Australia’s leading independent law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, has confirmed its commitment to improving financial inclusion and enabling people experiencing severe financial vulnerability or distress to improve their lives with the publication of its inaugural Financial Inclusion Action Plan.

Corrs is one of only 30 trailblazing organisations including banks, charities, utilities, governments and universities - and one of only two law firms – to have a FIAP in place in the first stage of a special program to ensure the millions of vulnerable Australians suffering financial hardship and exclusion receive relief, and are able to navigate their way to full engagement in the social and economic life of their communities.

The FIAP program is led by Good Shepherd Microfinance, a not-for-profit community organisation, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government in partnership with the Centre for Social Impact and EY.

More than 2.5 million Australians say they have no savings, only one-in-five Australians say they have full control over their finances and 45% of people earning less than A$40,000 a year say their financial situation worsened in 2017.

“Corrs became involved in the FIAP initiative because of our pioneering attitude towards our national pro bono program and the generosity of spirit that exists at the firm,” Chairman of Corrs Pro Bono and Partner Jeremy King said.

“We recognised legal impediments are preventing people fully participating in the Australian economy, and our clients – many of which are also FIAP trailblazers – require legal support in order to implement their own FIAPs. We are also mindful that issues of financial distress, on its own or as a result of physical or mental illness, the death of a close relative, or marital breakdown, could affect any one of our own partners or staff,” Mr King said.

In many respects, the Corrs FIAP builds on the firm’s existing policies, procedures and pro bono activities. However, in terms of other stakeholders, it focuses on:

  • Collaborating across industries and clients to develop and promote products and services that support those at risk of financial exclusion in the community;
  • Actively engaging with suppliers, clients and other FIAP participants, both within and outside of the legal sector, to share ideas and collaborate on initiatives that help increase awareness and reduce financial exclusion within their organisation;
  • Building on successful relationships with pro bono organisations and social enterprises to identify opportunities to enhance financial inclusion in the community; and
  • Continuing to provide programs in partnership with these stakeholders to assist and promote financial inclusion and access to justice for vulnerable groups and individuals.

“We believe the ‘community of practice’ that is developing among FIAP trailblazers will reduce the impact of financial exclusion in Australia,” Mr King said. “It will also make it easier for vulnerable and disadvantaged people to access financial products and services that many of us may take for granted, such as bank accounts, debits cards, insurance and superannuation.

“We also hope that our FIAP will help to ease the negative impact of a dramatic life event for our people and our clients.”