Category: News

Powerful partnership to help regional Queenslanders

Register for Webinar 1 – Introducing the Ergon/Powerlink Diploma of Financial Counselling Scholarship Program here.

Regional Queenslanders will have greater access to financial support to help respond to COVID-19 impacts with a new partnership agreement between Ergon Energy Retail, as part of Energy Queensland, Powerlink Queensland and ICAN Learn.

The $80,000 partnership program will offer seven fully paid financial counselling scholarships over a two-year period to be delivered by Cairns-based registered training organisation, ICAN Learn.  

The program will also deliver energy literacy and efficiency learning webinars to help community organisations better help customers struggling to navigate electricity costs.

ICAN Learn CEO Aaron Davis said for many communities and households around the state, the impacts of the pandemic would be felt for a long time to come.

“We’re pleased to be involved in this regional response to the ongoing financial impacts of COVID-19. When government, industry and the community sectors work together, we can maximise impact. Through the use of video conferencing technology, we’re hoping to reach communities that have limited access to services,” Mr Davis said. 

Energy Queensland CEO Rod Duke said it was important to support the community services sector, as they’re on the frontline assisting Queensland households. 

“We are committed to improving energy literacy for our customers across regional Queensland, which is why we are excited to support ICAN Learn in building the financial counselling capacity through our scholarship program. 

“Our aim is to ensure that even our most remote customers have access to the information and services they need,” Mr Duke said.

Powerlink Chief Executive Paul Simshauser said an important part of the process was seeking advice from key consumer groups on what support could be offered to customers in financial crisis because of the pandemic.  

“Their overwhelming feedback was that the most difficult part for a lot of families was still to come, so getting more trained people on the ground to provide support was critical,” Mr Simshauser said. 

“We’re so pleased to be delivering this program in partnership with Ergon Energy Retail and ICAN Learn, and in regional areas across Queensland.”

Applications open on August 10, with a webinar held on August 12 to outline further details of the scholarships and what’s involved for those interested.

A selection panel of Ergon Energy Retail, Powerlink Queensland, ICAN Learn and Financial Counsellors’ Association of Queensland will consider applications in October, with scholarships kick starting in mid-November. 

CBA Indigenous and Multicultural Scholarship Applications are now open!

ICAN Learn would like to thank the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) ongoing commitment and continued partnership with ICAN to support diversity, by building the representation of Indigenous and Multicultural financial counsellors within the broader financial counselling sector.

The three-year CBA sponsorship agreement will see two place-based Diploma of Financial Counselling Scholarship programs delivered, commencing in February 2021.

This is a fantastic opportunity to receive a free diploma qualification worth $8,000 in a supported learning environment.

There are 14 Indigenous and up to 24 Multicultural scholarships on offer so be quick!

For more information please contact

Leadership Change for ICAN Learn

Sadly we advise that Bernadette Pasco has resigned from the role of Executive Officer at ICAN Learn to commence the next exciting chapter in her career.

Bernadette’s contribution to the establishment and growth of ICAN’s social enterprise, ICAN Learn, has made it the successful Registered Training Organisation that it is today. 

Bernadette has led a dedicated team of qualified teachers and experienced compliance and co-ordination staff, who all play an integral role in delivering high quality training to both our students and the Financial Counselling sector.  From humble beginnings as a ‘start up’, to becoming the leading provider of the Diploma of Financial Counselling nationally, Bernadette leaves ICAN Learn knowing she has contributed to growing the Financial Counselling and Capability workforce, which is particularly critical in the current COVID-19 environment.

Bernadette leaves ICAN Learn in a very strong position, and we thank her for her expertise, passion, and tireless work in developing the Financial Counselling and Capability Sectors.  She will be missed by us all.

The ICAN Board has appointed Director Bob Frazer as the Acting Executive Officer of ICAN Learn during the leadership transition, ensuring business continuity until a new permanent Executive Officer is appointed.

If you have any questions about the changes at ICAN Learn, please feel free to contact Bob Frazer at

For student or course enquiries, please contact

Meet our two new Teachers!

Since 2019, ICAN Learn has been working to increase the teacher population for the financial counselling sector. Through the generous sponsorship from EnergyAustralia and CBA, ICAN Learn has more than tripled the number of financial counsellors teaching the Diploma of Financial Counselling.

Most teachers are employed on a casual basis and are doing an amazing job working alongside our teaching lead, Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch; to deliver industry focused education to increase the number of financial counsellors in Australia.

Our newest recruits – Leanne Khan and Michelle Ludwig – were also casual teachers with ICAN Learn before joining the team on a part-time basis. Between them, they bring lots of financial counselling casework expertise in the areas of problem gambling, family violence, complex casework, community development, systems advocacy and a number of other areas, including teaching and mentoring.

We asked Michelle and Leanne about their work and their primary reasons for teaching with ICAN Learn.

Leanne Khan

Leanne Khan

Leanne always had an interest in education, and this, combined with her passion for both community sector work and financial counselling, made logical sense for teaching to be her next step.

“I come with 25 years’ experience in the community sector, and around 50% of that work has been in financial counselling. I bring commitment, enthusiasm, and years of casework expertise, which includes specialisations in gambling, family violence, natural disaster, and social security”, explained Leanne.

“I love the practical “hands on” approach to teaching because I can bring real cases into the classroom to support student learning, and use a best practice model theory combined with social justice as the basis for learning”, said Leanne.  “ICAN Learn has a commitment to ensure that students understand a case management style of service, underpinned by social justice, producing well exposed, work ready candidates. In a nutshell, I believe my values and commitment to the financial counselling sector are mirrored by ICAN Learn’s commitment to the sector.”  

Michelle Ludwig

Michelle Ludwig

Michelle Ludwig has been a financial counsellor for 8 years and thought it was high time to head in a different direction.

“I decided to return to study recently by completing my training and assessment qualification [TAE40116], and now I’m excited to be a teacher with the ICAN Learn team,” said Michelle.

“I will be able to share my knowledge and financial counselling experience with all of the new students who have a passion to join the sector.  For the past three years, I have specialised in family violence financial counselling, and feel that I have much to share. Real case studies are so important to bring a ‘live’ experience to the teaching environment.  I look forward to learning a lot more from the ICAN Learn experts in the field!”

ICAN Learn is excited that experts like Leanne and Michelle are prepared to share their knowledge and focus on this essential role in sector development.

Thanks Leanne and Michelle – welcome to the ICAN Learn team!

Bravehearts: Teaming up with the ADF Financial Consumer Centre

ADF Team Lunch

December 2019 saw 12 months of discussion and planning between the ADF Financial Services Consumer Centre and ICAN Learn culminate in a week of intense education immersion for consumer centre personnel. The training expanded their understanding about ways to support the provision of financial information to ADF personnel, pre and post-deployment, to reduce risks of financial difficulty.

Employees of Bravery Trust, a national organisation helping injured, serving, and ex-serving members of the Defence Force and their families with urgent financial assistance, are actively involved in this initiative, sharing their experience about how mental health, and the effects of service, can impact a family’s financial wellness.

ICAN Learn is delivering content of the Diploma of Financial Counselling [CHC51115] to ADF Consumer Centre and Bravery Trust participants.  This will build a full understanding of how the ADF can proactively provide links to financial counsellors around the country, building opportunities to link those actively providing services to our country, to post-service support.

“It is a fantastic opportunity to work with the ADF,” said Bernadette Pasco, Executive Officer of ICAN Learn. “We are learning a lot from the incredibly well-qualified participants in our group about ADF Consumer Centre services and ways we can work together. Participants in the group have made us incredibly welcome and been really open to new ways of thinking about links between financial difficulty, mental health, and other key issues for better long term outcomes.”

“We were privileged to be in a training space in the war memorial in Sydney for a whole week, and got a sense of the depth of dedication of those providing service to others. It was very moving, on lots of fronts.”

Geoff Cornwall, ICAN Learn teacher and financial counsellor from NSW and member of the Financial Counselling Association Board of Management, was part of the training delivery in December.

In addition to providing financial counselling expertise, Geoff was able to share some of his experiences as an Official Visitor (mental health) at the South Coast Hospital, where there are specialist services for ADF members with post-traumatic stress disorder. Geoff enriched the training by providing an insight into difficulties experienced by defence staff when PTSD affects the ability to function, and frequently drives financial and other disadvantage.

ICAN Learn continues to work with the ADF and Bravery Trust to support members and Veterans in a directed way into the future.

Changes to our E-News

ICAN Learn’s E-News and social media are undergoing some changes in 2020, that we’d love to share with you. We’ve decided to release the ICAN Learn E-News every second month, alternating with our parent organisation, the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network or ICAN’s E-News. If you still want monthly content and you’re not already on both E-News lists, you can sign up to the ICAN E-News here, .

We’re also moving all of our updates and news to Twitter, Facebook and Linked In. So, if you want to get training and financial counselling/capability sector news from ICAN Learn as it happens, please like, join or follow us on your favourite social media app/site.

We’re also really keen to make sure that ICAN Learn’s E-News content is what you’re looking for, so please answer our 1 question survey below.

Create your own user feedback survey

Professional Mentoring: a must for a resilient profession

ICAN Learn professional supervision training brochure.

The resilience of financial counsellors is enhanced by professional mentoring / supervision. The advent of National Standards a few years ago included the need for a specific focus on professional supervision as part of the aim of continuous professional development. It has been difficult to establish this new way of thinking in the sector, but slowly, various regions are seeing the benefit. The understanding of professional supervision / mentoring is growing, and the researched approaches used in other professions, are starting to bear fruit in the financial counselling world. 

Professional supervision has the potential to be one of the best resilience building tools that we can access; it focuses on the wellbeing of the individual financial counsellor, taking into account their professional needs and personal learning style to be the best professional they can be. As we build the sector’s capacity, we continue to demonstrate the financial counselling sector’s potential for increasing professionalism.

Professional supervision is a key part of professional development, and involves 2 way learning and mentoring with roles for both the supervisee [enquiry] and supervisor [resourcing]. The professional supervisor / mentor, applies proactive communication, active listening, understanding of the cycle of change/reflection/ development and lots of other skills to ensure that each financial counsellor they supervise can build higher skills and seek self-determination in terms of their career and personal development. 

Professional mentoring / supervision augments the already established and necessary function of line management supervision, which provides the necessary focus on casework, risk management, protecting clients and organisational outcomes. 

Professional supervision/mentoring is everybody’s business- it’s a collaboration for better outcomes; every financial counsellor, whether supervisor or supervisee, must understand their role in this, so all the more reason to ramp up training opportunities. 

ICAN Learn is leading a new way to ensure that the financial counselling workforce is able to support its professional membership across Australia with some education innovation. In February / March, Bernadette Pasco, experienced in professional supervision and its development, decided to try and gather a few financial counsellors for delivery of a 6 week online workshop approach. We are currently coming up to week 6, and feedback has been great so far!

“We plan to run a regular approach to this, so that financial counsellors have the opportunity to undertake training at a set time each week in their own environment.” says Bernadette Pasco, Executive Officer of ICAN Learn; “That way, it’s not too imposing and does not require major time out of the office. Our next 6 week program will commence in May 2020. Our limit is 15 people per course to enable full participation and quality.”

[Find our brochure on this link]

ICAN Learn plans to set up a professional supervision program in the near future, hosting a list of financial counsellors who have undertaken our training that are available to provide professional supervision to financial counsellors around the country either face to face, via computer [Zoom] or telephone. Watch this space for more training and program information!

More Than Money: Sustainable Livelihoods Canada share their holistic vision

Janet Murray shows ICAN team the Sustainable Livelihoods model.

ICAN and the Financial Counselling Association of Queensland (FCAQ) hosted Janet Murray, the head of a new Canadian not-for-profit social enterprise, Sustainable Livelihoods Canada (SLC), earlier this month. During her stay, Janet conducted two full-day workshops at the annual FCAQ conference and ICAN’s Cairns office. The intensive workshops provided Queensland’s financial capability practitioners and the ICAN team an opportunity to explore the philosophy behind the Sustainable Livelihoods model. 

ICAN Team attend the Sustainable Livelihoods workshop at the Financial Counselling Association of Queensland (FCAQ) annual conference.

The sustainable livelihoods philosophy

Janet described the model as a holistic approach to poverty reduction, that addresses people’s social and economic exclusion, by promoting community organisations’ capacity to build resilience and livelihoods. 

ICAN’s program development team witnessed the Sustainable Livelihoods model in action during a Canadian study tour in 2019. Aaron Davis, ICAN CEO, said “When we visited SEED and Momentum, two of Canada’s premiere community economic development organisations, the sustainable livelihoods model really stood out as an integral component to achieving both successful and measured outcomes. We also felt that Sustainable Livelihoods married well with Yarnin’ Money’s strengths-based approach.”

Janet explained how Sustainable Livelihoods is becoming a movement in response to the increased “siloing” and institutionalisation of front-line client services in Canada. “We’re aiming to swing the pendulum back towards more holistic, people-centred services, starting where people living on low-incomes are really at”, said Janet. “Social development services in Canada often focus on narrow, unrealistic outcomes that force front-line workers to skip over critical, ‘up-front’ foundation building with marginalised people.”

Sustainable livelihoods model grew from an evaluation tool

“Sustainable Livelihoods was originally adapted to front-line work with people living on low-incomes as a part of a national, multi-site evaluation”, said Janet. “The asset mapping tool was developed as a way of engaging front-line staff as “Practitioner Researchers” who did pre/post interviews with a sampling of their clients.  To our surprise, they loved using the holistic tool and saw that the practice itself had an impact on client results.”

“They began using it in their day to day work, and organisations started coming to us with requests for training in the methodology,” said Janet. “Evidence from our evaluations of over 10 projects has confirmed that the practice improves outcomes.” 

On ICAN & ICAN Learn’s Sustainable Livelihood implementation strategy

“I had a really productive planning day with the amazing ICAN team,” said Janet. “ICAN has grasped the concepts underlying Sustainable Livelihoods and moved quickly to explore ways of using the framework and tools, and even come up with a number of innovations.”

“I was most impressed by the sophistication and sensitivity of the emerging strategy to implement Sustainable Livelihoods,” said Janet. “It gives ICAN staff time to use and become comfortable with the concepts and process before moving on to engage clients. I believe that this ‘patient’ approach will be more effective at getting people on board, and will result in an approach and language that are adapted to your local context and work.”

“This is our first international gig and I can see that there is potential for long-term collaboration, mutual learning and partnership,” said Janet. “I’m looking forward to seeing what innovations you make with the model in the financial coaching space in Queensland!”

Visiting Cairns, North Queensland

“Wow! Cairns is a wonderful place! My partner Bruno and I can’t thank you all enough.” 

“Around my work with the FCAQ and ICAN, we managed to do two wonderful trips to the reef (the Frankland Islands in particular were spectacular), a hike at Mossman Gorge, the Market at Port Douglas, a concert at the Tanks, and much more.  I’ve been surprised at how little Canadians know about Australia and will go back as an ambassador for your lovely community.”

“Thanks so much to Aaron, Jon, Carmen and all the ICAN staff for their warm welcome and outstanding hospitality!”

Success in Victoria

ICAN Learn’s Victorian Graduates celebrate their success on the banks of the Yarra.

Congratulations to recent graduates of ICAN Learn’s Victorian programs. ICAN learn celebrated the success of students in our Victorian programs with a wonderful lunch on the banks of the Yarra at Southbank, Melbourne. 

In October 2017, ICAN Learn enrolled its first Victorian students in 2 courses: the ‘Victorian General’ course and the ‘Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program’, both programs delivering the Diploma of Financial Counselling.

All participants worked hard to achieve success and all graduates are in current financial counselling employment in various organisations. Many of our students from these programs have featured in the ICAN Learn news over the last 18 months.  

The Victoria General program gave opportunities to individuals to study in a small group and receive individual mentoring and support. 

“It’s been amazing to work with such a group of motivated individuals seeking to add value to the financial counselling industry,” said Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch, the lead teacher for the program. Robyn Individually supported all the students from this group, leading them to success.

The Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program [MCSP] presented a different opportunity. Funded by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia [CBA], the MCSP was the first-ever Diploma of financial counselling student group in Australia to focus only on those with a history as new Australians keen to create capacity for their communities in the future. It complements ICAN’s focus on empowering the Indigenous workforce, using the same mentorship model with significant 1:1 support provided to enable students to gain success. The MCSP delivered the skill set in Financial Literacy Education [CHCSS0077] before students commenced the Diploma of Financial Counselling [CHC51115]. This approach ensures opportunities for employment in both the financial capability and financial counselling sectors, doubling chances of success. 

“The students in the MCSP have come such a long way – we have learned as much from them and they have from us,” says Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch. Graduates from the MCSP program are also employed in various agencies. 

ICAN learn / CBA will be conducting the second group in West Sydney in 2020 and is currently focusing on recruiting students from multicultural backgrounds through working with agencies and aligned providers in the region including Settlement Services International.  “Our key focus is to target multicultural workers in community services and health workforces to participate in this Diploma delivery,” said ICAN Learn Executive Officer, Bernadette Pasco “Upskilling the current multicultural workforce means that we can build more financial literacy and financial counselling capacity into the future.” 

You can express interest in the new MCSP 2020 by emailing and requesting course information. 

Counting the Costs

Counting the Costs: Report on Financial Counsellor Stress & Work Overload

Financial Counselling Victoria (FCVic) released a report earlier this month on financial counsellor stress and work overload. The report entitled, ‘Counting the Costs’, was created in response to consistent feedback from FCVic members experiencing high levels of stress and burnout linked with an ever-increasing service demand. FCVic distributed surveys to 210 practising financial counsellors across Victoria and asked 90 questions related to issues of stress and burnout. 

The survey had an overwhelming 74% response rate and found that:

  • Stress is having an impact on the work performance of 75 per cent of respondents
  • Stress is having an impact on the personal lives of 74 per cent of respondents
  • Stress is cited as a major contributing factor to why people are leaving the industry
  • Stress is deriving from workloads and other factors that are putting financial counsellors at risk, and forcing many to work part-time to protect themselves

An analysis of the survey responses revealed that total case load is the largest contributor to stress. Other contributing factors included ‘Case complexity’ (37 per cent) and ‘Management’ (36 per cent). The latter category reflects issues with management lacking an understanding of the role of a financial counsellor, which may also link to the other significant factors identified – ‘Unrealistic expectations of role’ (32 per cent) and ‘Lack of resources or support’ (26 per cent).

Financial Counselling Victoria is recommending that funding bodies, agency employers and WorkSafe Victoria work with financial counsellors and FCVic to address the pressing issue of stress and burnout in the sector as a matter of urgency. The above text has been taken from the report with permission from FCVic, you can download the ‘Counting the Costs’ report here