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Issue 15 - Spring 2013

Postcard from... Darwin


The civil law division of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) is no stranger to FOS, says solicitor Francesca Ciantar.

The more we get out to remote communities, the more we are able to help people with their consumer disputes through FOS. We come across issues which you might not see in other parts of Australia. We’ve had a few scenarios where an Aboriginal person has signed up to a credit contract that they don’t actually understand. It might be due to language or literacy issues – many of our clients have English as a third or fourth language and may not be able to read complex documents. Others don’t understand the concept of interest – they know they have to pay back the money they borrow but don’t understand having to pay extra for interest or fees” says Francesca.

NAAJA has seen that when it comes to insurance matters, many clients don’t understand the policy documents and often misunderstand the cover they bought.

“One client with comprehensive car insurance recently thought that the $30,000,000 worth of liability on her policy schedule was how much she would get paid if something happened to the car. Another was signed up to pet insurance but they don’t have a pet.”

Five NAAJA solicitors recently attended the FOS Forum in Darwin run by Philip Field and Meredith Walker.

“It was really interesting to meet Philip and Meredith and be given the opportunity to see FOS from the inside out, so to speak” Francesca says. “It’s good to know what their team is looking for in a complaint because it means we can streamline our approach and resolve disputes more efficiently.”

“FOS is the great equaliser – it helps many people avoid costly, stressful litigation, and it’s a very effective dispute resolution mechanism in and of itself.”