A broker-led initiative to improve the life skills and financial literacy of Australian high school students has been recognised with a top national honour.
It's co-developer and finance broker now hopes the recognition will result in further expansion and government support.
Founder and principal of Astute Ability Finance Group, Mhairi MacLeod collected the Community Champion Award at last week's Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia (MFAA) National Excellence Awards.
The Community Champion honour acknowledges finance brokers and finance broker businesses who have made positive contributions to their community or the industry.
MacLeod was also the NSW/ACT winner in that category at the state awards in May. Astute Ability Finance Group was also successful in the MFAA’s Finance Broker 2-5 Loan Writer Award.
MacLeod has been active in a range of social and community service endeavours including the School Entrepreneurs Program, which aims to teach teenagers about money management and running their own start up business.
The program started three years ago with the support of the MFAA and boasts Richmond AFL star Alex Rance as an ambassador.
The program involves finance brokers delivering a six-hour program of lessons voluntarily to high school economics classes in their local community to cover topics including setting up a business, developing business plans, product development, marketing strategies, human resources, strategies for profit, loss and future business direction.
MacLeod said the need for the program was highlighted by the results of an OECD international student assessment report last year which found around 20% of 15-year-olds in Australia did not have basic financial literacy.
She said, “It’s very exciting and encouraging for us that the achievements of the School Entrepreneurs Program have been given national recognition through the Community Champion Award.
“Thousands of young Australians have benefited from taking part in the program and acquiring knowledge and skills which will make them more self-sufficient and better prepared for adulthood.
“We hope there will be even more support with government funding and employer subsidies to grow the program to its full potential to teach all Australian high school students about money management and business.”
Richmond defender Rance said dealing with adulthood was “pretty scary” for teenagers and improving financial and business knowledge as part of their school curriculum would be hugely beneficial.
He added, “Having these life skills, especially around money management, can take away some of the anxiety around being an adult.
“When you think about mental health going forward, in five years’ time it’s going to be the largest health risk in Australia and probably throughout the world. If you can minimise the anxiety and stress that is associated with finance, it’s going to make the world a far better place.”