larger than the spotlight provided by the Banking Royal Commission.

Current stats on some of the most important necessities of modern life depict a serious picture across our country:

  • Over 3 million (13.2%) of the population is living below the poverty line;
  • 17% of those 3 million people include children (Davidson et al. 2018);
  • On any given night, 1 in 200 Australians are homeless (Muir et al. 2018);
  • More than 4 million Australians, or 18% of the population, have run out of food and are unable to buy more (Food Bank, 2018); and
  • Household debt to income has increased substantially from 162.3% in 2009 to 189.6% in 2018 (Powell et al. 2019).

Clearly, our financial world is in constant interaction with what is happening in our personal, social and cultural world, and for the above reasons - and many more - it’s important to consider the different ways in which we can increase financial well-being and overcome adverse finance shocks.

To do this there is an urgent need to shine a light on the entire ecosystem of stakeholders (government, community organisations, businesses and the financial services industry) who can act on the interventions we need to impact overall financial wellbeing - not just the basic minimums of food, water and shelter.

The 2020 Financial Inclusion Conference, themed ‘Roads to Resilience’, will bring together more than 200 stakeholders, with the intent of improving the financial inclusion, capability, resilience and well-being of some of our most marginalised Australians - beyond the basic minimum.

The conference’s unique program, in partnership with the NSW Financial Inclusion Network and the Centre for Social Impact (CSI), builds on the rigorous research previously conducted by CSI UNSW in partnership with NAB.

Findings from the research (which has resulted in the annual Financial Resilience in Australia report since 2015) will be a focus at the conference, including the topics areas of:

  • Economic resources: A fundamental necessity to overcome financial insecurity is income and savings. When living on a low income, even a broken-down washing machine could land a person's financial future into a debt trap. This theme will be addressed during the conference in presentations about multiple innovative programs which focus on managing the costs of living expenses and debt, and improve savings.
  • Financial knowledge and behaviour: Information about complex financial rules and processes could be key to avoiding unnecessary debt and financial worry. At the conference, there will be several community organisations with expertise in financial counselling. They will share cutting-edge strategies to build confidence, nudge behaviour and implement proactive financial actions.
  • Financial products and services: Of course, no amount of information is useful if there aren’t suitable products and services to implement this knowledge. The conference is bringing together stakeholders from the banking and financial services sector to showcase the latest finance sector technology which provides safe, affordable and accessible savings, credit and insurance products and services.
  • Social capital: One of the least recognised, but equally important necessities for being financially resilient is who we can turn to when we need it. CSI’s CEO, Professor Kristy Muir, will deliver a keynote on this topic to help facilitate a more in-depth discussion during the conference, on social connections and their relevance for overcoming financial speed bumps.

Financial Resilience Report findings

The NSW Financial Inclusion Network, in partnership with Northern Rivers Community Gateway and the Centre for Social Impact, invites you to the 4th Financial Inclusion Conference – Roads to Resilience, to be held in Sydney over 18-19 March, 2020.

We encourage those who are looking to learn, develop and extend the ecosystem of financial well-being in Australia to join us.


Australian Banking Association (ABA) (2019). Banking code of practice: Setting the standards of practice for banks, their staff and their representatives. Available here: https://www.ausbanking.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Banking-Code-of-Practice-2019-web.pdf

Davidson P., Saunders P., Bradbury B.,Wong M. (2018), Poverty in Australia, 2018.

Muir, K., Martin, C., Liu, E., Kaleveld, L., Flatau, P., Etuk, L., and Pawson, H. 2018. Amplify Insights: Housing Affordability and Homelessness. Centre for Social Impact, UNSW Sydney.

ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No. 2, Sydney: ACOSS Food Bank. Food Bank Hunger Report 2018. Available here: https://www.foodbank.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/2018-Foodbank-Hunger-Report.pdf?state=wa

Powell A, Voola A.P, Raymond C, Fatimah, A (2019). An evaluation of the Financial Inclusion Action Plan: Transition phase. Report for Good Shepherd Microfinance; Centre for Social Impact; Sydney, UNSW.

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