Christian Unger arrived in Australia from Chile in the late 70’s as a 5-year old with his brother and parents. Today Christian is the Coordinator of the Brotherhood of St Laurence Saver Plus program, where he is able to support the struggles of immigrants to Australia, an experience vivid in his own memory.
- Tell us a little about yourself, how long you have been in Australia and why you decided to undertake the Diploma of Financial Counselling.
“We didn’t know anyone in Australia when we arrived.” says Christian, “Life was very hard without financial support, or maybe we just didn’t know about it.”
The first priority of his parents was to find employment and earn an income.
“We had no knowledge of the Australian way of life. How do you get a license? How do you connect your utilities? How much do you pay for medical attention? How do find the bus routes? In an era without internet, and English as a new language, these were all the questions that we asked ourselves as a family. I remember as a five-year old asking my school teacher about some of these questions because my parents had no support.”
For Christian, the fear is still there. Knowing personally what that fear is, he feels better equipped to communicate and express empathy to new migrants.
I decided to do the Diploma of Financial Counselling to have another tool in my toolbox to better assist those in need in our society. My experience at the Brotherhood of St Laurence taught me that finances was always a factor in many of issues faced by members in our society. Gaining a Diploma of Financial Counselling will give me the resources that I require to create a better system on how to assist newly arrived Australians through Financial Counselling. There are financial counselling programs especially dedicated for Problem Gamblers and Domestic Violence, so why not newly arrived migrants. Unfortunately, from my experience with Settlement workers, they do not have all the tools required to assist a newly arrived Australian.
- Tell us about the work you do at the moment and how your financial counselling knowledge will benefit people in your community / will you be able to integrate financial counselling into your current role as a social worker?
“I have recently been employed as a financial capability worker and before that I was in an unpaid role developing financial programs for different groups in our society. I have worked towards the goal of designing and running financial programs that require the skill sets of both a Financial Capability Worker and a Financial Counsellor. I I take a holistic approach to financial programs and believe that by having both the skill sets of a Financial Capability Worker and a Financial Counsellor I can make more of a difference in meeting the needs of my clients.
- As a person from a diverse background, tell us about some of the key things that will influence your work in financial counselling and capability, and what do you see as important for financial counsellors to focus on when working with the multicultural clients / are there additional practice considerations?
Christian has a keen passion to understand the needs of his clients; “The biggest focus on working with multicultural clients would be to fully understand the person; their past experiences, cultural believes and goals.” “It is really important for financial counsellors to develop capacity to understand diverse issues and find out how people would tackle their current issues in their home country.”
Processes in Australia are quite different and there is often a lack of understanding of procedural approaches when people are new to this country. “In most third world countries, a lot of things get done with much less red tape. Quite often I see the frustration in people’s eyes when they hear that things will take a certain period of time. We need to understand their expectations of us and understand how they think we will be able to help them.”
- If there was one thing one thing you could say about financial counselling sector development, what would it be?
Christian says that “All offices with multiple financial counsellor workers need to employ a financial capability worker.”
Christian notes that organisations focused on financial wellbeing that offer particular products such as No Interest Loans and Savings programs should all engage in having the full suite of financial well being workers – financial capability workers and financial counsellors; when delivered without that support, the client often does not get the best outcomes.