National forum to tackle youth financial literacy

16 May 2006

Australia faces the prospect of a cycle of ‘financial illiteracy’, according to the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank and Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Foundation, Mr Ralph Norris.

Ahead of the launch of national youth financial literacy forum ‘StartSmart’ in Sydney today, Mr Norris said Australia needs to act now to provide education programs to address youth understanding of financial literacy issues.

"Australian youth are savvy consumers but they struggle to grasp more complex issues such as calculating value or the cost implications for making poor financial decisions."

"As a society, we are not making the financial education and understanding process a priority for our youth," said Mr Norris.

Mr Norris said the National StartSmart forum was one of a number of Commonwealth Bank Foundation initiatives aimed to ensure youth financial literacy remains prominent on the government, education, business and parental agenda.

"StartSmart is designed to discuss financial literacy issues directly with our youth and identify ways which society can engage with them to address those issues."

"Ultimately the forum aims to assist the Commonwealth Bank Foundation to develop a better understanding of their needs so we can forge a path forward for future education initiatives," said Mr Norris.

‘StartSmart’ will be hosted by ABC Radio’s Adam Spencer and speakers will include:

  • Peter Sheahan - 26 year old expert on Generation Y.
  • Justin Herald - Self made man who started with $50, started Attitude T-shirt label
  • Daniel Clarke - ENYA - the Enterprise Network for Young Australians - not for profit, run by young people, for young people.
  • David Koch – Leading Financial Commentator and Television Presenter
  • Students from Liverpool Girls High School

Generation Y expert and StartSmart speaker Peter Sheahan, said today’s youth reflect the culture of instant gratification in which they have been raised.

"If you have money in your wallet or your bank account or access to credit; it’s ingrained human nature to spend that money."

"They have been brought up in an era of unprecedented economic prosperity and as a result have some fairly expansive views of money and the availability of capital," said Mr Sheahan.

Founder of Attitude Clothing, Justin Herald will also speak at the forum, and he highlights that Australian youth spend beyond their means.

"If you only have ten dollars, don’t spend twenty dollars. Often the reason young people have financial problems is because that is the way mum and dad used to do it. It is learned behaviour.

The Commonwealth Bank Foundation is a visionary leader in the area of financial literacy.

In February, the Foundation announced results from the inaugural Australian Financial Literacy Assessment (AFLA), a landmark assessment of over 43,000 students nationally in years 9 and 10 to identify financial capabilities and financial literacy.

"Findings such as 20 per cent of students not being able to withdrawal required sums of money from an ATM were quite alarming," said Mr Norris.

The Commonwealth Bank ‘StartSmart’ Youth Financial Literacy Forum commences in Homebush today, Tuesday 16 May.

For further information about the Commonwealth Bank’s financial literacy programs or to view a copy of the AFLA 2006 report visit


For more information contact:

Bryan Fitzgerald
General Manager, Media and Issues Management
The Commonwealth Bank/Commonwealth Bank Foundation

Ph: (02) 9378 2663
Mob: 0414 789 649