Annual Review 2022–23

As a national ombudsman scheme that provides services across Australia, AFCA wants to be an organisation that delivers its service to First Nations peoples in a culturally competent, respectful and accessible way.

AFCA has an important role to play in supporting and empowering First Nations peoples to speak up and be heard in relation to financial matters. We acknowledge the strength of oral storytelling, and are committed to providing an adaptable, accessible and flexible service to ensure we meet the  needs of all First Nations peoples. 

AFCA’s Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)

AFCA’s Melbourne office is situated on Wurundjeri country and AFCA’s Sydney office is on Gadigal country. AFCA acknowledges the traditional owners of country and that the land was never ceded. It is, was and always will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land.

In December 2022, AFCA affirmed its commitment to reconciliation with the launch of its Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). We launched our RAP at special in-person events in our Melbourne and Sydney offices. The events commenced with a special smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country from Wurundjeri man, Thane Garvey in Melbourne and Marrawarra and Barkindji man, Uncle Brendan Kerin in Sydney. This was followed by presentations from Chair of First Nations Foundation and Yorta Yorta man, Ian Hamm, and Executive Director of the Literacy for Life Foundation and Ngemba man, Professor Jack Beetson. 

The AFCA RAP outlines the actions we committed to taking in 2023, as we worked towards our vision for reconciliation. These actions focused on strengthening the relationships, respect and opportunities for First Nations peoples, by building trust and understanding, including a commitment to ensuring a deeper understanding throughout our organisation of First Nations peoples and cultures. 

As part of our RAP, in 2022–23 we:

  • established an internal Reconciliation Working Group to govern the implementation of our Reflect RAP commitments
  • conducted research around best practice and principles that support partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and organisations, developing a strategy for how we engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations
  • conducted a review of cultural learning needs within our organisation, including measuring our people’s current level of knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and achievements
  • launched an AFCA-wide elearning program, which is a companion to Reconciliation Australia’s Share our Pride resource, to increase our peoples’ awareness of First Nations cultures and histories
  • unveiled our artwork story ‘Ngalimba’, a series of painted canvases in our Sydney and Melbourne offices. Artist Edwin Lee Mulligan’s art is now being incorporated into all aspects of work-life at AFCA, and will be fully developed into our brand style guide. You can find out more about the art of Edwin Lee Mulligan here
  • reviewed our existing procurement policies to identify barriers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander supplier diversity
  • held internal National Reconciliation Week (NRW) and NAIDOC week events in both our Sydney and Melbourne offices
  • took part in an online event hosted by Reconciliation NSW, as part of NRW. This event included a keynote presentation from the Hon David Harris MP, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty; as well as a panel discussion facilitated by Dr Catherine Keenan, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Story Factory and board members of Reconciliation NSW. The panel members included Kishaya Delaney (Wiradjuri), Uluru Youth Dialogue Representative and pro bono solicitor; Herbert Smith Freehills; Mohammad Al-Khafaji, CEO of Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA); and Aunty Glendra Stubbs (Wiradjuri), OAM, Elder in Residence for both the Jumbunna Institute at UTS and I.D. Know Yourself
  • were honoured to hear from Kuku Yalanji elder Daphne Naden, Director at Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network during our NAIDOC week event
  • supported our senior leadership team when they attended cultural training on Wureinat Cooranderk in February 2023.

You can find our Reflect RAP at

AFCA supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart

During this time, we also actioned a 10-point plan to demonstrate our support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We are steadfast in our support for substantive constitutional change, to drive a fair and truthful relationship between our first sovereign Nations and the people of Australia.

Activities and partnerships with First Nations peoples, communities and community groups

We purposely developed relationships and participate in activities that increase our understanding of First Nations peoples’ relationships with money, and to ensure they are aware of their right to complain to the financial ombudsman.

This includes participation in the Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association’s Indigenous Engagement Special Interest Group, Financial Counselling Australia’s annual Yarning Circle and membership of the North Queensland Indigenous Consumer Task Force.

We have also developed strong relationships with Financial Counselling Australia’s Financial Capability Community of Practice, along with state-based financial counselling associations, including providing travel bursaries for rural and remote First Nations financial counsellors and financial capability workers to attend conferences.

Laptops for Literacy

The Laptops for Literacy project began with 11 AFCA laptops being repurposed for digital literacy classes offered to Literacy for Life Foundation students in Yarrabah, Queensland. To date, more than 50 laptops have been provided to the Yarrabah campaign, giving students access to a computer on a one-to-one basis.

Outreach and events

This year, representatives from the AFCA team attended events and visited a number of First Nations communities across Australia. We were exhibiters at the annual Yabun Festival on Gadigal Country and, for the first time, the Warangesda Festival on Wiradjuri Country. Warangesda is the historical heritage site of one of NSW’s first Aboriginal missions. We travelled to Kununurra, on Miriwoong Country in the East Kimberly to attend a regional forum hosted by the Financial Counsellors’ Association of WA.

The forum included a visit to the nearby Aboriginal community of Wyndham where we took part in a yarning circle. Community members conveyed their frustration at the lack of access to basic banking services. AFCA made a commitment to use its voice in support of the possibility of expanding the availability of fee-free ATMs in remote First Nations communities.

Thursday Island

As a guest of the Energy & Water Ombudsman Queensland, AFCA Deputy Chief Ombudsman June Smith visited Thursday Island to learn about issues affecting the local community, such as scams and buy now pay later schemes, and explored ways to make AFCA services more accessible there.

Financial wellness with First Nations Foundation

We were also extremely pleased this year to join the financial community outreach series developed and run by the First Nations Foundation. Financial wellness events are designed to educate and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to take control of their financial future. We kicked off our involvement with the series in Penrith in April 2023.

Laptops for Literacy participants
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