Category: News

Education shapes profession

A current review on the Diploma of Financial Counselling [code CHC51115] has posed a risk to the retention of core units that are part of the Financial Counselling profession. In this article, we provide an overview of the importance of systems advocacy and community development and how these have always been foundational components of the financial counselling profession.

Financial counsellors have a substantial role to play in developing communities and advocating for them at both individual and systems levels. Our sector needs to support these core areas of skills and knowledge development for financial counsellors, in order to build a workforce adept at providing a voice for persons experiencing vulnerabilities, and mobilising communities. When systems advocacy is built into our casework, financial counsellors are able to identify and tackle the root causes of financial and consumer detriment more effectively. 

‘I think of advocacy as the key activity of a financial counsellor – otherwise we’re just paper shufflers. Sometimes I think we should be renamed ‘financial advocates’. With the mentality of an advocate, we can tackle someone’s problem with the aim of solving it, not just managing it,’ said a financial counsellor in a recent ICAN interview

This social justice approach to ‘cause’ advocacy has a long history in the Australian financial counselling movement and has historically included consumer campaigns that actively involved the community affected by the issues. Advocacy as community development can arise when practitioners understand the links between policy and practice, where ‘individual definitions of social problems’ are combined with “action at the policy level’. When combined, an integration of ‘casework, community development and social action’ can provide the foundation for more inclusive, community driven practice in financial counselling. This is also a key factor in Indigenous-led financial counselling:

‘The focus of Indigenous advocacy differs from traditional case work in that it is generally used not just for enacting change for individuals, but entire communities, and advocacy as a community development practice is an integral aspect to Indigenous financial counselling’ said Carmen Daniels, ICAN Co-founder.

Background to the Diploma’s review

The Diploma of financial counselling has a systematic review governed by legislation and processes as with all Community Services Vocational Education Training [VET] qualifications. The last review concluded in 2015, after a 12-month consultation process that ensured collaboration to strengthen the primary qualification required to become a financial counsellor. In 2016, the current Diploma was implemented and included a name change from the Diploma of Community Services (Financial Counselling) [CHC50218], to the Diploma of Financial Counselling [CHC51115]. 

The Diploma of Financial Counselling CHC51115 identified ‘Systems Advocacy’ as a core unit [previously elective] and maintained the ‘Develop and implement community programs’, unit.  Another significant change was the positive integration of workplace learning requirements, linking the financial counselling industry with training providers. A new review of the Diploma commenced in late 2019 and is currently underway.

Education shapes professions. The systems advocacy and community development units shape financial counselling ways of working and add value to our clients through supporting state and national consumer advocacy campaigns. Without an understanding of these processes and approaches, we are taking advocacy and community development out of the hands of financial counsellors.

ICAN Learn, as a social enterprise registered training organisation, focuses on real education and strong links with industry. We strongly advocate for the retention of these core units as they reflect both our history as a sector and provide new and emerging financial counsellors with the knowledge to lead systemic advocacy and community development approaches.

New financial counselling roles are developing that include outreach and working in non-traditional environments. These roles require a keen eye for community development, education and systems advocacy opportunities. Financial counsellors that understand these processes well, are the building blocks of our future sector. 

We urge financial counsellors to have a voice around the Diploma of financial counselling review: What subjects do you think should be in the Diploma of Financial Counselling? Do you think community development and systems advocacy are important to your work as a Financial Counsellor? If you have any input into the learning in the Workplace, Systems Advocacy and Community Development as part of our base qualification, you are welcome to contact ICAN Learn at:  bernadette.pasco@icanlearn.edu.au or aaron.davis@ican.org.au and we will pass on your feedback.

Watch our 2019 Annual Report Video!

ICAN/ICAN Learn 2019 Annual Report Video

2019 was another big year for ICAN and our subsidiary registered training organisation ICAN Learn, in moving towards achieving our vision of Empowering Indigenous Consumers and developing the financial counselling and capability sectors. The Annual Report video is a review of our achievements throughout 2019.

Key highlights from the video and our year include:

  • ICAN’s community engagement and stakeholder partnerships to deliver Yarnin’ Money Days in Yarrabah, Mapoon, Palm Island and Thursday Island.
  • ICAN’s financial counselling service on Palm Island, as part of the services we deliver to support the Palm Island Class Action Settlement Scheme. Noteworthy is the precedent set for ICAN’s financial counselling service, when the Federal Court Judgement allowed for a payment for extended financial counselling services on Palm Island to assist people who were receiving payment under the Settlement Scheme. 
  • ICAN’s top five case-types in 2019 included: Debt management, Access to No Interest Loans, Superannuation issues, Contract Disputes and a combination of the above…
  • In 2019, ICAN launched two reports: 
  • ICAN’s 10-year Anniversary Report – an overview of ICAN’s work in the field(s) of assistance to alleviate consumer detriment, education to make informed consumer choices and consumer advocacy services to highlight and tackle consumer disadvantage experienced by Indigenous peoples.
  • The Yarnin’ Money Report 2019 – a detailed account of ICAN’s Indigenous financial capability program and methodology for strengths-based learning and community engagement in financial capability training.
  • ICAN Learn celebrated the graduating students of two Victorian programs, 90+ new scholarships and the development of new Trainers to teach the Diploma of Financial Counselling!
  • ICAN commenced development of its Yarnin’ Business, Yarnin’ Jobs program, by undertaking a Canadian study tour to learn about the intersection of financial empowerment programs and employment outcomes. We’re excited to roll out the program in 2020!

Thank you to our Readers, for being a part of the ICAN/ICAN Learn journey in 2019, and we look forward to another great year in 2020. See you in the new year!

Remote Financial Counsellor

Pictured: Alan Gray, Financial Counsellor at Broome Circle

In Part 1 of our ‘Remote Financial Counsellor’ series, we catch up with Alan Gray, Outreach Financial Counsellor for Broome Circle, located in the Kimberley, Western Australia.

Welcome Alan!

Firstly, can you tell us about the region you work in as a Financial Counsellor?

Our agency, Broome Circle, covers the West Kimberley and includes Broome township; Bidyadanga (the largest Aboriginal community in WA); and three other remote communities, Beagle Bay; Djarindjin; and One Arm Point. That’s an area nearly the size of Tasmania but spread out with only 16,000 people. 95% of my clients are Indigenous.”

Do you find the consumer issues that you see with one client are often systemic across the Kimberly?

“Yes, it seems that if some rip-off merchant has taken advantage of one family member, they’ve done it to many! And because communities in the Kimberley are often isolated from each other, the rip-off merchants can roll up to the next community without anyone suspecting their behaviour.”

What are the most pressing client issues that you come across?

“Telstra’s unaffordable phone plans; consumer leases for fridges and washing machines; payday and other high-interest loans; high bank fees; car loan debt; power disconnections; housing evictions; homelessness, and poverty that is driven by addiction. Online or digital scams are becoming more prevalent too.”

Why do you think consumer advocacy is so important in financial counselling; and do you get better results for your clients as a result?

“I think of advocacy as the key activity of a financial counsellor – otherwise we’re just paper shufflers. Sometimes I think we should be renamed ‘financial advocates’. With the mentality of an advocate, we can tackle someone’s problem with the aim of solving it, not just managing it. In practical terms, I would never get someone onto a debt repayment plan with a debt collector, or arrange a three-month Hardship pause on a repayment, if the clients’ long-term circumstances are not going to improve. That just makes us an unpaid agent of the debt collector. I would always try to get a debt waiver.”

Financial Counsellors can be a bit wary of the media. What gives you the confidence to engage with media for the benefit of your clients?

“I find it easy to engage with journalists because I’ve been one for more than 30 years. I know how they think, and what they want, so I suppose that helps.”

Are you selective about the media outlets that you engage with?

“Yes – I never bother with right-wing media whose audience and bosses are never going to listen to our side of the story anyway – that’s a waste of effort. I concentrate on ABC TV and radio, local indigenous radio, and newspapers.”

Client stories provide the “gold” to any consumer advocacy campaign – what are your feelings about getting clients directly involved?

“A story coming directly from the client has the best impact on viewers or listeners. But many clients feel too embarrassed or shy to talk to media, and I would never urge anyone to participate if they didn’t want to. We’re lucky in the West Kimberley – there seems to be a tradition among the Saltwater People from this region of not being shy of a microphone or camera!”

Thank you Alan for providing us with an understanding of the inspiring work that you are doing in the Kimberley, especially given the vast distances involved.  We look forward to seeing you in the media again soon!

Click here to find out more about Broome Circle https://www.broomecircle.org.au/

You can read some recent media stories that Alan has been involved with here:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-19/telstra-to-buy-back-debt-of-ripped-off-customers/11713902

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-07/telstra-apologises-at-aboriginal-economic-development-forum/11681306

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-13/tax-office-chases-remote-residents-over-fraudulent-claims/11690766

New blood to build Australia’s financial counselling sector

EnergyAustralia/ICAN Learn Scholarship Program

The 21st of October 2019 was a momentous date in four of Australia’s eastern states; with the commencement of the long awaited EnergyAustralia/ICAN Learn Diploma of Financial Counselling scholarship program. South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland all have newly trained teachers delivering the diploma of financial counselling under the watchful eye of ICAN Learn lead teacher, Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch. “It’s amazing to see so many new students interested in undertaking the Diploma course with experts becoming teachers,” said Ms Shepherd-Murdoch.

ICAN Learn welcomes the 25 new casual teachers and 70 new students to undertake the Diploma of Financial Counselling CHC51115, all of which would not have been possible without EnergyAustralia sponsorship. EnergyAustralia dipped their toes in the water by sponsoring the Diploma of financial counselling for 14 newly employed financial counsellors in the Central Goldfields, Central Highlands and Greater Shepparton regions, which completed in July this year, and are now in for the long haul!

Bernadette Pasco, ICAN Learn’s Executive Officer, highlighted the great opportunity the scholarship programs have provided in linking new people to financial counselling through industry focused training. “All applicants are of extremely high calibre” said Ms Pasco.“it’s really exciting to have so many highly educated and passionate people come into the financial counselling sector, making a difference for consumers in financial difficulty; and equally exciting to assist qualified financial counsellors explore a new chapter in their careers by becoming teachers.” 

The months leading up to the delivery of the scholarship program have been incredibly intense. The small team have coordinated expressions of interest, enrolments, teacher training, course induction, access to learning portals, training material reviews, expectation management, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) processes, coupled with daily compliance requirements.

The EA initiative is a notable step in the move to increase the number of financial counsellors in Australia, a major recommendation of the DSS commissioned Sylvan report[1].


[1] 2019 Sylvan, Louise 

Becoming a financial counsellor in the red centre

Pictured: Karan Kumar, CBA Multi-Cultural FC Diploma program scholarship recipient.

Karan Kumar is from Punjab in the northwest of India. He arrived in Australia in 2008 and lived in Melbourne for six years before moving to Alice Springs to get remote work experience and community services qualifications.

Tell us a little about yourself, your background and why you decided to undertake the Diploma of financial counselling? 

“My background is in commerce, in which I have a Bachelor degree and I also have a Diploma in Business and Certificate IV in community services.”  

After completing Certificate IV in community services, Karan joined Mission Australia in 2016. In his new role as a Housing Officer, Karan says he had to learn to deal with people struggling with debt.  

“I started running a session with my clients in relation to money management; Very simple things such as the importance of paying rent, how to budget with a limited Centrelink Income; how to reduce debt through proper planning etc. I also used to refer my clients to financial counselling service providers which are very limited in Alice Springs.” 

Karan started to think about studying financial counselling and searched the web for information on how to become a financial counsellor, with the view to building on the limited services available in Alice Springs. 

You won a scholarship to undertake the Diploma of financial counselling – what made you come to ICAN Learn?

“I was unable to afford the fees of doing a diploma, so I started exploring scholarships or government grants, to just to try my luck. While exploring information I came to know about the ICAN Learn Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program.”

It was not possible for Karan to attend the face to face Multi-cultural program in Melbourne, so ICAN Learn and Karan collaborated on ways to achieve the Diploma requirements. 

Can you talk a bit about the challenges in learning to become a financial counsellor?

The main challenge I have faced was to get into placement because I am in a remote area and as I mention above there are not much service providers in town and most of the services are outreach, where one needs to travel 6-7 hour drives on dirt roads into communities for minimum of two weeks at a time. This is very challenging a the best of times, especially when you have family with kids.

I am glad I got the scholarship with ICAN Learn, there was opportunity to study online and still get 1:1 live support from the teacher. Without these two options I don’t think I would have been able to do this.” 

You have undertaken some Learning in the Workplace as a part of your course, can you tell us a bit about whether that helped you learn more about how to do financial counselling.

Learning in the workplace is very important part of this course. It provides an opportunity to understand the local needs and issues of the client group you are dealing with. Also it will provide insights and a picture of the field you are going to enter into. It is an opportunity to learn so many other things which are far beyond the theoretical knowledge. The tasks we perform during placement allowed us to apply our learning study in a real world environment, which will help to develop the interpersonal and problem solving skills by interacting with clients and other team members.”

You have recently had the opportunity to undertake some remote work with a financial counselling agency in Alice Springs. Tell us a little about what you learned when you were on that placement. What sort of casework did you get involved in?

It was great experience to do some remote and correction centre work with Lutheran Community Care. Dealing with remote client group is very different and challenging in many ways such as Language barriers, cultural barriers and very limited resources.

I assisted clients to prepare for lodging their tax, was also involved in resolving some cases of unwanted sales made by telecommunication providers and insurance companies and worked on lost superannuation cases and other areas of casework.”

What do you see as important for financial counsellors to focus on when working with Indigenous and multicultural clients in more remote communities, are there additional practice considerations?

Karan says it’s very important to “..have a lot and lots of patience when interacting with Indigenous clients. Have a bit of cultural competency by doing a bit of research about the community before you go and follow laws of the community.” 

Karan learned that you always need to send a request before going to the community which means finding out whether it is good and safe to go to the community and making sure there is no sorry business or other cultural business going on. 

Find the information about sacred and grief sites of the communities and do not enter into those sites. Send information about your visit to the community engagement officer and if there is a shrine by saying how many people are coming and what is the duration-and purpose of the stay. Please also make sure you do 100% arrangement of your food and accommodation before you commence a trip . If unsure of the accommodation, do not go.” 

If there was one thing you could say about financial counselling sector development, what would it be?

Karan is insistent that proper funding is required which includes consideration for the travel needs of the organisation and the individual. 

“We need more qualified financial counsellors in the NT and jobs to employ them!” 

Thank you Karan for sharing your story with us and undertaking to become a financial counsellor. Alice Springs will benefit from your new knowledge and skills. 

‘The debt trap: How payday lending is costing Australians’ data released

Consumer Action Law Centre CEO, Gerard Brody releases ‘The debt trap: How payday lending is costing Australians’ data in front of Melbourne, Cash Converters store.

This week the Stop the Debt Trap Alliance released new data showing the scale of Australia’s payday lending crisis. The Debt Trap: How payday lending is costing Australians provides never before seen data demonstrating the extent of harm caused by the payday lending industry and the people who are most susceptible. Read the full report here.

Training needs and innovation highlighted in financial counselling review

The Countervailing Power: Review of the coordination and funding for financial counselling services across Australia

The Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN) and training subsidiary ICAN Learn were pleased to learn of the Morrison Government’s announcement earlier this month, to consider strengthening support to the financial counselling sector. ICAN CEO, Aaron Davis said, “the release of ‘The Countervailing Power: Review of the coordination and funding for financial counselling services across Australia’ has provided industry, government and the financial counselling sector with some well-considered recommendations in which to move forward.”

Of particular interest to ICAN Learn Executive Officer, Bernadette Pasco, the review noted that during consultation, providers explained that while training is important to build and maintain a professional workforce, the requirement to complete the Diploma of Financial Counselling may be a barrier to increasing the pool of financial counsellors. For some provider’s this presents a workforce challenge as it can be hard to ensure all staff have completed this qualification.

One Commonwealth-funded financial counsellor stated, “A challenge going forward after December 2019 is the need for all financial counsellors to hold the Diploma in Financial Counselling. This is an expensive way forward for counsellors who are not funded as the cost is $6000.”

The review also noted that, additional challenges to gaining and maintaining qualifications exist for financial counsellors in rural and remote areas, as courses are difficult to access, a counsellor may require a locum, and attendance costs are high. Recruiting and retaining staff in regional areas is also difficult. In these area’s additional employment benefits must often be offered, to negate the challenging conditions.

“Through our own extensive sector consultation, we had identified these training issues and have developed a place-based training model to support regional and remote areas,” said Ms. Pasco. “The model has been successfully trialled in regional Victoria with a new program commencing in the Northern Territory. In both these instances, we were also able to provide scholarships through corporate partnerships with the Commonwealth Bank and EnergyAustralia.”

These initiatives and partners were highlighted in the innovation section of the review, stating, ICAN Learn is a social enterprise Registered Training Organisation whose purpose is to provide quality industry-focused education to those wanting to become financial counsellors and capability workers across Australia. This organisation partners with CBA and EnergyAustralia who provide a range of scholarship programs for individuals to obtain the required education and training to become a financial counsellor. This includes focused opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those in multicultural communities.

Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said the Government accepted the aims of the recommendations and would work with the sector and broader industry to consider the development of the Government response.

“The financial counselling sector provides face-to-face help for 125,000 people every year and demand is growing as Australians are faced with an increasingly complex suite of financial products,” Minister Ruston said. “The Morrison Government understands how important it is for the financial counselling sector to be well positioned to support Australians in need of financial advice and advocacy.”

Financial Counselling Australia CEO, Fiona Guthrie, said, “The report is a huge vote of confidence in the financial counselling sector. Its recommendations, if implemented in the spirit intended, would transform the sector, and dramatically increase the number of people who could access free financial counselling.”

Debt, the final straw

Stock image courtesy of Pixabay

Financial Counsellors across Australia witness daily the mental health impacts that unmanageable debt can have on their clients. What happens when your client has already suffered a traumatic event and the financial stress becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

ICAN Senior Financial Counsellor, Jon O’Mally, highlights that this financial stress can be intensified by pre-existing mental health conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress. “Financial counsellors need to be hyper-vigilant in these situations, said Mr. O’Mally. It’s really about ensuring you are improving your client’s situation, whilst protecting yourself from potential vicarious trauma.”

The Blue Knot Foundation website says that the greater the exposure to traumatic material, the greater the risk of vicarious trauma. People who work in services to which people with traumatic histories present seeking help, or who work with traumatic material are at particular risk. 

“The responsibility you feel when assisting people that have discussed suicide or traumatic events, can make you feel like you’re literally dealing with a life and death situation, said Jon. This can add a significant amount of pressure to get a good outcome for your client. Multiply this by an ever increasing case load; that’s when burn-out, compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma can set in.”   

ICAN CEO, Aaron Davis, said, “mental health first aid and trauma informed training needs to become a regular professional development activity for all of our financial counselling and capability workers. We all have a responsibility to identify and address mental health issues as they present themselves. A significant percentage of the people we assist have either been traumatised by active military service, natural disasters, domestic violence or childhood events.”     

Fifteen months ago Steven presented to ICAN with a $251,000.00 debt that had become unmanageable. Steven suffered from, at that stage, undiagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a severe bipolar type one mental Illness as a result of active service in the military. A relationship breakdown had put Steven into a position where he was no longer able to meet his financial commitments, leading to what felt like harassment from his creditors.

“I remember; I was that stressed, I was barely functional and really couldn’t see a future, said Steven. I was completely scared and embarrassed to initially come see ICAN’s financial counselling service.” Steven wanted to declare bankruptcy, however ICAN’s Senior Financial Counsellor, Jon O’Mally, wanted to explore other options with Steven, that would have less of a long-term emotional impact. 

“By actively listening in the initial intake process, I was able to identify that Steven was suffering from mental illness, said Jon. Before we could properly address his financial problems we needed to work on his mental health. We discussed seeing his GP and getting a referral to appropriate mental health services.”

“That conversation gave me the confidence to seek medical help and I now have medication to treat my condition, said Steven. Dealing with my overall stress levels put me in a way better position to address my financial problems.”

Jon and Steven explored the possibility of getting support from his doctor when presenting a debt waiver case to his creditors. “Steven’s doctor’s diagnosis has been invaluable in the credit waiver process, said Jon. She’s supplied letters confirming Steven’s diagnosis and symptoms. An added reason to prioritise a client’s mental health.” 

ANZ, NAB and Lion Finance have waivered a total of $43,000.00, as a direct result of Jon’s, financial counselling process. “The remaining $208,000 mortgage shortfall is still in play, however the other waivers have set a precedent through their acknowledgment of the issues presented, said Jon. What’s more important though, is that Steven is in a much better place.”

“I’m able to cope with things much better now, I can see a future for myself, said Steven. Seeing ICAN was the best thing I could have done, I wouldn’t have done this by myself.”

Game Changer for NSW

Pictured: Graham Smith

ICAN Learn training team met with a group of motivated financial counsellors in Sydney earlier this year to facilitate the next step of designing, developing and delivering the Diploma of Financial Counselling CHC51115. The two days of intense shaped the Training and Assessment Strategy for NSW.

The Financial Counselling Association of NSW [FCAN] selected experienced financial counsellors, Fiona Eaton, Kylie Holford, Gabrielle Locke and Graham Smith to participate in ICAN Learn’s Teacher Program. The team spent two intense days learning about the organisation’s systems and developing a delivery plan for the NSW EnergyAustralia, Diploma of Financial Counselling, Scholarship Program. Aunty Joy Reid was unable to make the sessions but will be involved in the training development team approach to this initiative. 

“We covered a lot of ground and got people thinking,” said Bernadette Pasco, Executive Officer of ICAN Learn. “It’s great to have a group of financial counsellors who want to know more, are prepared to share their knowledge and be involved in developing the sector.”

Kylie Holford, a training participant, said “I am delighted and excited to be part of the ICAN Learn team of dedicated trainer and assessors. I’m looking forward to playing my role in developing the skills and knowledge needed by the newest members of our Financial Counselling sector.  

I hope that the new students find the role as fulfilling and rewarding as I do.”

Graham Smith, who commenced his working life with one of the ‘Big 4 Banks’, told the group about his career change and journey within the community/welfare sector in the late 1970s.  Graham spoke about working in community development in rural areas of NSW and  Central Australia, Great Sandy and Great Victorian desert’s remote Aboriginal communities. Working as a financial counsellor for the past nine years, Graham is glad he made the career change.

Graham expressed his excitement in becoming a trainer with ICAN Learn and teaching the Diploma in Financial Counselling. “I look forward to showing students the impact that helping others in financial distress can have and sharing my passion of being a Financial Counsellors in NSW.”

All members of the group agreed that the professional-development opportunity EnergyAustralia has provided to grow the financial counselling sector is a ‘game-changer’ for the industry nationally. “Having the Diploma of Financial Counselling being delivered by financial counsellors to up and coming financial counsellors is a real win-win,” said Graham.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to work with such a group of motivated professionals,” said, Lead teacher, Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch. “Developing the sectors ability to provide quality training and meet the needs of diverse students and regions is invaluable.”

Embracing Diversity

Pictured: Natalie Chong

ICAN Learn E-News caught up with Natalie Chong, a vibrant participant in the Commonwealth Bank’s Multi-Cultural, Diploma of Financial Counselling Scholarship program. Natalie initially came to Australia from Malaysia eight years ago to undertake a social work degree. Eventually, she became a Family Services Case Manager and realised that she often had clients experiencing financial hardship that impacted their lives significantly. 

“I took the financial counselling scholarship opportunity to upskill myself and provide better support to my clients,” said Natalie.

When asked about the challenges of learning about financial counselling, Natalie reflected on her early understanding of Australian systems. “Social work, welfare and financial counselling were all new to me when I came to Australia,” said Natalie. “There were many questions from home about the studies I undertook and the work I was doing. Do you get paid for being a social worker? I thought you help people, and there is no need to study to become a social worker. What is a financial counsellor?”

“There was a lot of information to take in, and sometimes I was confused,” said Natalie. “However, the lessons that I learnt from the class are beneficial for both my work and personal life. The lecturer Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch was very experienced, and I learned a lot from her.” 

Speaking about the community benefits that will come from her newfound financial counselling knowledge, Natalie said,” People will benefit from understanding their rights and options. Knowing there are services available for them and where to seek support. It’s about having a safe place to talk about their financial stress, where the financial counsellors share the same cultural background and understand the cultural issues.” 

Learning about financial counselling has helped Natalie’s social work. “I work as a Family Services Case Manager with families who have children from 0-17 years old,” said Natalie. “They need support with family breakdown, physical or mental health issues that can impact their parenting capability. With the financial counselling knowledge that I have learnt, I can work with clients and talk more confidently about budgeting, discuss their financial situations and options.”

“I can also advocate on behalf of my clients with creditors or empower them to negotiate with creditors themselves,” said Natalie.” Sometimes, I assist people to contact external dispute resolution bodies or other services, and make referrals if I can’t support them.” 

Coming from a diverse background provided Natalie with a tremendous financial counselling and capability practice insight. “Every society, ethnic group and culture have gender role expectations,” said Natalie. “As a woman from a diverse background, I would think that it is important to value and respect diversity and to be sensitive to different cultural needs. Understanding the issues behind how women manage money is important. Sometimes, it’s due to the way they were raised, their role in their community or family that cause them to be reluctant to changes or to bear the consequences.”

Natalie highlighted her hopes for financial counselling. “The sector desperately needs more funding, there is a lack of financial counsellors, and the waiting lists are far too long.”