Jordy Dwyer is passionate about helping Indigenous Australians improve their financial well-being.
The 30-year-old Wiradjuri man, who grew up on the central coast of New South Wales, now works as a community engagement and project officer at the First Nations Foundation.
Registered charity provides financial education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It’s important and rewarding work for Jordy, but it also helped him better understand his own relationship with money.
For ABC Everyday’s Money Q&A, we sat down with Jordy to hear his story.
What are some of the financial barriers that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face?
What is lost is the economic injustices that have occurred recently, to be honest.
Were [the] first or second generation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people able to fully participate in the economy.
This comes as a result of increased access to education and recognition by the wider community of the value and knowledge that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can impart in the workplace.
But that only happened recently. My dad wasn’t classified as a citizen until he was five years old. That keeps it in check for me.
How has your relationship with money changed over the years?
I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I kept it for about 15 years.
Looking back now, I guess you’re living a double life. You are trying to paint a false image that everything is rosy. For me, that included spending lavishly.
Until I figured it out in terms of my mental health, it was always going to be hard to manage money.
Even last year, I got a bit of reality when I turned 30 and realized I didn’t have a lot of money in the bank, even though I’ve been working steadily since I left school at decent jobs.
I’ve always had that kind of survival attitude with money, just to get through the next week. That is a very widespread attitude in our communities because we are very used to it.
It’s really about changing that mindset now.
Now we have the opportunity to shape the next generation, as well as ourselves.
What problems do people face when it comes to money?
We have been lucky enough to travel to some special places to hold workshops and be a part of community initiatives.
The important thing is the lack of knowledge that has been transmitted.
We see throughout communities across the country people signing up for payday loans, buy now pay later or rent-to-own schemes that end up costing them twice what they should.
We’re looking for ways to help people out of despair, which is likely to exaggerate that cycle of financial disadvantage.
It’s really about making sure everyone understands what they’re signing up for.
It’s also about trying to start those conversations about money. It’s hard to talk about that when you don’t have any.
How do financial difficulties impact people’s mental health?
We have such a big problem in our communities with men in particular dying at ridiculously young ages. Mental health is obviously a contributing factor.
For me, I know that looking back now, keeping up appearances and trying to keep that facade up was a big part of my struggles for money, for sure.
There are so many Black men across the country who are suffering in silence, not just Black men, but non-Indigenous men as well.
It’s important to try to eliminate that shame, especially when it comes to money.
If you haven’t had those conversations growing up, that foundation around financial literacy and wellness, it’s very difficult. You are starting from scratch.
The reality is that many of us did not get that foundation from our parents or grandparents that many non-Indigenous people are likely to get from those money talks.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
As an Aborigine it is always a great highlight to be able to go out and see other mafias across the country.
Sometimes you see people have those lightbulb moments: they’re looking at how much they’re spending and setting some financial goals for themselves. You see his optimism. That’s really what motivates us to keep going.
Obviously, it’s hard to listen to some of the stories, in terms of people signing up for bad loans in vulnerable situations.
They may need to travel to another community for unfortunate business, and they don’t have that money, and a payday lender easily gives them access, so they may end up in a little hole.
Otherwise, when people sit down and assess their budget, and make one for themselves, it will often be the first time they’ve done it. That’s the highlight.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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