Category: News

A Focus on Regional Relationships

Tracey Grinter is the manager of Financial Counselling, Victims Assistance Program and Gambler’s Help at Anglicare Victoria [AV]; Tracey’s also a financial counsellor with a background in social work, who still sees some clients and is passionate about having a skilled up team that makes a difference to consumers. Over the past two years, ICAN Learn has had the privilege of utilising Tracey’s casual teaching services to ensure the smooth integration of learning into the workplace at AV.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Anglicare Bendigo.

“I’ve been working at AV for nearly seven years now. I commenced my employment in the Financial Counselling team and have had a few role changes since then. It’s a busy role as there are staff spread across the Central and Northwest region in Victoria, and I spend lots of time travelling between Mildura, Bendigo, Melbourne etc. 

I’ll always been passionate about Financial Counselling and enjoy being involved in the day to day delivery of the program. I even still see clients when I can!”

The FC team at AV has 10 Financial Counsellors and 3 volunteers across a number of sites, and provides significant outreach services. AV receives funding from Consumer Affairs Victoria, Department of Social Services and the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. 

2. This is the first time that the Diploma of Financial Counselling has been delivered outside of the CBD in Victoria. Tell us what led to the development of a training group at Bendigo and a bit about the processes involved? 

Recruitment of staff in regional areas is always a challenge, with the need to release staff for training and associated impacts on casework. AV was able to recruit staff with the right attitude, approach and significant backgrounds from finance to welfare, but all needed the Diploma of Financial Counselling.

“The AV FC team experienced a lot of staff changeover, the team going from being very experienced to having six new Financial Counsellors in the space of six months. 

Whilst all those we recruited for financial counselling positions were keen to undertake the required Diploma of Financial Counselling, there were a number of barriers. With the course only offered in Melbourne, costs of accommodation, travel and impact on time with clients, were significant barriers. 

“As a manager engaged with local networks, I was aware Bendigo Family & Financial Services [BFFS] also had a number of staff and volunteers that were wanting to undertake the Diploma of Financial Counselling, which would allow them to expand their services to the region.”   

To try and resolve the challenges of getting new recruits qualified, AV began conversations with ICAN Learn through Tracey Grinter. With most of the potential students already beginning to provide casework support under the direct supervision of a qualified Financial Counsellor it became clear that the use of a mentorship model (a model that replicates the traineeship approach) would be best suited to the meet the needs of both student employees and their organisations.  Workplace-based learning could be truly integrated with the theory of financial counselling.

“ I met with ICAN Learn which undertook a gap analysis,  and developed a timetable that reflected the needs of new staff; an immediate focus on the Financial and Legal units came first to enable some learning of basic financial counselling facts. Our format was a block mode with two one week blocks and a series of weekend workshops. This was complemented by daily support from myself and other qualified Financial Counsellors in a number of workplaces. The delivery was tailored to the students, allowing them to use their real casework scenarios to inform discussion and to complete assessments. The use of guest speakers from within the students’ organisations and from other key organisations within the region was also embedded in the delivery. This not only allowed the students to increase their knowledge but also their networks.”

ICAN Learn was excited to deliver the Diploma of financial counselling and support the development of 4 organisations: AV, BFFS, Child and Family Services [Ballarat] and Rural Financial Counselling Service in Gippsland, through this new regional place based approach. 

3. The partnership between industry and ICAN Learn has been vital in the development and delivery of this program. Tell us about Anglicare’s and your role in the training delivery for this course?

“AV has been very supportive of the training delivery. They have allowed me to teach units within the Diploma during my paid work time. They have also allowed us the use of training rooms and other resources, such as photocopying and administrative support. I have been able to support and mentor both staff within AV and the other organisations where students are employed in work time. This has facilitated me meeting with students regularly, either in person (involving travel) or via Skype or telephone. It’s been a great arrangement! 

I’ve also had to put in my own time to mark assessments, which has allowed me to develop my training and assessing skills. It has enabled me to be better informed about how to support and educate my team and other Financial Counsellors in the region.” 

4. Do you think this program can be replicated in other regional areas? 

“It would be fantastic and certainly possible to replicate this model other regional areas. It requires the support of an organisation and a Financial Counsellor / Manager with Certificate IV Training and Assessment 40116 [TAE40116] to drive the model.” 

ICAN Learn has supported Tracey to upgrade her TAE40116 which in turn builds organisational capacity.

“I would encourage other FC’s to give back to the sector – I have gained so much from being involved in the Diploma. Talk to your organisations – ask what kind of support they could provide to a model like this.” 

5. What’s your key message to agencies across Australia about developing the capacity for educating financial counsellors?

“My key messages are about the success of the ‘mentorship’ model. The FC’s that are now graduating from the Diploma are highly skilled and experienced. They are also well supported by the networks they have developed through the course and their employment. I think the mix of workplace and classroom-based learning is key to sector development.”  

Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program Rising Stars – Part 1

The first Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program [MCSP], generously funded by CBA commenced in Melbourne in October 2017; giving an opportunity to develop the financial counselling skills of people from diverse backgrounds, building their capacity to provide information and support for members of their own communities. ICAN Learn’s Bernadette Pasco worked with a Multi-Cultural Commissioner, Sonia Vignjevic to contact interested organisations; Women’s Health in the North [WHIN] referred Shazia Syed to ICAN Learn’s Diploma of Financial Counsellng program.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, how long you have been in Australia and why you decided to undertake the Diploma of financial counselling.

Shazia Syed came to Australia from Pakistan as a skilled migrant in 2016, with her husband and 4-year-old son. Shazia has qualifications in political science and education.

“I am a very community-minded person,” says Shazia “I speak Urdu, Hindi and French/ Creole and got a job working with the Victorian School of Languages as a language instructor, faculty coordinator and course design. I ended up working with WHIN as a peer educator on a project called ‘Let’s Talk Money’, delivering financial literacy information to women in their own language.”

The Diploma of Financial Counselling gives Shazia more knowledge and understanding to use in her financial literacy work. Shazia’s family are incredibly proud of her achievements.

2. Are there any challenges in learning about financial counselling as a new Australian?

“When I was offered the opportunity for this course, I prepared myself and was very concerned that language might be a barrier; but once I came to the first classes and met my teachers, I relaxed and thought – ‘I can do it!’ “Shazia is undertaking her placement with an experienced financial counsellor at the Salvation Army and sees clients in Brunswick and Craigieburn. “When clients realise I know their language, they relax, tell me their problems, and we can do a lot of good work together.”

3. Tell us about how do you think your financial counselling knowledge will benefit people in your community?

“I am already seeing how financial counselling benefits many people in my communities; many people have health issues and I see financial issues like health problems – it’s a disease and when we fix the disease, people get better.””The people who come on skilled migration programs are skilled in their professions, but many don’t know how to stretch the money and get into financial trouble. When they learn about this and when financial counselling helps them with accessing their rights, things really improve for them.”

4. You are involved in financial literacy education, can you tell us a bit about the work that you do with WHIN and how this is impacted by your financial counselling knowledge?

“I’ve had a peer educator financial literacy education role at WHIN for 12 months and recently we had our AGM, and the program can continue. Being a peer facilitator is changing generations. With my new financial counselling knowledge, I can give women more understanding of their options and educate them about financial counselling. Practical debt solutions and understanding their financial rights and responsibilities is what people really need before they can make a change to their financial behaviours. This work is changing generations.”

5. As a woman from a diverse background, what are 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 multicultural clients / are there additional practice considerations?

Shazia says that all financial counsellors should have more training on different cultures. “As a financial counsellor, I also work with clients from other cultures with which I am not familiar; learning about the culture enriches our work and means we learn more about why problems occur. Then we can help educate to prevent harm and empower people to change ways of thinking and doing things.”

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

“People don’t know about financial counsellors everywhere; we need to tell more people about Financial counsellors and how they can help. Financial counsellors and financial literacy educators should be employed in every community services organisation in Australia- it would make a real difference to individuals and communities. When people come to Australia, access to financial literacy and financial counselling support is crucial to their wellbeing and success.”

FC Scholarships Now Open

ICAN Learn has two scholarship programs commencing mid-2019, expressions of interest are now open. Check out the two options in this promotion to see if your State or Territory is covered, this is a great opportunity to receive a free diploma qualification (normally priced at $8000.00) that provides a real education and industry connections. 

EnergyAustralia – 2019 Diploma of Financial Counselling (CH51115) Scholarship Program

EnergyAustralia and ICAN Learn have partnered to deliver a Diploma of Financial Counselling Scholarship Program in QLD, NSW, Vic and SA in 2019. The EA scholarship program is one in a suite of initiatives designed to continue the professionalisation of the financial counselling sector over the next three years. Watch this space for future opportunities including an EA Advanced Diploma of Financial Counselling Scholarship Program.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia – 2019 Remote/Indigenous/Multi-Cultural Diploma of Financial Counselling (CH51115) Scholarship Program

In 2019 the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and ICAN Learn will continue to support diversity and build the representation of Indigenous and Multi-Cultural financial counsellors within the sector. The 2019 Remote/Indigenous/Multi-Cultural Diploma of Financial Counselling (CH51115) Scholarship Program will be delivered in the Northern Territory and be open to all people working in regional and remote Aboriginal communities.

Financial Capability – Financial Literacy Education Skill Set (CHCSS00077)

ICAN Learn has also set 2019 dates in QLD, NSW, Vic and SA for delivery of the Financial Literacy Education Skill Set (CHCSS00077). Course fees are $800 per person, discounts available for groups of 10 people and over. (max 20 per group) 

Develop skills to work in the financial capability sector and build study pathways to financial counselling in 2019. ICAN Learn has set dates to deliver the Financial Literacy Skill Set (CHCSS00077), a prerequisite for working as a financial capability worker. Come learn from experts in the field.

QLD, Date: 5 & 6 August, Location: TBA

NSW, Date: 16 & 17 May, Location: TBA

Vic, Date: 8 & 9 April, Location: TBA

SA, Date: 8 & 9 July, Location: TBA

Christmas surprise for Bendigo group

EnergyAustralia, as part of a larger partnership with ICAN Learn to mobilise and strengthen the financial counselling sector gave 10 fee paying Bendigo Diploma of Financial Counselling students the opportunity to recover their expenses, in what is seen by all involved as an amazing gift to the region.

As a sector driven registered training organisation, ICAN Learn wanted to kick its first year off with a training initiative that would address a regional issue within the financial counselling sector. The issue in this story reflects the concern of many regional areas, in that recruiting qualified financial counsellors in areas of high need is almost impossible. Located in the northern area of the Central Goldfields in Victoria, Bendigo is a large regional city that’s had its challenges recruiting qualified financial counsellors.

ICAN Learn had the opportunity to work with the local financial counselling agencies Bendigo Family and Financial Services and Anglicare [formerly St Luke’s] to design and deliver the first industry focused Diploma of Financial Counselling program in a regional city. The win-win approach would allow for training to be provided locally, with financial counsellors from the region being involved in the training design and delivery. Most importantly the initiative would provide participating FC service organisations with a traineeship style recruitment opportunity.

Financial counsellors and managers from both organisations met with EnergyAustralia’s Kane Stella and Louise Nicolidis in the week leading up to Christmas, where this generous opportunity was announced. Kane and Louise were able to hear first-hand about the need for financial counselling and the difference that this opportunity has made for both the students and agencies involved.

As a new RTO, ICAN Learn was unable to access VETfeeHELP, a government payment system that allows students to defer payment of course fees. Regional training and employment funding initiatives were also dependent on the training provider having access to VET feeHelp. This resulted in potential employees committing to paying upfront fees in order to meet requirements of the financial counselling sector, showing amazing dedication and commitment.

To reduce fee costs, ICAN Learn’s Bernadette Pasco negotiated with Anglicare Manager, Financial Counsellor and Trainer, Tracey Grinter to provide free teaching time and a training space for the course. Two Jan Pentland Foundation Scholarships, administered by Financial Counselling Australia also helped reduce costs of the overall program. Agencies involved provided placement support and ongoing employment, with Child and Family Services Ballarat and Shepparton Family Care also benefitting from the initiative.

Outcomes from the initiative have gone way beyond Bendigo, with Anglicare now providing financial counselling outreach services to Echuca and Maryborough, areas living with high disadvantage. This regional initiative is proof that we can achieve amazing social impacts if and when we all work together.

 

Mentorship Program’s Rising Stars – Part 6

Every month in the lead up to our 2019 Graduation, ICAN Learn features students of its “Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program” here in our ICAN Learn E-News. This month, we meet Bec Gollan, a Ngarringjeri mimini (woman) from Raukkan, located approximately 3 hours southeast of Adelaide in South Australia.

Bec has been working as a Financial Counsellor with the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) in Adelaide for over a year and started studying her Diploma of Financial Counselling two weeks after beginning her role with ALRM in October 2017.

What has been your experience so far through the Mentorship Program?

The program has been really good because starting in the role of a Financial Counsellor last year was new to me, so I’ve learned a lot in this course. Our job gets so busy that we’re also learning on the job, but there’s some things we may not know, so the course has helped me personally to make sense of my job role as well. So I’m learning a lot about the practice of financial counselling here in the course and then putting that into practice back home. And the support we get here as well – is really great. So even though I live in Adelaide, I still feel like I have a big network of support through this program.

How has the Mentorship Program assisted you in your own work?

There’s a lot of ways the program helps – really with the knowledge, things that I’ve learned here. Sometimes, I might have a tricky issue come up in my job, and I think to myself – I know there’s something about this in my notes [from the course]. So I look those up and sure enough, it’s something that we’ve covered in the course. And there’s two parts of how the program helps me. First, there’s the mentorship. And second, there’s also the other students here. We compare our knowledge and our experience, and I find I go home to Adelaide and everything just makes a bit more sense. There’s a lot of similarities with Aboriginal people full stop, doesn’t matter where you come from – we all go through some similar things, but there are also some differences in experiences, depending on where you live. So I’m finding that a lot of the issues that we see on the ground are similar but may be experienced differently depending on what state we live in. So when we speak in class about the financial or consumer issues that we’re seeing in our own areas, other students will often go – oh that’s similar to what’s happening where I’m from…

What kind of personal and/or professional benefits has the Mentorship Program provided you with?

I’ve realised some strengths that I didn’t know I had, and also owning those strengths as well. I’ve got a passion for community and for this kind of work, I always have. So to be able to do this as a job – I feel like I’m pretty good at what I do and I’m proud to be able to finally say that! I think that’s been a really big thing for me, and it’s a big thing for Aboriginal people to be able to say as well, to be able to stand up and say, I know what I’m doing. This course has helped to give me that confidence!

What has been your experience in doing the course with other Indigenous students?

We’ve got such a great group in the class, and I’ve felt really comfortable here with them. We’re like a family now and that support for each other is a constant, whether we’re in the room in class or back home in our different states. We all call and email each other or just send a text to say How ya goin’ Sis? They all pick me up and give me that motivation. The communication and friendships we have is really a great part of doing this course.

*****

Through ICAN Learn, the Mentorship program provides nationally accredited training through the Diploma of Financial Counselling, and offers personal and academic mentorship in a supported learning environment, connecting students through face-to-face classroom and weekly online training sessions. It reflects the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples working in the financial counselling and capability sector, with 10 Financial Capability Workers, 1 Financial Counsellor, 1 Financial Literacy Trainer, 1 Financial Resilience Worker and 2 Program Managers currently participating in the 2017-2019 program.

The third national Mentorship program commenced in October 2017, bringing together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The program is delivered in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, who sponsors scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student participants to successfully undertake their Diploma of Financial Counselling. The Commonwealth Bank Mentorship Program Scholarships cover the full course fees for the Diploma.

Students of the Mentorship Program are expected to graduate in mid-2019.

New Year, New You!

Many of us know the story. Our mob have been and gone for Christmas, the bills are piling up, and the sound of the postie bike puts you in a cold sweat. Welcome to 2019.

While the bills may get put on hold trying to make ends meet over Christmas, many people wake up to a new year filled with anxiety and debt. Often the end of the holiday season puts people who are already financially vulnerable at an even higher risk of spiralling debt, but ICAN’s financial counsellors are here to help when the going gets tough.
Unaisi Buli has been a financial counsellor with ICAN for 8 years and knows this pattern well. “We see a lot of rental arrears and electricity bills around this time of year as people miss payments to make up for other things over the Christmas period” said Unaisi. “Cash loans from payday lenders then make the problem even worse. These high interest loans charge substantial fees, so the majority of someone’s money goes towards making the repayments, leaving little for essential living expenses and other bills. Stress levels rise even further once threatening letters from payday lenders start arriving a few months later. This leads to a destructive, downward debt spiral that leaves people stressed, broke, and in some cases, even evicted from their home.”

Take charge of your finances

ICAN financial counsellor Leeanne Griffiths also knows how the new year starts for many. “It can be scary for someone in debt to pick up the phone and talk to their creditors. However it’s important for people to know that most companies have hardship programs and are there to help clients work out a payment plan when things get tough. We always encourage people to take action and face their financial demons to give them control over their own money, and ultimately, their own life.”
People in hardship are already vulnerable, but at this time of year they become even more susceptible to unfair finance or dodgy deals. As Unaisi explains, “we advise clients to make their rent, electricity and food bills their Top 3 priorities. ICAN can intervene at any point, however clients get a much better outcome if they contact us before they receive eviction or final notices. It’s also really important that people never feel ‘too shamed’ to reach out and ask for help, no matter how bad the debt crisis. We’re here to help, not judge.”

Top 5 post Christmas debt hacks

The New Year is a deadly opportunity to take control of your debts – with the right advice you can smash your debts down and start preparing for next Christmas, so you’re in a better position next year.
1. Set a budget and stick to it. This is your roadmap out of debt! Check out the ASIC’s MoneySmart Budget Planner to get you started https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/tools-and-resources/calculators-and-apps/budget-planner
2. Keep away from payday loans or buy now/pay later programs. These may seem like a quick fix, but you’ll end up deeper in debt, more stressed, and even possibly evicted from your home.
3. Work out a payment plan with your creditors. Talk to the hardship teams and let them know what you can reasonably afford based on your budget. This is the year to empower yourself!
4. Cancel pre-paid Christmas hampers. If you get a hamper delivered every year, consider cancelling the auto renewal and putting the money into a Christmas saver account instead. No more late payment or bank fees! Plus you’re likely to get more for your money when you shop for specials at your local supermarket, so next Christmas may actually cost you less.
5. Seek professional help from a free Financial Counsellor. Contact ICAN on 1300 369 878 (www.ican.org.au) or call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 (www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au) to find a financial counselling services near you.

Audit Results Back Vision

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) are Australia’s vocational education training (VET) regulator and every year they monitor the compliance of registered training organisations against a set of national standards. Part of the ASQA audit process involves contacting students directly for feedback. ICAN Learn is thrilled to announce that it just passed its first post registration audit with some impressive results.

Speaking on ASQA’s reaction to the audit, Bernadette Pasco, ICAN Learn Executive Officer said, “ASQA was impressed with our student response rate; normally ASQA receives around a 9% response rate, but the blind survey ASQA conducted of our students had a 40% response rate, with extremely positive feedback, an awesome outcome for ICAN Learn.”

“The auditor was impressed by our engagement with industry, agencies and subject experts to ensure that our education made people job ready,” said Ms. Pasco. “Our work in engaging with peak bodies to guarantee training relevance was also commended.”

ICAN Learn will continue to build sector capacity by engaging peak bodies and agencies throughout Australia; in particular Qld, NSW, Vic, SA and the NT to develop more teachers with an extensive experience in financial counselling. This will primarily be achieved in 2019 through an EnergyAustralia Financial Counselling Educator Scholarship Program, that will see up to 20 financial counsellors from across Australia able to design and teach the Diploma of Financial Counselling in their state or territory.

“Local course design is imperative to ensure that course delivery meets local needs, by taking into account local practices and providing opportunities for engagement with experts in the region, in short, building the best education experience”, said Ms Pasco.

Once the financial counsellor/educator workforce has been developed, up to 75 Energy Australia and Commonwealth Bank scholarship opportunities will be provided in the fore mentioned states and territories.

“The test for ICAN learn will be to maintain 2018’s overall student satisfaction rates, whilst introducing new financial counsellor teachers to the Diploma of Financial Counselling program”, Said Ms Pasco. “Student satisfaction is of primary importance, linking the purpose of ICAN Learn to the essence of professional development is so vital to the financial counselling sector.”

In the aftermath of the national private college debacle, ICAN Learn is proving that being an ethical registered training organisation committed to student outcomes and the financial counselling/capability sector is a winning formula.

Mentorship Program’s Rising Stars – Part 5

 

 

Every month in the lead up to our 2019 Graduation, ICAN Learn will be featuring the students of its “Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program” here in our E-News. This month, we meet Yvette Lee-Lever, a Gamilaraay/Kamiliaroi woman. Yvette is a Financial Resilience worker with Money Care, Salvation Army in Gatton, Queensland, where for the past 19 months, she has been delivering electricity workshops and the No Interest Loans (NILS) program.

What has been your experience so far in taking the Mentorship Program?

I’ve done several Diplomas in the past that have been basically all done online, so I suppose it’s the mentorship with everyone in the class. They become your friends and someone you can ring up for advice about a client matter. So, we’ve got that network of support which is a really good thing about this whole program!

How has the Mentorship Program assisted you in your own work?

I think for me it has allowed me to look at things completely differently. I think now I’m looking at things in the perspective of a Financial Counsellor like I had a client come to me that wanted bankruptcy and of course I couldn’t give you the information but in my head I was processing how it would all work, because we’ve done bankruptcy in the course. So when I spoke to our Financial Counsellor about the matter, I was able to understand the process and in this case, was able to identify that there are other and sometimes more suitable options. This is what we’ve learned in the course, and it has practical application to my own work. It’s also helped me to see a lot of the consumer issues that come through the NILS process, in a different way.

I think the course has been really helpful in lots of ways. Even when we started the course, we did the Financial Literacy Skill Set units and I had done these units in a different course, but in this course – there was just a whole different spin on it, and I took much more in because of being able to do the units in a face-to-face setting, as opposed to when I had done them online, which I found really hard. But to have it there in front of you in our program now, is much easier because you’ve got other people in the class to bounce ideas off and brainstorm with. I think I learned much more from this, than the online one.

Have there been any personal benefits for you, in taking this course?

I think for me personally, I’ve sometimes in the past felt a little bit displaced from my culture, because my Grandmother didn’t speak about it very often. For me, the friendships I’ve made in this course – they’re like my family now, and I’ve learned from them – things about my own culture and I really feel included in this group, which I think is really awesome! They’ve been really supportive, for instance, in the last block [face-to-face training] we had, I had a really hard time because I lost my husband two years ago and it was the anniversary of that during the block. The other students were really supportive, they gave me a card. I felt really humbled that they did that.

What has been your experience in doing the course with other Indigenous students?

It’s been awesome because we all understand each other. You really feel at home in the class, because it’s your own mob. So even though we’re from different places across Australia, I feel like we’re all one big mob, one big family.

*****

Through ICAN Learn, the Mentorship program provides nationally accredited training through the Diploma of Financial Counselling, and offers personal and academic mentorship in a supported learning environment, connecting students through face-to-face classroom and weekly online training sessions. It reflects the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples working in the financial counselling and capability sector, with 10 Financial Capability Workers, 1 Financial Counsellor, 1 Financial Literacy Trainer, 1 Financial Resilience Worker and 2 Program Managers currently participating in the 2017-2019 program.

The third national Mentorship program commenced in October 2017, bringing together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The program is delivered in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, who sponsors scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student participants to successfully undertake their Diploma of Financial Counselling. The Commonwealth Bank Mentorship Program Scholarships cover the full course fees for the Diploma.

Student participants of the Mentorship Program are expected to graduate in mid-2019.

Award Winning Vision

 

When the peak body for financial counselling in Victoria – the Financial and Consumer Rights Council (FCRC) – celebrated its 40thyear in financial counselling and consumer advocacy recently, Bernadette Pasco, Executive Officer for ICAN Learn, didn’t know she was about to become part of the celebration.

At their gala dinner, the FCRC presented Bernadette with their prestigious ‘Life Membership Award’, in recognition of her tireless commitment and dedication to the professionalisation of the financial counselling sector.

“I was absolutely shocked to receive the Life Membership Award” said Bernadette. “There are only 3 other life members of FCRC, so I’m number 4! Having been a passionate member of the FCRC for 15 years, becoming a life member is a huge honour. This award really connects my current work of sector development, to those who worked so hard to establish it in the early years.” she said.

Sector Changes

With over 40 years’ experience working in community services, health, and financial counselling, Bernadette has witnessed the growth of the financial services sector first hand.

As Bernadette explains “since coming into the financial sector 15 years ago there have been significant changes, such as the introduction of national standards and the integrity of training and development. This is especially evident in the structured delivery of the Diploma of Financial Counselling, the development of professional supervision to mitigate vicarious trauma and improve casework, and identifying the financial capability role as separate from that of financial counsellor”.

The development and recognition of specialist roles is another major shift withn the sector.

“Working with industries like banks, energy companies and debt collectors has driven enormous change.” said Bernadette. “We have moved people out of the debt repayment ideology into thinking about vulnerability and social justice, and how that can improve the focus and outcomes for clients.”

Funding has also driven change in many ways. “The National Debt Helpline (1800 007 007) has been instrumental in being able to link people easily to a free financial counsellor – the ‘James Bond number’ is one that all students and clients alike remember!” she said.

A Vision for the Future

Bernadette believes that as financial counselling starts to move into a prevention framework through specialist roles, the journey for vulnerable consumers will improve on a daily basis.

“I want to see financial counselling expand into industries like health, aged care, and other community services, so that in the future, financial counsellors will be a normal part of every integrated team mitigating mental and physical health issues. And of course this includes being recognised by government, and being funded appropriately.”

One of the ways we can do this is through education, and what better way to start than with the social enterprise RTO ICAN Learn! Our advanced diploma will provide the first step into higher education and recognition of skills to drive better wages, conditions, and to make the sector sustainable.

As Bernadette sees it “my dream is to see financial counsellors become leaders of organisations, leading their teams with confidence, so that we can integrate the great work of financial counselling with other industries to achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients.”

And ICAN couldn’t agree more. Congratulations Bernadette!

Mentorship Program’s Rising Stars – Part 4

 

Every month in the lead up to our 2019 Graduation, ICAN Learn will be featuring the students of its Commonwealth Bank sponsored “Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program” and the “Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program” here in the ICAN LearnE-News.

This month, we meet Norma Callaghan, a Jaru woman from the East Kimberly, living in Derby, West Kimberly. Norma is the youngest student in the 2017-19 program and brings her experience of working as a Financial Capability Worker with the Ngunga Women’s Resource Centre in Derby (Western Australia), for the past three years. Now ready to pursue new opportunities, Norma discusses her journey through the Mentorship Program so far and where she hopes her Diploma of Financial Counselling will take her when she graduates next year…

Being a student in the Mentorship Program has given me so much more insight into the many issues that we as Aboriginal people are facing financially. It has given me a realisation of how I can give back to my community and how I can help my people. I am really passionate about fighting for my people’s rights and I really feel like I’ve found a home in studying financial counselling. It’s very much about standing up for our people and I feel like it’s a career I’d really love to do.

Being in the course with many other Indigenous people from around the country has been awesome. Through this course, I’ve been learning about the different communities and places that we all come from, and the systemic issues that may be happening in their areas, and how they are connected and relate to the issues we experience in our own community in Derby. The financial and consumer issues are very similar but also can be very different, depending on the area we come from.

It’s really helped me to learn about how the others in the course practice financial counselling and capability in their own communities, and how they are helping their own people. The course gives us the opportunity to be able to discuss these things. Being with other Indigenous students has really helped me to connect to others, and learn about the many diverse backgrounds we come from as Aboriginal people. We are all Indigenous but we still have differences within our cultural practices and our traditions and how we work with our people. I feel like I get to experience that knowledge sharing through this course.

As we’ve gone on this journey together to study our Diploma, we’ve all come to know each other and support each other. For me, the social networking that I get through the Mentorship Program is a big part of what I love about the program, because I live in a very remote community. It can be very isolating living remotely, so the program has given me an opportunity to make friends and grow my professional network. As students, we all support each other and I’m always learning from them.

Right now, I’m focusing on my studies and working towards my goal of getting my Diploma. I want to explore other parts of Australia and I’m hoping that getting my Diploma will take me to new places. I feel that the Diploma of Financial Counselling will open doors for me and I’ll be ready for the next adventure!

Through ICAN Learn, the Mentorship program provides nationally accredited training through the Diploma of Financial Counselling, and offers personal and academic mentorship in a supported learning environment, connecting students through face-to-face classroom and weekly online training sessions. It reflects the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples working in the financial counselling and capability sector, with 10 Financial Capability Workers, 1 Financial Counsellor, 1 Financial Literacy Trainer, 1 Financial Resilience Worker and 2 Program Managers currently participating in the 2017-2019 program.

The third national Mentorship program commenced in October 2017, bringing together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The program is delivered in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, who sponsors scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student participants to successfully undertake their Diploma of Financial Counselling. The Commonwealth Bank Mentorship Program Scholarships cover the full course fees for the Diploma.

Student participants of the Mentorship Program met in Cairns last week for the: counselling, mental health and drug & alcohol units in the program, and are expected to graduate in mid-2019.