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Emergency financial help for remote Aborigine -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government has today pledged $45,000 in emergency relief and financial
counselling for Aboriginal people in remote parts of Western Australia. The action was prompted by
the revelation in the Australian newspaper that a local businessman had been lending Indigenous
people money and charging them an interest rate of 33 per cent.

The Families and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin told Alexandra Kirk that the emergency
relief will help people's immediate needs in times of crisis.

JENNY MACKLIN: There will be an extra $20,000 made available to emergency relief providers so that
for people coming into Laverton who are desperately in need of additional cash or who need
resources for food, other essentials, they'll be able to go to the emergency relief agencies and
get some extra help.

We're also making available $25,000, this is extra money, for extra financial counselling because
one of the difficulties that we have is that people haven't had access to enough financial
counselling to help them learn how to manage their own money and the third initiative which is
being introduced in the next fortnight is that Centrelink are going to offer people the capacity to
get their Centrelink payments paid weekly instead of fortnightly to help people better manage their
money.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: You're also encouraging Aboriginal people to extricate themselves from the money
that they owe the loan shark in Laverton by cancelling their bank cards and/or changing their pin
numbers, is that so he can't claw back his repayments?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we want to make sure that Aboriginal people in this area have access to their
Centrelink payments themselves and they're not paying outrageous interest rates to people who
obviously then leave Aboriginal people in dire financial circumstances.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But are you in effect advising them to default on their loans?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that's a matter for them to resolve but what I want to do is provide protection
to people who need that protection and if people want to go into the local Centrelink office or
into the local Aboriginal corporation or shire council offices, they will be given assistance to
make sure that they can get better control over their money.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Is there any suggestion that Mr Tomarchio's lending Aboriginal money and these
clients are then giving him their pin numbers so he can withdraw the repayments, that that is
illegal?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well these are, I don't want to get into a discussion about these legal issues with
you on the radio because they're obviously extremely sensitive but what we do want to do is
everything possible to protect people.

We want to make sure that people are able to control their own money, that they have financial
counselling to give them the skills to do that, to pay them more frequently so that they can manage
their money more easily and if people need emergency relief that there are more funds available in
the region.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Does the Government feel a little bad about this because it's emerged that your
department knew about this problem a year ago and presumably did nothing?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well they're questions for the department, what I know...

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But you're the Minister.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I wasn't informed of it until it was made public, as you know, but what we want
to do now that it is very clear that there are serious issues going on in this area, is take the
actions that are needed to protect people and that's exactly what we're doing.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Isn't it an indictment of the lack of services that this problem has arisen in the
first place?

JENNY MACKLIN: These problems in Laverton really bring home just how important it is to get
financial counselling, to get credit facilities that are reputable available to people in remote
parts of Australia.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And after this problem is presumably resolved do you see the need for extra
Government services in the Laverton-Kalgoorlie area as a permanent fixture?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think it's very important that we have ongoing financial counselling services in
this whole area of the gold fields so that people are better able to manage their money, that we do
have Centrelink services available to people. These are the services that Australians in these
remote parts of Australia really need and I think this Laverton example has really brought home
that point very strongly.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Federal Families and Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, speaking
to Alexandra Kirk in Canberra.