A report Consumer Issues in Victorian Aboriginal Communities during 2020 published today by Consumer Action Law Centre (Consumer Action) and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) uses quantitative data and case studies to provide a vivid snapshot of consumer issues continuing to impact Victorian Aboriginal communities during 2020. This is the third report released by the VALS and Consumer Action Integrated Practice Project (IP Project), which is now in its third year.
The report also describes how the partnership adapted its engagement work with community in response to the COVID-19 emergency, including social media, online training, and ongoing legal and financial counselling services.
Aboriginal Policy Officer Samantha Rudolph said the report was a timely reminder that consumer issues are continuing to impact community.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers calling our financial counselling and legal helplines continue to tell worrying stories of energy hardship, trouble with telco providers, and issues with payday lending, consumer leases, irresponsible lending and funeral insurance.”
Ms Rudolph said the many case studies in the report illustrate how consumer issues can impact on people’s lives in community, how financial counsellors and community lawyers can help, and why engaging with community and giving access to these services are vital.
The report also makes several recommendations to empower and support Victorian Aboriginal communities including better access to culturally appropriate services and making community outreach and legal education a priority for regulators, governments, and industry as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.
Quotes attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of VALS:
“The Banking Royal Commission raised many concerning examples of how vulnerable people are targeted and manipulated by companies, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“When the Government has failed to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission, Community Legal Services are at the front line in holding these companies to account for the harm they cause to consumers.
“The partnership between VALS and CALC is making a real, tangible impact on the lives of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. With CALC’s assistance, VALS has built our legal expertise in consumer law. This has enabled us to secure compensation, refunds and waivers for our community as well as jointly deliver important community legal education to community members and community workers.
“This year’s report has shown that whilst a lot has been achieved, our work is far from finished and the recovery from the pandemic will require a sustained effort to continue to stand up for and educate our community. We look forward to continuing our partnership with CALC in 2021 and beyond.”