Super funds letting ATSI members down

At the core of issues faced by indigenous people regarding superannuation is the fact that the rules and definitions imposed by funds pose significant barriers to access for members of those communities.

At a talk on the crucial access of indigenous people’s access to super at the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds last Friday, well known barriers to access such as a lack of identification, difficulty acquiring certified copies of documents, and technological limitations were raised.

The standards of identification and certification required were not created with ATSI members in mind, prompting QSuper’s head of technical advice, Lyn Melcer, to ask: “Why do we need to make people meet our rules and definitions to get their own money?”

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Funds largely didn’t seem to be across the identification issue however, with polling at the talk revealing that 46 per cent of delegates were unsure whether their funds kept track of members who failed to provide their ID when calling their contact centres. Thirty-six per cent said they didn’t and 18 per cent said they did keep track.

Lesser known issues were also addressed. Melcer questioned why the dearth of forms required by superannuation accounts couldn’t be simplified into uniform forms, for example, or why super funds couldn’t be better at acknowledging issues posed by different kinship structures in indigenous communities.

Further, Melcer pointed out that the fact there were over 230 languages spoken by ATSI communities caused barriers in communication, also noting that there was no indigenous word for ‘superannuation’.

Speaking from the crowd, Finance Sector Union (FSU) national secretary, Julia Angrisano, also suggested that superannuation funds needed to hire more indigenous people. A senior analyst in the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC’s) Indigenous Outreach Program, Nathan Boyle, said that he believed there were currently two indigenous employees of funds and two trustees across the entire sector.

Boyle also said that ASIC agreed with the Banking Royal Commission’s recommendation that ATSI kinship structures be recognised by super funds, saying that super administration rules already acknowledged de facto relationships and similar rules could be put in place for unique kinship setups.

ASIC disagreed with the Commission’s recommendation that ATSI people’s lower life expectancies should be taken into account when distributing superannuation, with Boyle believing that this would stop those members seeing the benefits of the final decade, high growth stage of super.

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