Dr Njau Gitu is an African Australian who has seen and experienced the suffering and denial of opportunities experienced by many fellow African Australians as a result of their lack of financial literacy. Dr Gitu’s commitment to African Australian financial literacy began on his arrival in Australia in 2005. Dr Gitu’s passion has driven him to strive to improve the situation of financial literacy within his local community. His greatest contributions to financial literacy have been made in his volunteer roles, which he combines with his work tutoring Business Management and Management Consulting at University of Queensland (UQ).
The need for a financial literacy program for Brisbane-based African refugees was established by a survey that was set up by the Brisbane City Council. The survey and other data collection related to the large refugee group who were processed in Annerley and became involved in the Annerley and District Community Centre (ADCC) and the African Seniors Club Australia (ASCA). ADCC was designed to assist African refugees, migrants and students to resettle in Australian communities and specifically to improve their financial wellbeing. Njau led the formation of the Africans Community Foundation Australia (ASCOF) and used funding from Brisbane City Council to carry out research on recent migrants’ experience. The underlying concern and issue highlighted by these investigations was the inability to address basic financial matters such as how to use a bank account and how to prepare and implement any level of budgeting. Dr Gitu continues to lead the organisation, which is now a major driver in raising financial literacy. ASCOF achieved accreditation as a No Interest Loans scheme (NILS) program provider to have a way of providing financial products to those who do the relevant financial training.
Approximately 95 per cent (up from 50 per cent) of NILS loan applicants are now meeting the requirements of loan approval officers. Budgeting knowledge and skills are loan requirements and their lack has been the sole reason for rejection. Similarly, in the relevant area, there are now 120 businesses being operated by African Australians. This is an increase of 150 per cent over the past five years. During the prior period, over 20 businesses closed down with lack of financial literacy being the major contributing factor.
The work Njau Gitu is doing with financial literacy is vital to the wellbeing of those in the African Australian community. The judges commend Njau for his dedication and commitment to both the community and financial literacy. Dr Gitu has set himself an incredible challenge, and the results highlight the significant impact his work has had on the community.