Hope Vale-based Indigenous MPower Coach/Consultant, Zeila Wallace, will join a high-profile panel of experts in Sydney tomorrow to discuss the financial exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Zeila will share her professional observations and views on the subject at the National NILS (No Income Loans Scheme) Conference during a session entitled The “Money Story”: Barriers, Learnings and Innovations.

Her fellow panel members will include NAB’s Head of Indigenous Finance and Development, Glen Brennan, and reconciliation advocate, Fred Chaney, (last year’s Senior Australian of the Year).

The two-day conference, organised by Good Shepherd Microfinance, is expected to attract around 450 not-for-profit and business participants, as well as government leaders, including Federal Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison – who will speak at the event.

Other speakers will include founder and CEO of Guwaali, Michael West, Redfern Legal Centre credit and debt solicitor, Will Dwyer, and ABC senior investigative journalist, Stephen Long.

During her panel session – the opening session of the conference – thirty-year-old Zeila will share the barriers she faces in delivering on-the-ground services to Hope Vale residents.

“Those barriers include inadequate access to affordable goods and services, including mainstream services such banks, Internet and telephone facilities,” she observed. “People here lack the simple ability to choose.”

Zeila and her fellow panel members will also discuss areas where the corporate sector could collaborate to promote financial inclusion, as well as the role that government can play in addressing the issue.

“The government could regulate high interest lenders, including rental companies,” she said.

“No matter how much we educate people about high-interest or pay day loans, if they are available, people will use them – it’s about immediate gratification.”

Zeila would like to see more programs like NILS, which offers families and individuals on low incomes access to safe, fair and affordable credit (from $300 to $1,200),with no fees, interest or charges.

“These kinds of programs would provide a worthwhile alternative to credit cards and high-interest loans,” she said.

Zeila’s participation in the NILS conference was organised through Shelter Housing Action Cairns (SHAC), which works with MPower staff to help people in remote communities apply for NILS loans. MPower Co-ordinator, Rosemary Marshall, is accompanying Zeila to the conference.