Money, financial capability and well-being in Indigenous Australia

Godinho, V 2014, Money, financial capability and well-being in Indigenous Australia, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Money, financial capability and well-being in Indigenous Australia
Author(s) Godinho, V
Year 2014
Abstract My thesis explores the historical, cultural and familial context of money as it flows through Indigenous households in remote, regional and urban Australia (‘Indigenous money’), and considers how this influences Indigenous views on financial capability and well-being. Indigenous people are over-represented amongst three million financially excluded Australians, and those with lower financial capability, irrespective of where they live.

Research finds gaps in Indigenous inclusion vis-à-vis mainstream Australia, yet offers limited explanation of why this persists. Indigenous cultural norms are identified as a barrier to enhancing inclusion, yet few studies focus on how Indigenous people understand and want to use money. National financial literacy targets the young through the formal education system, yet elders are the traditional custodians of Indigenous knowledge.

Using a research paradigm privileging the Indigenous perspective, I examine the cultural shaping of money, based on Viviana Zelizer’s theory of the social shaping of money. I find that ‘Indigenous money’ is culturally distinctive from ‘Anglo-Celtic’ understandings of money, which underlie Australian financial policy. This understanding influences their world-view of financial capability and well-being.

Participants see money as imposed from ‘outside’ their culture, yet have adapted it into their everyday lives in culturally distinctive ways. Elders describe the difficulty of having to learn and abide by the rules of ‘two’ worlds including those that revolve around money. In remote locations money is seen as disconnected from traditional Indigenous knowledge and law. In regional and urban areas, money is inextricably linked to a wider, ongoing challenge to re-conceptualise Indigenous cultural identity and roles, vis-à-vis mainstream, non-Indigenous Australia.

‘Indigenous money’ flows between related households, rather than being bounded within a nuclear family household. Participants say they prioritize sharing money over saving it, as compared to non-Indigenous people. Elders want to feel more in control of money - they want to know more about it, and connect with their cultural knowledge of managing valued resources, so that they can role model how younger generations should use money wisely.

‘Indigenous money’ contributes to participants’ well-being when they are able to use it for caring, and facilitate not just individual but also family and community goals. Well-being is compromised by feelings of stress and guilt associated with financial choices which clash with cultural norms and identity.

Historical, cultural and familial factors have influenced the understanding of ‘Indigenous money’, financial capability and well-being. Though context matters, the understanding of ‘Indigenous money’ remains culturally distinctive vis-à-vis ’Anglo-Celtic money’. Money is disconnected from participants’ socio-cultural world-view, including traditional knowledge, cultural values and norms, and their sense of cultural identity. This feeling of disconnect may be why Indigenous people are more likely to be excluded, irrespective of location.

My thesis contributes to knowledge, theory and policy by exploring the participants’ world-view of money, how they manage and use it, as well as its role in their well-being. Policymakers can connect efforts to enhance Indigenous financial well-being with knowledge about the cultural shaping of ‘Indigenous money’ to use culture as an enabler, rather than a barrier, to greater financial inclusion.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Graduate School of Business and Law
Subjects Sociology not elsewhere classified
Economic Development and Growth
Studies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Society
Keyword(s) Indigenous money management
Indigenous financial inclusion
Indigenous research methodology
Financial capability
Financial well-being
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Created: Wed, 13 Jan 2016, 08:48:00 EST by Keely Chapman
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