First Nations Advantage Credit Union was officially opened with justified pomp and ceremony in Shepparton, Victoria on Monday, May 3, 1999. The traditional elders of the land in and around Shepparton, the Yorta Yorta, officially welcomed visitors onto the land. Well known Indigenous Australians such as Cathy Freeman, Arthur Beetson, John Simon, Owen Craigie and Cliff Lyons were either at the opening or gave their support in other ways.

Many people put a lot of time, effort and money into getting First Nations Advantage Credit Union up and running but none more so than founding Chair Paul Briggs who was profiled in the April 1999 edition of Directions magazine. The forming of First Nations was the culmination of 10 years of hard work for Briggs. He told Directions that:

“In 1987 I was the chairperson of the Health, Welfare and Social Support Cooperative for people in Shepparton which has a population of about 55,000 people. Many of the members in the community were coming from a low economic perspective and were finding it difficult to meet their financial demands.

There was only one financial counselling position in the area and it was struggling to address Aboriginal issues. It mostly offered reactionary crisis management intervention. We wanted to bring cultural financial management into the community and the best way of doing this was for people to develop ownership of a financial institution”.

Mr Briggs had support from important groups such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, the latter providing First Nations with a $5 million set-up contribution. Treasurer of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, David Clark, told the City of Sydney Times in October 1999 that, “Financial security and independence are the keys to self-determination”. Mr Clark went on to say, “We’re proud to invest in First Nations and we’re confident it will help our people take better control of their economic future”.

First Nations Advantage Credit Union operated as a division of Advantage Credit Union. The CEO of Advantage Credit Union at the time was Ron Nicholls. CreditCare (a division of CUSCAL) arranged a face to face meeting between Paul Briggs and Ron Nicholls at the 1996 Credit Union Convention. Ron was keen to help Paul and thought the ‘incubator’ model used by Community First Credit Union in setting up a credit union for the NSW Korean community could be adopted by Advantage in creating what would become First Nations Advantage Credit Union.

Mr Nicholls told Directions in 1999 that “We wanted to make it a separate division with its own identity. A credit union within a credit union, right from the start”. First Nations answered to the Board of Advantage but was managed by Indigenous people. CreditCare also provided much needed infrastructure in the setting up of the credit union.

What was Advantage Credit Union was incorporated into CUA in 2006.