Constructing a budget for your personal finances can be one of the most prudent decisions to make. For Hope Vale resident and Opportunity Hub (O-Hub) partner Silas Gordon, it was lifesaving. Although 58 years old and sounding a little hoarse, Silas is otherwise a hale and jovial character who has enjoyed regular visits to the Hope Vale O-Hub over the past 10 years.
In 2011, the financial empowerment initiative Money Power, known as MPower, was rolled out through the O-Hubs in the four welfare reform communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge. MPower enables Indigenous residents of those communities to have complete confidence in managing their finances. Drafting a personal budget is a key component of that process. “Budgeting with the help of the O-Hub opened my eyes to my spending habits for the first time. I now know how to use my money the right way,” says Silas, who does not mind the odd analogy. “I am a fisherman, but in this case I didn’t know how to fish. The O-Hub taught me how to fish. You understand?” He asks, with a wink.
The O-Hub has also assisted Silas in learning foundation digital skills. This ensures he can now manage his own internet banking, tax returns and communication with Centrelink for his carer’s pension payments. “I was scared to first come into the O-Hub, because of all the computers. I said to my friend ‘I don’t know how to use those bloody things’!” He says, with a chuckle. “Older people in these communities never learned computer skills, so that’s another reason why O-Hub needs to be an ongoing thing.”
Prior to the O-Hub being in community, Silas was a heavy drinker, smoker and gambler – a fact that he now admits with ease. He says he was only able to curb those risky behaviours after he received budgeting assistance. “My health was really bad. When I did my budget, I finally saw how much I was spending on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling,” he says. “Without the O-Hub, I might have been dead a long time ago from alcohol poisoning!” Silas does not exude a hint of shame when divulging this information. Instead, he heaps praise on the Hope Vale O-Hub staff, all of whom are Indigenous, who empowered him to make some important decisions for the sake of his finances, health and family. “The staff here are like family to me. Visiting the O-Hubs feels like I haven’t even left home,” he says.
As a result of these vital financial decisions made over ten years ago, Silas’s physical health has returned, and he is now able to make more flexible and wholesome decisions with his money. “Now I use my money to buy things for my grandchildren’s schooling, like shoes,” he says. He is also entertaining the idea of making his money work for him. Silas is curious about investing in the stock market, an activity that he is confident he can manage from the O-Hub along with his internet banking.
Although Silas is feeling more financially secure and in command of his money, the same cannot be said for all elder residents of Cape York communities. The offensive issue of elder abuse – which includes incidents such as debit card theft and bank account hacking – are prevalent throughout Australia, and Hope Vale is not immune. It is an issue that Silas is aware of, and refuses to tolerate. “O-Hub protects older people from financial abuse,” he says. “If their card gets stolen, they can quickly resolve this issue with the help of O-Hub.”
In a tight-knit community, such as Hope Vale, it can be difficult to keep financial circumstances private from prying eyes. The O-Hub can also assist with this problem too. The staff are able to help a partner (O-Hub terminology for ‘client’) transition relevant correspondence to ‘online only’. They can also guide them through the process of changing internet banking passwords. Silas drives this point home with a fair amount of gusto. “This place helps older peoples to track their money,” he says, erecting an index finger and swishing it through the air. “I hope to see O-Hub rolled out through all the Cape York communities!”
Discover more about the MPower service, and how it can work for you here.