Category: News

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

Australian Poverty Report Released

The 2020 Poverty in Australia Overview, released today by the Australian Council of Social Service and UNSW Sydney, shows more than one in eight adults and one in six children live below the poverty line in Australia. 

Australian Council of Social Service CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said:

“It’s not right that in Australia, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, more than three million people, including three quarters of a million children, are living in poverty.

“We want to support each other. It’s who we are as a nation. But our economy is leaving people behind, with persistently high poverty rates despite decades of uninterrupted economic growth.

“People living in poverty include young people working to get their foot in the door of the competitive job market, single parents juggling caring responsibilities, and older people confronting age discrimination. 

“The job market is changing, with jobs less secure, and fewer entry level jobs than there used to be. Our housing costs are among the highest in the world and are locking people in poverty. For households of working age with the lowest incomes, average housing costs rose by 42% from 2005 to 2017.

“Australia’s income support system was designed to help people when they are going through tough times. But key income support payments – Newstart and Youth Allowance – have not increased in real terms in 26 years and they are both well below the poverty line. 

“The low rate of Newstart, a lack of jobs and unaffordable housing are locking people in poverty. “Not only has poverty remained consistently high in our wealthy country, the depth of poverty is getting worse, with households in poverty on average living 42 per cent below the poverty line, up from 35% in 2007.

“It’s clear we must act to lift people out of poverty. The Government can reduce poverty by boosting growth in jobs, increasing Newstart and Rent Assistance, and investing in social housing to ensure everyone has a safe place to call home,” Dr Goldie said. 

The report’s lead researcher, UNSW Sydney Associate Professor Dr Bruce Bradbury said: “The poverty rate in Australia is worse than in most other wealthy countries, including New Zealand, Germany and Ireland. 

“Our report finds that 13.6 per cent of people in Australia are living in poverty and that poverty rates have remained at about this level for the past decade, despite economic growth.

“Child poverty has consistently been higher than overall poverty, ranging from 18 per cent to 16 per cent over the past decade and now sits at 17.7 per cent – more than one in six children.”

Professor Carla Treloar, Director of the Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, said: “We cannot accept these high, persistent levels of overall poverty and child poverty.”

“We can see in recent decades the impacts of changes to income support settings on poverty levels. It’s clear we must take action on income support, housing and employment to lift people out of poverty,” said Professor Treloar. 

You can read the full report here.

Major disasters require major responses

Bushfire by Martin Snicer

As of the 4th January, 2020, Australia’s bushfire crisis has caused 24 fatalities and the destruction of over 2500 buildings, including over 1300 houses. The estimated $350M+ insurance bill coupled with other associated financial impacts of this catastrophic event are unprecedented and will require a coordinated response from an already under resourced national financial counselling sector. Natural disasters are both increasing in number and intensity, as climate change scientists have predicted over the past three decades.

In May 2019, Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) held a Natural Disaster Workshop during their annual conference in Melbourne. The workshop was the beginning of a national multi-disciplinary conversation on appropriate financial counselling responses to natural disaster situations. ICAN Financial Counsellor, Ray Kent spoke at the workshop about his learnings from Cyclone Yasi and the more recent 2019 Townsville floods.  

“Our experience suggests that the sector has approximately 6-months to prepare an appropriate financial counselling response to the recent bushfire events,” said Mr Kent. “This is when the state emergency services start winding back and the financial counselling issues really start kicking in. Significant financial counselling case experience is critical in post natural disaster scenarios, as you are often supporting people experiencing a range of mental health issues on top of complex financial problems.”

Any natural disaster response requires systems to be put in place that support both the mental health of our service users and our financial counselling practitioners. “We are introducing the development of self-care plans as part of our professional supervision and continuous improvement processes in 2020,” said Mr Davis. “Vicarious trauma is a real threat for financial counsellors at the best of times, natural disaster situations increase this threat tenfold.” 

Unified, financial counselling systems responses to natural disaster-affected regions, requires working collaboratively and implementing triage models to match the needs of service users with a highly skilled financial counselling workforce. Some of the ways we can achieve this is by increased financial counselling funding to affected areas, and by building our financial counselling workforce:

  • In the short-term, provide on-call financial counsellors sourced from a state or national association registered pool, that have relevant professional development and/or disaster financial counselling experience. 
  • In the longer-term, deliver place-based Diploma of Financial Counselling training programs in order to: 1) increase the number of qualified financial counsellors and 2) develop localised financial counselling workforces equipped to meet the ongoing needs of disaster affected communities.

ICAN and ICAN Learn looks forward to sharing our experiential learnings and supporting the national financial counselling sector’s response to these catastrophic events.  

Remote Financial Counsellor (Part 2)

stock image

In part-2 of Remote Financial Counsellor, ICAN Learn E-News caught up with Toni Cork, General Manager and Financial Counsellor at HK Training & Consultancy (HKTC), a registered training organisation, based in Darwin, NT. The team at HKTC do amazing work with the Nightcliff Renal Facility, an extremely important job given the alarming reality that 32.4% of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory are living with signs of kidney disease, the highest rate of any state or territory in Australia. 

Welcome Toni!

Given your experience working within remote Indigenous communities, what connection do you see between financial hardship and health?

Taking care of yourself is the last thing on the list for people in financial hardship. Once the essentials like rent and power are paid, there’s little left over to spend on eating healthy foods and exercising. Often fridges are old and don’t work properly, which causes food to spoil quickly, and not every household has a washing machine, which means clothing and bedding can be used for months before there’s an opportunity to wash them. Of course, this then increases the chances and spread of skin infections such as scabies, which often leads to strep infections, the number one cause of rheumatic heart disease. These circumstances, accompanied with lack of housing, limited health resources in language, and health staff who speak language, create a massive health dilemma and an increase in chronic diseases such as kidney disease.

Can you tell me about the cost and access to healthy food in the remote communities that you service?

There has been a marked decrease in the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables in remote communities over the last ten years. However it’s still anywhere from $1 to $5 more expensive per item than buying from a supermarket in Darwin. There’s also little or no access to dietary requirements such as milk alternatives or gluten-free pasta. And while healthy food has decreased in price other items such as bread, milk, cereals, cheese, spreads, tea and coffee are two to three times more expensive than purchasing them from a supermarket in Darwin. Therefore, once you’ve bought those items there’s often not a lot left for your fruits and vegetables.

How and why did HKTC start providing services at the Nightcliff Renal Facility?

It happened very organically. We had some clients who had to relocate from their Community to Darwin for dialysis treatment, and we assisted them with accessing insurance payments from the superannuation companies. Once we helped those clients other patients, renal social workers and Aboriginal Liaison Officers started asking us to help other people. At that time there was no organisation specifically servicing the renal unit, and some of the patients, while waiting for housing, were staying with family in the town camps, and we were the town camp service provider. So it just made sense to us to fill this gap.

How many patients do you estimate are at the Nightcliff Renal Facility?

“There are 120. We predominately service patients from Nightcliff Renal Unit but also have a client who is a patient at Palmerston Renal Unit and currently one who is at the Royal Darwin Hospital Renal ward. We have helped about 15 people from the hospital ward.

What percentage of patients are Indigenous, and where are they from?

99% are Indigenous, and they come from all over the top end of the NT. We’re currently assisting people who are originally from Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island, Minjilang, Yirrkala, Jabiru, Lajamanu, Papunya, Minyeri, Barunga, Borroloola and Galiwinku.

What type of money management and financial counselling does HKTC provide at the renal facility?

We provide the whole range of services from helping people do a budget for the change of living arrangements; to accessing ID; through to assisting them to access IP & TPD insurance, debt waivers, advocacy with systemic issues, tax help and delivering information sessions on topics such as understanding their rights and responsibilities as consumers and on affordable lending products such as the NILS loan.

Are there some issues your team deals with at the renal facility more than others, and what are they?

Yes, we assist with a lot of superannuation claims and Telstra issues.

Do you see any health benefits for clients that you’ve assisted, either directly or indirectly, including benefits to mental health?

There are certainly immediate health benefits for people that we assist, both physically and mentally. How long these benefits last depends on whether there has been a permanent change to their situation, such as stable employment and housing and how much wrap-around support they’re getting from other services. I don’t believe we’ll ever see long-term sustainable change until we can change all aspects of a person’s life that contributes to them being in hardship and ill health to begin with. For this to happen we need to work and keep working collaboratively, from a strengths-based model and programs need to be adequately funded.

Do you think financial counselling services should become an integral part of health interventions, for example, within health services/hospitals like social work?

Absolutely. There is definitely a need for impartial and informed free help and advice for people accessing health services, especially when their health needs are going to be long term. I’ve also assisted people, via referrals from Centrelink, who are in hospital receiving treatment for cancer and recovering from an accident. I believe there’d be enough work for a financial counsellor and capability worker to work from the hospital at least one day a week, and this support would take some stress off the patients and their families and free up social workers who would otherwise (and currently are) assisting them.

Thank you Toni for providing us with some insight into the inspiring work HTKC and yourself are doing to address the socioeconomic issues of patients. You are improving health outcomes by addressing this critical social determinant of health. We look forward to following you on this journey.