Getting Legal With The Locals

In this fairly complicated (and pretty twisted) world of capitalism, having a bank account is paramount for any money-handling citizen. Only in the last year have I realised what this means in practical life: In order to access public services, benefits and citizen’s rights, one is dependant on the willingness of a private company to handle your money!

In my relatively short life I have already been a customer with 7 different banks and I have been using and abusing their services in the typical fashion of the mainstream consumer – mindlessly. Then I became aware of the oxymoron concept of “Ethical Banking” and I haven’t looked back since. If anything, it is the all-pervading and merciless energy of money that we as individual Human Beings have to grab the reins of and direct towards a sustainable model.

Night Sky Money

Snoozing in my tent at the Rainbow Corroboree I’d overheard a conversation between a lovely-lazy psychic lady with a bent for loud laughs and Jim Beam and a steel-mandoline player with a hat full of dreadlocks and passionate attitude towards liberating Australia’s water supplies from Fluoride and other obnoxious chemicals.

Somehow it appeared to me that the water-activist would be able to point me towards an ethical banking alternative, so I stuck out my head and obtained the following information: “There’re no ethical banks in ‘Straya dude, but you should just sign up with a credit union like Southern Cross. Credit unions are owned by their members, so at least you won’t be payin’ to the man! They operate on a local community basis but all the Credit Unions are linked together so you can get your money out all over the country.”

Personally, I never really liked paying to “the man” (however vague a figure he might be), so I decided to follow the advice. Plus I really liked the name “Southern Cross Credit Union”. I have always been fascinated with the star formation called the Southern Cross – a symbol and a metaphor for the new world in the Southern Hemisphere for so many Northern Hemisphere immigrants before me.

To the native Australians, however, the star formation is known as a possum sitting in a tree, representing the sky deity Mirrabooka. Throw in the most visible dark nebula – “the Coalsack mark” – and this prominent patch of night sky becomes the head of “the Emu in the Sky”. Beautiful.

Local Business

Back in Byron Bay, I therefore went and chatted to the lovely ladies Julie and Lyn at the local branch of the Southern Cross Credit Union. To open a bank account here, all I had to do was to walk in with my Passport, Driver’s Licence, $10 and a letter from the Tax Office sent to my hostel, and 15 minutes later I walked out with an Australian bank account – simple as that!

Simple, of course, because I belong to the privileged tribes of the so-called “developed countries” who have enough finacial leverage to allow its citizens access to the systems of other money-hoarding countries.

If I was, say, a Congolese tribesman, it would have doubtlessly been a different story full of red tape and blatant racism. Ironically, the symbol of the most radical racists in Australia (violent and ignorant skinheads) is the very same Southern Cross, which, as it happens, also figures prominently on the Australian flag.

Aboriginal Banking

However, some tribes have access to Australia’s wealth-generating system across the enormous cultural – and historically tormented – gap between European colonialists and indigenous people, in Australia often referred to as Traditional Land Owners. We’re talking about the Aboriginals of course, who only recently have been treated with just a pinch of recognition.

Where I had to produce three legal documents issued impersonally by various government authorities, an Indigenous Australian is required to bring the following:

A written reference from a community leader, who is one of the following:

  • A person who is recognized by the members of the community to be a community elder; or
  • If there is an Aboriginal council that represents the community – an elected member of the council; or
  • A member of a Regional Council established under section 92 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Commision Act 1989; or
  • A member, or a member of the staff, of a local land council established under section 21 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976; or
  • A member of the staff of the ABoriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commision; or
  • A director of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander corporation within the meaning of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commision Act 1989.

                                Brochure from Southern Cross Credit Union

From my understanding this means that all you need is a personal letter of recomendation from someone, anyone, who knows anyone in the world of Aboriginal bureacracy or business or simply from Gran’pa down the road in your local village. Pretty neat if you ask me.

Keep it Comin’!

With my new account came an old-fashioned paper-card with a hand-written account number and a plastic slip so it doesn’t tear. With that and my Tax File Number I am now officially a legal money-making entity in Australia. All I need know is for the money to roll in…

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