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Financial inclusion

A Saver Plus participant exercising her budget skills while out shopping.

Why financial inclusion matters to us

Many disadvantaged Australians lack the access to fair and affordable credit and financial services that others take for granted. Simple purchases like replacing a refrigerator, buying a computer for homework purposes, or repairing a car necessary for travel to work can lead to substantial hardship, force people to enter into contracts they can’t fully understand, and even push them into the hands of unregulated, high interest–charging money lenders.

What we want

To counter this serious problem, the Brotherhood of St Laurence is campaigning for a national financial inclusion strategy, which would give people on low incomes:

  • effective access to financial services, including affordable credit and insurance
  • the opportunity to save and acquire assets, such as cars and homes
  • financial literacy – to enable them to manage their money, make better financial decisions, enforce their legal rights and obtain their full financial entitlements.

The Brotherhood believes that the financial services sector should be required to serve the needs of the whole community, including low-income earners, who in many cases miss out because they are regarded as ‘less profitable’ than other consumers. 

What we’re doing

Demonstrating the effectiveness of financial inclusion programs

The Brotherhood’s financial inclusion programs show that there are effective ways to help people on low incomes deal with financial matters and give them confidence in dealing with mainstream services such as banks.

Saver Plus shows that matched savings programs with financial literacy training can foster savings habits and enable people to acquire assets such as a computer to assist their children’s or their own education.

MoneyMinded is an adult financial education program developed to help people, particularly those on low incomes, to build their financial skills, knowledge and confidence.

Progress Loans showed that people living on low incomes are able to manage small loans to pay for important household purchases.

Media releases

Back to school doesn't have to mean budget blow-out
23 January 2014

Research finds kids learn life lessons about money from parents who save 5 December 2012

New research shows matched savings program builds a lasting savings habit and financial confidence 28 September 2011

Savings program launches nationally to help low-income families with rising school costs 21 June 2010

Articles, reports and papers

Roslyn Russell, Joann Cattlin and Minh Phuong Doan 2012, Evaluation of Saver Plus Phase 4 (2009–2011) (PDF file, 2.18 MB)

Vawser and Associates 2011, Progress Loans evaluation 2011 (PDF file, 360 KB)

Roslyn Russell, Lauren Wall and Minh Phuong Doan 2011, Evaluation of Saver Plus past participants (PDF file, 547 KB)

Eve Bodsworth 2011, Many faces of saving: the social dimensions of Saver Plus (PDF file, 331 KB)

Saver Plus summary report (PDF file, 387 KB) contains summaries of both the above Saver Plus reports

Zuleika Arashiro 2011, Promoting healthy finances: an evaluation of the Financial Health Service pilot (PDF file, 1.3 MB)

Ingrid Burkett and Genevieve Sheehan 2009, From the margins to the mainstream: the challenges for microfinance in Australia (PDF file, 553 KB)

Vawser and Associates 2009, Progress loans: towards affordable credit for low-income Australians (PDF file, 818 KB)

Roslyn Russell 2008, Saver Plus: more than saving – A brief comparison with international programs (PDF file, 362 KB)

Roslyn Russell, Jennifer Harlim and Robert Brooks 2008,  Saver Plus 2008: follow up survey results – savings behaviour of past Saver Plus participants (PDF file, 432 KB)

Documenting people's experiences of managing their finances on a low income


Eve Bodsworth 2013, Lke juggling 27 chainsaws: understanding the experience of default judgment debtors in Victoria (PDF file, 1.4 MB) Summary (PDF file, 841 KB) published by the Consumer Action Law  Centre

Dominic Collins 2011, Reducing the risks: improving access to home contents and vehicle insurance for low-income Australians (PDF file, 443 KB)

Zuleika Arashiro 2011, Money matters in times of change: financial vulnerability through the life course (PDF file, 654 KB)


Influencing how financial services are governed and regulated

The Brotherhood believes that financial services should be provided in the best interests of the community as a whole. We are working to ensure the regulatory and governance structures of the finance sector promote universal access to affordable and fair financial services including banking, credit and insurance.

Media release

Brotherhood says lack of access to small bank loans a big problem for low income earners
25 January 2011

Mobile phones and unscrupulous telcos are disastrous for young Australians
15 September 2010

Banks services must account for low income people, Brotherhood tells Senate inquiry 10 August 2009

Credit reforms on right track, but disadvantaged need affordable loans, 28 May 2009

Opinion piece

Banking competition and low income earners Online Opinion, Gerard Brody 7 February 2011

Policy submissions

The Stewardship Principle: how Australia’s financial industry can better serve the needs of low-income and vulnerable consumers – a submission to the Commonwealth Government’s Financial System Inquiry
March 2014 (PDF file, 180 KB)

A fair go in insurance recommendations for reform of the insurance industry by a coalition including the Brotherhood of St Laurence
January 2011  (PDF file, 115 KB)

Submission to Senate Economics Committee Inquiry into competition within the Australian banking sector
November 2010 (PDF file, 90 KB)

Submission to ACMA's Reconnecting the Customer consultation 
September 2010 (PDF file, 155 KB)

Submission to the Treasury's National Credit Reform Green Paper
August 2010 (PDF file, 236 KB)

Submission to Senate Economics Committee Inquiry into the Banking Amendment Bill 2010, July 2010 (PDF file,165 KB)

Response to Australian Energy Regulator (AER) issues paper on retail energy pricing information guidelines, April 2010 (PDF file, 43 KB)

Response to Treasury options paper on unfair terms in insurance contracts April 2010 (PDF file, 371 KB)

Submission to Treasury re National Consumer Protection Bill, May 2009 (PDF file, 132 KB)

Response to the Standing Committee of Officials on Consumer Affairs consultation paper An Australian consumer law: fair markets, confident consumers, March 2009 (PDF file, 51 KB)

Submission to Senate Economics Committee Inquiry into Aspects of Bank Mergers, January 2009 (PDF file, 44 KB)

Submission to the inquiry into competition in the banking and non-banking sectors, July 2008 (PDF file, 172 KB)

Articles, reports and papers

Genevieve Sheehan, Therese Wilson and Nicola Howell 2008, Coming to grips with credit contracts: steps to protect vulnerable borrowers (PDF file, 153 KB)

Genevieve Sheehan and Gordon Renouf 2006, Risk and reality: access to general insurance for people on low incomes (PDF file, 302 KB)

Go to research in progress about financial inclusion.


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