Saving our kids

WA’S education department is under pressure to ban the Commonwealth Bank’s Dollarmites program from schools following a damning national report which found it had no educational value.

Consumer group Choice has come out swinging after Queensland education minister Grace Grace banned Dollarmites late April. Choice banking expert Patrick Veyret says: “West Australian kids deserve better than banks using their schools to sign them up for a life of debt. Sue Ellery and the West Australian government should follow the other states and ban school banking programs.” 

School banking programs claim to help children develop long-term savings habits, however, an Australian Securities and Investments Commission review, released in December 2020, found school banking providers could not show that children had learnt anything about saving. Victoria and the ACT have also vowed to ban the programs. 

The Herald covered the issue in 2012, (“Corporations Engage in Classroom Marketing to our Kids,” June 16) outlining schools such as Beaconsfield primary that were involved in Dollarmites and other corporate marketing exercises as well as the techniques corporations used to get in the door. 

The extent of marketing tactics includes companies slapping their logo over all promotional material, and gaining a foothold in school newsletters and posters displayed around the school. 

To suck schools into their marketing ploy the Commonwealth Bank offers them payments. In 2018, the ABC reported the bank had paid almost $400,000 to Queensland state schools the year before. 

ASIC found young children did not have the cognitive ability to recognise the marketing tactics and went along believing they were just being educated.

East Fremantle financial educator Lacey Filipich said she supports banning school banking: “Banks are businesses that sell debt.” 

She said banks earn income through interest charges against debts – their main product – which is what they sell to customers through loans which adds interest. 

Banks also pay interest on savings to entice customers to keep their cash in the bank allowing them to “lend more money while complying with capital adequacy requirements… so, even the promotion of saving by banks is self-serving…


“School banking programs are an excellent deal for the banks alone. 

“I hope WA joins Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory soon in banning them.” 

Ms Filipich wants school banking free of all commercial branding and to have no marketing at all.

One parent, who did not want to be named, said that they chose not to enrol their child into Dollarmites for reasons such as negative publicity, low-interest rates, limited educational outcomes, poor rewards, and lack of trust in banks.

The ed department has previously said it’s up to schools whether they join Dollarmites or not. Ms Ellery didn’t get back to the Herald before deadline.


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