Category: News

Central Victoria welcomes 12 new financial counsellors

Graduates of the Central Victorian Financial Counselling, ICAN Learn, Anglicare and EnergyAustralia training partnership.

There are now more opportunities to regain financial independence thanks to an innovative, Australian-first regional scholarship program.

Ten students graduated last month, and two more later this year, with a Diploma of Financial Counselling following education and support by registered training organisation ICAN Learn, leading energy retailer EnergyAustralia, and Bendigo’s Anglicare Victoria.

“We congratulate today’s graduating class and look forward to seeing the meaningful role they will play for anyone going through a tough time. There’s immense value in financial counselling and our investment is our way of shining a light on this important profession that serves the community,” EnergyAustralia Vulnerability Program Leader Kane Stella said.

“The fact is, no one should struggle to put food on the table or pay an incoming bill. As a provider of an essential service, it’s our responsibility to promote and support these programs, understand people’s difficulties and assist people get back to being at their best.”

ICAN Learn Executive Officer Bernadette Pasco said the program has a positive impact on the lives of people who will become more financially empowered, thanks to qualified help.

“This is a success story and the reception to this initiative has been excellent. Our partnership with EnergyAustralia has meant we can use local trainers and showcase a model for the future, adding immense potential for regional areas,” Ms Pasco said.

The EnergyAustralia and ICAN Learn Financial Counselling Development Program is a three-year initiative to strengthen and build new career development opportunities for the financial counselling sector.

This month, 70 more students across eastern Australia were granted scholarships under the initiative to begin their journey into financial counselling, which will be funded by EnergyAustralia.

The August cohort include students from Bendigo, Ballarat, Gippsland and Shepparton – each eager to make a positive contribution in their community.

One graduate, Bendigo-based Laura Powell, said she jumped at the opportunity to apply. “The financial support I received has enabled me to pursue a career that’s going to help people overcome their financial difficulty,” she said.

Ballarat benefits from industry-focused course

Narelle Clark – Financial Counsellor at Child and Family Services (Ballarat)

Narelle Clark came to ICAN Learn through links with Child and Family Services [also known as CAFS] in Ballarat. Narelle was still working in the banking sector, where she spent the last 12 years and felt that her values were more aligned with a profession that focused on social justice. Narelle discovered financial counselling and then pursued ways of undertaking the Diploma of Financial Counselling. 

“Pursuing a new career while working is difficult, coming to ICAN Learn, I found a responsive and flexible approach to meet those challenges,” said Narelle. I undertook the Diploma to realise my goal, and I chose ICAN Learn through the recommendation of experienced financial counsellors.”

“I needed more knowledge of relevant laws and other financial and legal aspects, beyond what I’d used in my banking role.” Recounted Narelle, “the study gives me great reference material and supports interview and case planning; equally, it is useful when undertaking reflective practice. I was able to tie things together by undertaking my placement, that led to my employment as a financial counsellor at CAFS.”  

ICAN Learn executive officer Bernadette Pasco highlights the personal benefits of place-based learning for regional students. “Most of our students are employed and mature adult learners,” said Bernadette. “Local delivery allows them to maintain their current work and study while transitioning to a new career. It’s a win/win.”

Narelle described the relationships developed and rapport built with peers as a personal benefit.”My classmates are all now working in the sector, which helped with study and now case discussions,” said Narelle. “This all provides greater access to resources, professional networks and financial counselling events. We also collectively share an understanding of the needs and different approaches for individuals living rurally and regionally.”

“Our Anglicare partnership in Bendigo opened up new possibilities for industry led training in regional Australia, said Bernadette. Their fantastic support has demonstrated the benefit of keeping both people and training on the job local.”

ICAN Learn delivered the course using a combination of one week blocks and weekend workshops to keep people in the day to day workforce. Narelle highlighted, “I haven’t used many weekdays for class time, which has allowed more time for direct client service experience and additional professional development opportunities.”

“We’re looking forward to supporting more regional partnership initiatives in the future, said Bernadette. There’s a real financial counselling training gap for both agencies and people wanting to get into the industry in regional and more remote Australia. People like Narelle make a real difference in their communities.”

CBA pledges new support for those affected by domestic and financial abuse

ICAN Learn partner, the Commonwealth Bank, announced earlier this month that it would increase its support for victim-survivors of domestic and family violence to achieve long-term financial independence. The additional $5 million investment and development of partnerships with leading community organisations and experts, will see new products and services for those impacted. 

The additional $5 million investment will support organisations including DVNSW, Financial Counselling Australia, Women’s Information and Referral Exchange (WIRE) and Social Ventures Australiawho deliver support to people impacted by domestic and family violence. Institutions like the UNSW Gendered Violence Research Network will contribute to the academic research, evidence and understanding of the issue.  

ICAN Learn will pilot a multicultural financial counselling diploma program in Western Sydney as part of the collective response led by CBA. The program will have a more in-depth focus on assisting clients affected by financial abuse, exploring the drivers and circumstances of violence through a cultural lens. ICAN Learn is working with current ICAN Learn/CBA multicultural program students to understand better the impacts of trauma and views on responding to family violence. Pilot participants will undertake work-placement in agencies that assist those that have been financially impacted by domestic/family violence, enhancing their development opportunities. 

In support of CBA’s coordinated action, ICAN Learn has also joined forces with a Melbourne based multi-disciplinary team of leading community organisations, academics, survivors and advocates. Good Shepherd Microfinance will head the design of bespoke not-for-profit financial solutions for vulnerable people. 

Bernadette Pasco, ICAN Learn EO said, “Building sustainability for victim-survivors and working collaboratively with like-minded organisations is essential in changing the future landscape.”  

Commonwealth Bank CEO, Matt Comyn, said: “Many Australians know domestic and family violence is an urgent issue, but far fewer are aware how closely it is linked to financial abuse. Disturbingly, research tells us that financial abuse is prevalent in domestic and family violence situations about 90 per cent of the time. The impact of this is not only devastating for the individual but also for the wider community.”

“Over coming months, we will work side-by-side with our partners and experts in a new collaborative workspace dedicated to creating tailored products and services to help victims and survivors of domestic and family violence achieve long-term financial independence.

Financial abuse in the context of domestic and family violence is a hidden epidemic. Approximately one-quarter of women in Australia have experienced at least one incident of violence by an intimate partner (ABS, 2017). Among those who seek support, up to 90 per cent are also affected by financial abuse (Adams et al. 2008). 

In an emergency or if you’re not feeling safe, always call 000.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit

For counselling, advice and support call MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 or

Yarnin’ Money heads to Nhulunbuy

Nhulunbuy, Yarnin’ Money training participants preparing preparing a fire for dinner.

For a week in June 2019, Carmen Hegarty and Bernadette Pasco from ICAN Learn headed to Nhulunbuy in Northern Territory for an immersion experience in Yarnin’ Money and financial literacy education training.

Sandy Graham Senior Manager – Operations Support at Anglicare in Nhulunbuy contacted ICAN Learn some time ago to see what could be done in terms of combining Yarnin’ Money approaches with the more conventional training requirements for Financial Capability Workers in the region, with the aim to build workforce capacity and broaden its reach.

Participants came from as far as the remote Aboriginal communities of Ramingining, Gapuwiyak and Ngukurr and shared in the learning experiences together with staff from Anglicare in Nhulunbuy. Ramingining is in central Arnhemland near the Arafura Swamp (Murwangi), Gapuwiyak is in north-east Arnhemland on the shores of Lake Evella and Ngukurr is situated on the banks of the Roper River in southern Arnhem Land.

The narrative approach of Yarnin’ Money led to many wide ranging conversations about the different challenges in more remote areas fueled by predatory phone and online selling, the underpinning challenges about the understanding of value of money and a solutions focused approach to changing individual and community money stories.

Yarnin’ Money trainers and participants share dinner and a beautiful sunset around the fire.

Carmen Hegarty capably displayed the ‘Octopus’ model a new tool to use with groups of women. Did you know that an octopus has blue blood, rich in copper so it can survive in low oxygen environments; that it can cut off and regrow its tentacles and keep functioning? Some great analogies that open up ways to talk with women about their stories, many of which include family violence and then use those analogies to build resilience!

Fiona Pettiford, Manager – Money Support Hub East Arnhem, said it was a great opportunity to explore the potential of Yarnin’ Money and accredited training delivered together. There will now be additional capacity to deliver capability in the region. ICAN Learn’s Yarnin’ Money team is focusing on building additional capacity in the NT to work towards the mission to educate and empower locals to become the leaders of the future.

Ngukurr elder and local leader, Daphne Daniels, participated in the group and sees a strong link between financial wellbeing and the social model of health. Daphne is a strong advocate and runs exposure programs about the Indigenous way of life in Ngukurr. She is working to embed change in the Ngukurr Stronger Communities Program and sees the need to link financial wellbeing to health and closing the gap. 

Miranda from Gapuwiyak has taken the opportunity to learn more about financial matters because she sees many inequities for people in her community. Miranda, who has other languages before English has just been employed by Anglicare as a financial capability worker, which means that she can provide great information to assist people in a real way. Yarnin’ Money has assisted Miranda to gain skills for her role.

Roxanne from Ngukurr will be using her new skills in her everyday work with families in Ngukurr. She sees many ways that people can assist others reduce the risk of getting into financial troubles.

Dorothy, from Ramingining sees a lot of trouble related to money and say that tools in language would help. There was a start to the conversation about specific topics that affect people in their communities and ways that conversations can be had to explain financial rights.

Our time in Nhulunbuy brought answers as well as new questions about complex matters, encouraging ICAN Learn to continue to collaborate and look for the next opportunity to embed Yarnin’ Money and support the development of capacity for financial literacy education and reducing the gap a little more. 

Bendigo strikes it lucky – again

Pictured: Paul Rankin

Paul Rankin is fairly new to financial counselling and works at Anglicare in Bendigo. Paul comes from many years of experience in the accounting and financial management industry and also a number of years in youth work and chaplaincy fields. Living in Bendigo and working in Melbourne made a local financial counselling position look very attractive; Paul decided to jump ship and apply. Undertaking the Diploma of Financial Counselling was a requirement to do the job, so Paul set out to do just that!

Paul stated that “Choosing to do the diploma in Bendigo in a format that worked around my work requirements rather than commuting to Melbourne was a no brainer.”

“Even though I had significant experience in both finance and social work fields I still had much to learn particularly around the legal and technical side of financial counselling.”

Paul mentioned that the diploma has laid significant foundations for him in the legal and technical areas and has added significantly to the counselling foundational skills he already had. Paul outlined that “Blending the assignments with work practice enabled strong reflection and quick learning in my work as a financial counsellor.”

Personal and professional benefits of the industry based course for Paul have included the course and development structure fitting in with his work requirements. Anglicare has been very flexible as an employer, encouraging the professional development and obtaining of the qualification.

“Professionally I am a far more confident employee and am able to provide a far superior service to clients due to the completing the course. Personally, the interruption to my family was reduced and I was still able to earn a full time wage and minimise time away from my family.”

The ‘Bendigo Group’ – as participants in Bendigo have become known colloquially, has been a success due to the willingness and ability of participants to support each other, share ideas and refine individual ideas through discussions and activities in the workplace.

Anglicare has benefited by the conducting of the course in the region; it has enabled addition of new staff members with significant skills in a variety of areas of expertise adding significantly to team practice. The ‘Bendigo Group’ consists of financial counsellors with previous work histories in financial advising, social work, nursing, finance management legal areas of work all coming together as a team to provide a wide range of skills that benefit clients in the Bendigo region.

Congratulations Paul on committing to the financial counselling profession and taking your skills to new heights!

Meet our very first financial counselling graduate

John Sheehan – ICAN Learn’s First Diploma of Financial Counselling graduate.

John Sheehan came to financial counselling after a long career with ANZ where he had a range of experiences including accounting, project management, industry work, operational risk and compliance. 

When my time was up with ANZ, I didn’t think I was done yet and I looked around for a new challenge.  I had heard about financial counselling whilst at ANZ and explored the role.” says John, now employed as a financial counsellor at Diversitat in Geelong.“It seemed a good fit with my objectives – a new challenge in working with people one on one, and an area that I believed I could be successful in.” 

John was clear that the first step was to undertake the Diploma giving him an opportunity to return to study.

John undertook the Diploma of Financial Counselling as part of a small group in Melbourne, Victoria, commencing in 2017 and completing his qualification earlier this year.  John told us a bit about his experiences as a financial counselling student and how this changed his outlook about issues for clients and ways of providing support for people in financial difficulty. 

“After working for many years in the finance sector you have confidence in your broad financial knowledge.   However, it didn’t take long for me to realise that I had a lot to learn when it came to supporting people in financial difficulty.  I found this quite motivating as it is always great to learn and expand one’s knowledge and skills.” 

John addedthat “The most significant benefit of undertaking an industry-based course was working with teachers who had worked in the sector for a long time.  You were always confident that you were getting advice and guidance that was based on direct and current experience.  We also had a small group making things more relaxed; people were able to share their experiences and knowledge.” 

We asked John to tell us a bit about how undertaking the course has facilitated his understanding of the financial counselling sector and industry links for his work. 

“The teachers always encouraged us to participate in the sector as much as possible.” John said, “This included attending Professional Development training, workshops and conferences which immediately opened our eyes to the sector, the people within it including the opportunity to build contacts and, of course, learn.” 

John described the best and most difficult things about his experience of becoming a financial counsellor as “the feeling of making a difference to someone’s life”and reflected that “back in the corporate world, you could try to make a contribution, but it was really hard to work out if you actually made a difference!”  

John noted that financial counselling does have its difficult times;“Hearing people’s stories and situations is not easy and you really do need to focus on what you can do to assist.”

One thing John says about the sector is that“It’s great to meet and work with people who have such a wonderful passion for their job and are so motivated to do what they can to assist their clients.” 

We congratulate John on being the first student enrolled with ICAN Learn in the Diploma of Financial counselling to complete his full qualification starting from scratch! 

Congratulations John!

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CBA Indigenous Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program applications close July 31st

ICAN would like to thank the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) ongoing commitment and continued partnership with ICAN Learn to support diversity and build representation of Indigenous and Multi-Cultural financial counsellors within the financial counselling sector. The three-year CBA sponsorship agreement will see four place-based diploma of financial counselling scholarship programs being delivered between 2019 and 2022.

The first Remote/Indigenous/Multi-Cultural Diploma of Financial Counselling (CH51115) Scholarship Program is to be held in the Northern Territory later this year. The team at ICAN Learn are now seeking applications, with a closing date set for Wednesday the 31st of July. This is a great opportunity to receive a free diploma qualification (normally priced at $8000.00) in a supported learning environment. 

Click here to learn more or apply now for submit your application today. Please NOTE: Make sure all application questions are answered before you submit.

Yarnin’ Money Report 2019 Released

Yarnin’ Money Report 2019 – Promo Video

ICAN Learn is pleased to promote the Yarnin’ Money Report 2019. The report examines how ICAN Learn’s parent community organisation ICAN developed and delivered a financial capability program through an Indigenous knowledges framework which involves Aboriginal epistemology and pedagogy, and how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples acquired financial capability knowledge and skills through the Yarnin’ Money program over the period of 2015 to 2018.

In late 2014, the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN) received a grant from the Ecstra Foundation to create Yarnin’ Money, a financial capability program wholly developed by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In the 2014 grant round, Ecstra sought to fund projects that would: ‘work to improve the financial literacy and money skills of Australians; provide practical materials that will advance financial literacy in Australia [and] expand the body of knowledge around financial literacy’[1].  As one of the nineteen funded projects in 2014, ICAN piloted the Yarnin’ Money financial capability program which would 1) develop unique financial capability educational content to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; 2) reach a significant number of people in remote and discrete Indigenous communities across North Queensland and the Torres Strait, and; 3) have the ability to scale. 

With Ecstra funding, ICAN embarked on a journey to develop a methodology founded within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ontologies (ways of being) and epistemologies (ways of knowing), so as to design a financial capability program that would align with one’s own axiology (ways of doing) within their own cultural frameworks. This methodology was purpose built so as to depart from traditional expectations of what financial literacy programs are expected to achieve and explore what could be possible when a financial capability program is developed and delivered from an Indigenous knowledges framework. In creating the Yarnin’ Money program, ICAN strived towards building a model for how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia can develop meaningful financial capability knowledge and skills that align with Aboriginal concepts of wellbeing and ‘lives lived well’[2].

Key Findings of the report include:

  • Financial capability training programs can thoughtfully engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when Indigenous methodologies and knowledges are embedded into the design of training resources and methods of delivery.
  • An appropriate investment of time is needed to develop and deliver a quality training program to remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Best practice methodologies and methods can be shared across financial wellbeing programs and services, in order to 1) meet the cultural needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; 2) improve the quality of overall service delivery.
  • Dual training and evaluation tasks directly impacted on the quality of training provided, due to limited funding for evaluative purposes.
  • Short-term, outreach financial capability programs with a mandate to scale will be limited in their ability to measure longer-term outcomes such as behavioural change.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Over the three-year period, ICAN delivered 28 training sessions to 272 people in urban, regional, and remote and discrete communities across Queensland.
  • 66% (n=180) of all participants stated Yarnin’ Money was the first financial capability training they had ever participated in.
  • Through the Yarnin’ Money training delivered in the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) region of Cape York, a significant systemic consumer issue was uncovered, relating to the sale of used vehicles by Barry Young Car Sales, to NPA residents. ICAN Senior Financial Counsellors worked with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO) to achieve a $72,000 for ten affected consumers in the NPA. Subsequently, the car dealer’s credit license was revoked by ASIC in 2017[3].
  • ICAN was able to measure moderate behavioural change along the Stages of Change theory.
  • 30% of all participants were enrolled in a Job Active program.
  • The majority of training requests came via Job Active services.
  • Outside of the program KPI’s, Yarnin’ Money was also delivered in other urban, regional and remote areas of Australia, and to international audiences in New Zealand and Canada.

The Yarnin’ Money Report 2019 can be downloaded here. (10MB)

For further information, please contact:

Carmen Daniels

Research & Communications


m: 0412 357 888


[1] Financial Literacy Australia. (2014). ‘Grants program: funded projects 2014.’

[2] Grieves, V. (2009). Aboriginal spirituality: Aboriginal philosophy, the basis of Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing. Darwin: Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health.

[3] Australian Securities and Investments Commission. (2017). ‘17-361MR ASIC cancels Cairns car dealer’s credit licence.’ October 27.

Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program Rising Stars – Part 3

Christian Unger arrived in Australia from Chile in the late 70’s as a 5-year old with his brother and parents. Today Christian is the Coordinator of the Brotherhood of St Laurence Saver Plus program, where he is able to support the struggles of immigrants to Australia, an experience vivid in his own memory. 

  • Tell us a little about yourself, how long you have been in Australia and why you decided to undertake the Diploma of Financial Counselling.

“We didn’t know anyone in Australia when we arrived.” says Christian, “Life was very hard without financial support, or maybe we just didn’t know about it.”

The first priority of his parents was to find employment and earn an income. 

“We had no knowledge of the Australian way of life. How do you get a license? How do you connect your utilities? How much do you pay for medical attention? How do find the bus routes? In an era without internet, and English as a new language, these were all the questions that we asked ourselves as a family. I remember as a five-year old asking my school teacher about some of these questions because my parents had no support.” 

For Christian, the fear is still there. Knowing personally what that fear is, he feels better equipped to communicate and express empathy to new migrants. 

I decided to do the Diploma of Financial Counselling to have another tool in my toolbox to better assist those in need in our society. My experience at the Brotherhood of St Laurence taught me that finances was always a factor in many of issues faced by members in our society. Gaining a Diploma of Financial Counselling will give me the resources that I require to create a better system on how to assist newly arrived Australians through Financial Counselling. There are financial counselling programs especially dedicated for Problem Gamblers and Domestic Violence, so why not newly arrived migrants. Unfortunately, from my experience with Settlement workers, they do not have all the tools required to assist a newly arrived Australian.

  • Tell us about the work you do at the moment and how your financial counselling knowledge will benefit people in your community / will you be able to integrate financial counselling into your current role as a social worker?

 “I have recently been employed as a financial capability worker and before that I was in an unpaid role developing financial programs for different groups in our society. I have worked towards the goal of designing and running financial programs that require the skill sets of both a Financial Capability Worker and a Financial Counsellor.  I  I take a holistic approach to financial programs and believe that by having both the skill sets of a Financial Capability Worker and a Financial Counsellor I can make more of a difference in meeting the needs of my clients.

  • As a person from a diverse background, tell us about some of the key things that will influence your work in financial counselling and capability, and what do you see as important for financial counsellors to focus on when working with the multicultural clients / are there additional practice considerations?

Christian has a keen passion to understand the needs of his clients; “The biggest focus on working with multicultural clients would be to fully understand the person; their past experiences,  cultural believes and  goals.”  “It is really important for financial counsellors to develop capacity to understand diverse issues and find out how people would tackle their current issues in their home country.” 

Processes in Australia are quite different and there is often a lack of understanding of procedural approaches when people are new to this country. “In most third world countries, a lot of things get done with much less red tape. Quite often I see the frustration in people’s eyes when they hear that things will take a certain period of time. We need to understand their expectations of us and understand how they think we will be able to help them.” 

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

Christian says that “All offices with multiple financial counsellor workers need to employ a financial capability worker.”  

Christian notes that organisations focused on financial wellbeing that offer particular products such as No Interest Loans and Savings programs should all engage in having the full suite of financial well being workers – financial capability workers and financial counsellors; when delivered without that support, the client often does not get the best outcomes.