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Relationships a key to Indigenous awareness

12 December 2013

Results of a survey of intermediaries who work with Indigenous consumers in remote areas shows more than half are aware of the TIO and our role.

The survey, conducted by the Shannon Company on behalf of the TIO in May was aimed at people working in 29 "Remote Service Delivery Areas" around Australia. These included financial counsellors, legal centre workers and social workers who have a direct relationship with Indigenous consumers.

Respondents were asked about their knowledge of the TIO, their experience in dealing with the TIO if they had used the service, what issues are faced by their Indigenous clients and how to best communicate with Indigenous consumers.

Of the 123 respondents, 57 per cent knew about the TIO before completing the survey and almost a third had referred clients to the TIO. All respondents who had used the TIO were satisfied with the experience.

While there is substantial awareness among intermediary workers, the majority of respondents said awareness among Indigenous consumers in remote communities is low. This is due to language barriers and a lack of understanding of their rights.

Among the issues listed for Indigenous consumers were:

  • poor coverage and service delivery
  • understanding contracts and rights
  • unaffordable bills
  • cyber-bullying, and
  • unfair practices.

A series of interviews with intermediary workers revealed that many Indigenous consumers in remote communities have trouble understanding the implications of signing up to a contract. If they have to make a complaint about a service, they may find it hard to provide the information that telcos require, such as specific dates or names of complaint handlers.

In some cases, language can be a barrier in an Indigenous person's understanding of a telco contract. For some, English may be a second or even third language.

Cultural differences may also cause issues between telcos and Indigenous consumers in remote areas. For some consumers, contractual obligations are hard to understand. When things go wrong and services are cut off, they can lose contact with social networks or family, which can lead to family problems.

The survey also asked respondents to make suggestions about how we can improve communication with Indigenous consumers. Respondents remarked on the importance of face-to-face communication for Indigenous consumers, as well as simple messages. The TIO is considering the findings for a strategy to communicate with Indigenous consumers and those who work with them in remote communities.

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