Category: News

EnergyAustralia backs ground breaking financial counselling development initiatives


ICAN Learn hosted EnergyAustralia and state financial counselling peak body leaders from Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland at a workshop in Cairns earlier this month. The purpose of the workshop was to create a wide-ranging training and professional development plan for the sector. The resulting plan will form the basis of a $1.2 M, three year investment by EnergyAustralia for the continued professionalisation of financial counselling. Significant planning goals include the development and delivery of an educators scholarship program, a Diploma of Financial Counselling scholarship program, an accredited Professional Supervision/Mentor scholarship program and an Advanced Diploma of Financial Counselling scholarship program for participating states.

Speaking on EnergyAustralia’s investment into the Financial Counselling sector, Briar Hall (Leader Vulnerability) said, “We are proud to partner with ICAN Learn to deliver the EnergyAustralia Financial Counselling Development Program, over the next three years we will invest to build growth, capability and new opportunities for a sector and its people we believe, must be invested in.”

Highlighting the significance of EnergyAustralia’s investment, Bernadette Pasco, ICAN Learn Executive Officer said, “EnergyAustralia has provided the financial counselling sector and ICAN Learn an opportunity to build educational and career pathways for both expert and new financial counsellors. There will be educational opportunities for experienced financial counsellors to add training delivery, supervision, casework specialisation and leadership to their skill set, generating new career prospects. Holding true to our mantra of, “real education, industry connections, advance your profession.”

The EnergyAustralia, ICAN Learn and state peak financial counselling association partnerships will offer some ground breaking initiatives including a scholarship program to increase the number of financial counsellors qualified in teaching the Diploma of Financial Counselling. Another new enterprise is the development of an Advanced Diploma of Financial Counselling that aims to grow the professionalisation of the sector and develop career pathways for skilled practitioners. Workshop participants also discussed designing an accredited “Professional Supervision/Mentor Skill Set”, that could be delivered on its own or credited towards the Advanced Diploma of financial counselling.

EnergyAustralia and ICAN Learn plan to formally launch the partnership initiatives at each participating state financial counselling conference over the coming months. First cab off the rank was the Financial Counsellors Association of NSW (FCAN) conference held in Sydney last week, where EnergyAustralia’s Briar Hall and ICAN Learn’s Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch made the important announcement at the start of the event. Commenting on the announcement response, Graham Smith, FCAN Chair said, “the NSW financial counselling conference attendees were really excited about the opportunities presented and love the fact that they have been developed by financial counsellors for financial counsellors.This EnergyAustralia investment is a ‘game changer’ for the Financial Counselling sector.”

If you’d like to keep up to date with all of EnergyAustralia’s scholarship programs in your state, sign up to the ICAN Learn E-news

Mentorship Program’s Rising Stars – Part 2

Every month in the lead up to our 2019 Graduation, ICAN will be featuring the students of its “Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program” here in the ICAN E-News.

The Mentorship program provides nationally accredited and recognised 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 nine financial capability workers, six financial counsellors and one financial literacy trainer currently participating in the 2017-2019 program.

This month, we meet Kelly Kitching of the Kimberly Money Management Services and Fran Clements from the Ngunga Women’s Resource Centre, both located in Derby, Western Australia.

Kelly Kitching has been working with the Kimberly Money Management Services in Derby, Western Australia as Program Manager for over a year.

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

It’s good. A lot of information, it gives you knowledge of how and where to look for information toassist our clients with financial issues. I can take this back to my work place and to my colleagues and implement it in my community. It’s good, I like it.

I decided that I wanted to study the Diploma of Financial Counselling, because I am a Financial Capability Worker. I want to get the qualifications to help our people be financially educated and to ensure they are not on their own when financial burdens effect their lives. Back home, in the remote areas, I travel to Remote Communities and helping our people with money matters advising and assisting them in the right direction, they have very little support with literacy issues out there especially with no/limited access to phone and internet services.

The West Kimberly area is very remote and covers a vast area. there is a big need for financial counselling in Remote Regions. I see becoming a Financial Counsellor as the way to be able to help our people in Financial Hardship, So, that’s what my motivation has been. I wanted to take the next step, and study the Diploma.

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

The Mentorship Program gives us a lot of practical knowledge about financial counselling, working with people and clients and a lot of discussion about the kinds of situations we might be working in with clients. In these discussions, we find that there are some similarities of client situations in other areas, where the other students come from and are working in.

There are a few of us in the class that all work very remotely, so we have that connection.

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

The program helps us at many different levels. From a personal perspective, we do this kind of work every day with our families. The Program helps me to be more informed of practice, to understand the changes that are happening around us local state and federal, everything that we learn then helps me to work with our families and our communities on the ground.

The sponsorship for the program was a great incentive and I am very grateful to be accepted to ICAN for the training to assist and support me to gain a qualification in Diploma of Financial Counselling. The staff there are so supportive, also for my employer Winun Ngari Aboriginal Corporation for approving and accepting my study leave in work and block releases to attend and support me on this journey.

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

I always really enjoy coming to these kinds of programs because you get good ideas from each other. When I’m back home working and feel stuck on something when working with a client, I can ring the other students for guidance. They can really help you out, so you don’t feel that you’re on your own. It’s been really good because we meet face to face in Cairns, and even though we’re in different States, we can all connect with each other by phone or online, and we can all have that input. We learn and get help from each other, and it doesn’t matter where we’re located – we support each other.

Fran Clements is a Financial Counselling Coordinator and has been working with the Ngunga Women’s Resource Centre in Derby since 2013.

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

I actually started studying the Diploma of Financial Counselling in 2014. There were a lot of challenges in trying to do the Diploma in an online-only environment, and there wasn’t a lot of support offered to students at that time. I joined the Mentorship Program in 2017 as a way to complete my Diploma and be able to give back to my people. It’s been a great experience being able to do the course in a face-to-face environment. I enjoy the classroom setting and it’s been a good way of learning in this course. When we come to each block training, we get that support. The Trainer and the support from Majella [Training Coordinator] have been great. We also have a good student support network which I didn’t have before. We get on the phone and also email each other, we also have a site where we can ask each other questions and support each other that way too.

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

The Program has assisted me to build more confidence in being able to advocate for the need for financial counselling for our organisation and community. It has also helped me in learning the financial counselling process, especially in areas that are new, like negotiating on behalf of clients and writing to creditors.

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

Personally, the benefits will be that when I’ve completed the course, I’ll have my Diploma!  I’ll be the first in my family and in the area of financial counselling, it’s big because I have four children, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and being able to teach them also, about the financial side of things, so that they don’t struggle like we struggled. So it’s a personal motivation and an achievement to get my piece of paper!

For me, the knowledge learned in this course is so important, because money and dealing with money is something that starts from home, teaching the kids the basics about finance – that it’s something we can learn about, not just when it gets to a crisis moment. With assistance from a Financial Counsellor, those little steps can start now.

There are also benefits in being part of a big network. The course also helps us to learn how to better carry out our roles, to be able to help our clients better, because that’s what it’s all about, the clients.

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

It’s been great, because having that support and being away from home and away from interruptions in order to be able to focus on the course and our assessments is really good. As a group, we can all discuss issues, share the way we do things and provide feedback to each other as well. Coming here to Cairns for each week of training has been really good.


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 and mental health components of the program, and are expected to graduate in mid-2019.

Inbox Treats – New MoneySmart videos

“Inbox Treats” is a new series designed to share those ‘treat’ emails we think might be useful and/or informative to you. To get the ball rolling, I’d like to share an email promoting a series of ASIC videos for Indigenous consumers that Lyn Harris, Secretary of the Financial Counselling Association of Queensland (FCAQ) sent through to us.

ASIC has a dedicated Indigenous Outreach Program (IOP) which aims to increase Indigenous Australians’ financial knowledge, and improve the financial services provided to them.

The IOP with 33 Creative produced two new MoneySmart videos to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people take control of their money and get help with their debts when they need it.

ASIC’s IOP spoke to people in Indigenous communities about the financial issues that affect them and people said they needed help sorting out their money problems and dealing with family pressure about money.

From this, ASIC created two videos which follow the journeys of Uncle Charlie and Lisa as they learn how to take control of their money to look after themselves and their families.

You can watch the videos on ASIC’s MoneySmart website:

ASIC’s MoneySmart website has lots of useful tips and tools to help you take control of your money. You can also follow MoneySmart on Facebook and Twitter and sign up to their monthly enewsletter.

Download the videos

You are welcome to download the videos from Dropbox and either link to, or embed, them on your website directly from YouTube.


Work placement key to a quality education

Noema Mahutariki from the Benevolent Society in Cairns, started her 220 hrs work placement at ICAN, a new training standard under the revamped Diploma of Financial Counselling. Ms Mahutariki received a CBA scholarship as part of ICAN Learn’s new Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program currently being delivered in Melbourne.

Explaining the importance of work placement and why it was introduced to the new qualification, Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch, ICAN Learn’s lead lecturer said, “What we witnessed in Victoria before the work placement requirement was introduced, was graduates receiving their diploma qualification without being work ready. We don’t expect everyone to be handling complex cases straight away, but we do want people that have experience in client intake and the working within a financial counselling practise.”

Leading ICAN’s Financial Counselling service provision from Townsville to the Torres Strait, ICAN Operations Manager, Jon O’Mally (pictured left) knows all too well the importance of developing a skilled workforce. “The financial counselling workforce in Queensland is re-building and we need fresh talent coming through the ranks,” said Mr O’Mally. “Our dream is to have all financial counselling services delivered at a national standard.”

Putting the call out to Managers of financial counselling services across Australia, Aaron Davis, ICAN/ICAN Learn CEO said, “Please take the opportunity to take on Financial Counselling work placement students, you will be building the professionalisation and sustainability of our sector. Who knows, you might even find your next star team member.”

Speaking about the journey so far in becoming a financial counsellor Noema said, “the training has been insightful and the multi-cultural group that I’ve been learning with are amazing, all with a desire to give back to their community. I got to visit Yarrabah on my first day of ICAN work placement with Financial Counsellor, Sandy Rosas (pictured right). We assisted one grandmother who is caring for her grandchildren to access NILS, where she’d previously been using her superannuation savings to purchase basic household items. It felt great to provide someone with a better option. I’m looking forward to working with ICAN over the coming months and take my own organisation’s service delivery to the next level.”

Mentorship Program’s rising stars part 1

In the lead up to our 2019 Graduation, ICAN Learn will be featuring scholarship winners of its “Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program” in the ICAN Learn E-News. The third national program and is the first being delivered by ICAN Learn.

The Commonwealth Bank sponsored Mentorship program provides nationally accredited training through the Diploma of Financial Counselling and the Financial Literacy Education Skill Set and offers personal and academic mentorship in a supported learning environment, connecting students through face-to-face classroom and online training sessions.

The program reflects the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples working in the financial counselling and capability sector. This month we catch up with Pearl Turner from Save the Children in Normanton and Ralph Coulthard from the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) in Port Augusta and ask them how it’s going so far.

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

Pearl – I’ve really enjoyed meeting people from all over Australia. It was bit of a challenge at the start, getting into study mode after such a long time. I think the changes Robyn has brought in, has really helped my way of learning, having the assessments done in the time we’re here will make a big difference.

Ralph – The teaching style and student participation have made this a great experience. I think moving away from the technology and concentrating on more to face to face real life yarns really helps with all of our confidence in the program.

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

Pearl – Knowing my boundaries with clients and being able to separate what we can and can’t do in our roles. Really knowing the difference between a financial capability worker and a financial counsellor. Catching up with other students over the phone really helps when we’re struggling to get through assessments, I am always on the phone to the Derby girls Fran and Kelly.

Ralph – the program has helped with the way I talk with creditors and have the evidence ‘records’ to back up what I’m saying, I’ve already had a great success getting over $10,000.00 back for a client that a car dealership was trying to withhold. Before doing this I never knew anything about financial counselling, it’s like a whole new world has opened up. Nothing feels better than when you get a success for a client.

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

Pearl – The discussions on self-care have been really critical, as our roles can lead to vicarious trauma, especially with the intergenerational trauma so common place in our communities. A big discussion today was around methods of dealing with after hour requests down the street and so on, it’s really about setting boundaries.

Ralph – The professional benefits are enormous, I’m building national networks through meeting great people in similar positions from across Australia.

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

Pearl – Now that we’ve been together for three block visits now, there is a sense of really getting to know each other and a really good bond has formed, where we’re really trying to get each other through. It’s about understanding the challenges we all go through, being so far away from home and making sure we’re all supported. Majella and the team at ICAN treat us like royalty, which also makes you feel closer to home.

Ralph – The experience has been extremely beneficial, we all relate well together and have shared many of the same experiences.

To find out more about the Indigenous financial counselling mentorship program click here.

Where to from here?

Being the CEO of a specialist financial counselling and capability organisation delivers unique insights into the training and professional development needs of the sector. Our organisation’s greatest pride is the mentorship program we developed with the Commonwealth Bank, providing career pathways for Indigenous people nationally, to move from financial capability worker to financial counsellor. But what happens when your team hits the ceiling and the majority have been accredited financial counsellors for a number of years?

Stuck in a job without challenge and an income that stagnates is a sure fire recipe for discontented employees. This got me thinking, where to from here? What new opportunities can we provide our senior financial counsellors to keep them fulfilled in their employment? And how can they generate more income for the organisation that in turn provides them higher salaries?

It was these questions that in part drove the development of ICAN Learn, our “social enterprise”, registered training organisation (RTO). We saw and still see ICAN Learn as the vehicle for experienced financial counsellors across Australia to become qualified sector leaders, teachers, professional supervisors, specialists and industry advisors. All unique skills that support and add value to the financial counselling profession.

When writing the business plan for ICAN Learn, we reached out to agency managers and financial counselling, capability, resilience  and emergency relief workers to get their thoughts on vocational education priorities for the financial well-being sector. Both agency managers and workers rated the Advanced Diploma of Financial Counselling the highest, as an education opportunity that they would be interested in, with an average score of 71.5%. When asked, what subjects would you like to see in an Advanced Diploma of Financial Counselling, sector workers rated leadership and management the highest at (82.5%), with specialist health program/policy (71.4%) and professional supervision (66.4%) coming in second and third.

What the data showed me, is that both agency managers and sector workers share some of my views on the development of financial counselling and have a strong appetite for the continued professionalisation of the financial well-being sector through vocational education. I know there are people in the sector saying, “What’s the point of doing an Advanced Diploma of Financial Counselling, it’s not going to change my pay packet.” To those people I say, there are already accredited financial counsellors out there earning extra income through teaching, supervision and consultation, it’s time to advance.

Meet our new lead lecturer


ICAN Learn has really hit the ground running in its first year of operation as a registered training organisation with five Diploma of Financial Counselling courses being run concurrently to over fifty students. The relatively new ‘social enterprise’ prides itself on providing high quality, sector led training and has just brought a new lead lecturer into the team.

Those in Victoria’s financial counselling sector will know Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch well and may have even been one of the ninety financial counsellors trained by her in previous roles with RMIT and Victoria University. Robyn comes to ICAN Learn with ten years financial counselling and five years financial counselling lecturing experience.“We’re really excited to have Robyn on board leading ICAN Learn’s training delivery, it’s really important that our lecturers know from experience what it means to be a great financial counsellor,” said Aaron Davis, ICAN Learn CEO.

We asked Robyn what the biggest challenge in the ongoing professional development of the financial counselling sector is, Robyn replied, “With constant changes in the sector and associated laws, the Diploma of Financial Counselling needs to be current and reflect community needs. The Diploma takes two years to achieve, with over 17 units and 220 hours of placement, as Financial counsellor’s we need this contemporary knowledge to provide the best options, support and advocacy for our clients and the community.”

Having worked with ICAN Learn’s Co-founder, Bernadette Pasco for a number of years, Robyn shares a vision for the financial counselling sector. “We share the belief that the continued professionalisation of financial counselling will come through the delivery of quality training that provides the latest information, resources and practise; empowering our graduates to be amazing advocates for their clients.”

Reflecting on the move to ICAN Learn from lecturing in bigger universities, Robyn commented, “ICAN has shown the financial counselling sector over many years that they are strong  advocates  for their clients, I want to see this level of advocacy become a financial counselling standard. The team here are also keen to develop career pathways through education, from financial capability worker to a financial counselling supervisor or lecturer like myself. Put simply we’re providing sector focused training delivered by financial counsellors, as both a financial counsellor and an educator, you can’t get better than that.”

ICAN Learn is extending its training delivery in 2018 to include two short courses the Financial Literacy Education Skill Set and Professional Supervision for Financial Counsellors (non-accredited). To find out more contact Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch on 0488 229 133 or email .


Professional Supervision for Financial Counsellors course launched

ICAN Learn is pleased to announce the launch of our Professional Supervision for Financial Counsellors education package and is now inviting expressions of interest from experienced practitioners within Australia’s Financial Counselling sector. ICAN Learn trainers have many years-experience providing professional supervision within the Financial Counselling workforce and are keen to share their knowledge and experience in a structured non-accredited format, that meets the requirements of your State Association.

The Professional Supervision for Financial Counsellors education package incorporates the following eight parts;

  1. Background – Your professional profile, understanding yourself and setting the scene
  2. Rationale for professional supervision – function, approaches & building skills
  3. Supervision processes – Reflection & Multi lens approach
  4. The learning process – How do I learn & How does my learning style influence professional supervision
  5. What do I look for in a professional supervisor – Aspirations & Building relationships
  6. Evaluation & Feedback
  7. Building professional resilience – Burnout, vicarious trauma and secondary trauma
  8. Modes of Professional Supervision – Debriefing and providing support

Professional supervision is an important step in building our profession and sustaining the vital work delivered by the financial counselling workforce. The Professional Supervision for Financial Counsellors education package provides a national approach to professional supervision training that is owned and operated by Australia’s financial counselling sector.

ICAN Learn’s Professional Supervision for Financial Counsellors education package was developed with the financial support of the Commonwealth Bank and a partnership between the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN), based in Cairns, Queensland and the Financial and Consumer Rights Council (FCRC), peak body for financial counsellors in Victoria.

If you’d like to support others within the sector and take you financial counselling career to the next level, please contact Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch, ICAN Learn’s Lead Lecturer email: or phone: 0488 229 133  or go to

Jan Pentland Scholarships Now Open!

Applications and nominations are now open for the Jan Pentland Scholarship and the Jan Pentland Prize. Both will be announced at the Jan Pentland Dinner, coinciding with the Financial Counselling Australia conference in Hobart, on the evening of Tuesday 15th May.

The scholarship can be used to cover course fees, or associated costs of studying for students who need financial assistance to study, who show commitment to financial counselling and are likely to make a strong contribution to the sector. Last year, thanks to some funding from the Commonwealth Bank, the Jan Pentland Foundation was able to give out more than 10 scholarships. The scholarships cover up to $5,000 of the cost of studying for the Diploma of Financial Counselling.

The Jan Pentland Prize acknowledges outstanding achievement in financial counselling and/or consumer advocacy or achievement in undertaking law reform, campaign work, community development, and/or community education. The Prize of $1,000  is funded by Jan’s partner, David Morawetz.


You’ll find the online nomination form for the scholarship  and the nomination form for the prize  on the Jan Pentland website. Applications and nomination close on April the 3rd.



An interview with the driving force behind ICAN Learn

Bernadette Pasco with the very first Diploma of Financial Counselling regional program in Bendigo, Victoria.


ICAN Learn E-News recently caught up with the driving force behind ICAN Learn, Bernadette Pasco. We thought this would be a good time to sit down with Bernadette and ask her some questions about the newly formed Registered Training Organisation (RTO), ‘social enterprise’.

  • You’ve had a vision to create something like ICAN Learn for a number of years; what is at the core of that vision and has it changed in any way?

I have seen the financial counselling and capability sector struggle for a long time to have education that focused solely on industry outcomes; real education to provide the best services to clients; real education to empower the workforce. Creating a training organisation was an opportunity to develop the tool and provide the means to deliver education in a meaningful way and build sector capacity; a tool that can be used anywhere in Australia to educate people into becoming financial counsellors and financial capability workers and to attract experts into becoming educators for the sector.

The vision remains; and has expanded into thinking about higher qualifications that can grow the role, resilience and expertise of financial counsellors and recognise the innate link between it and building financial capability. Education is the means to link diverse sectors; health, community services, law, support services, aged care, disability and a myriad of services that our communities need.

  •  Almost six months in as a Registered Training Organisation, social enterprise, what have been the big milestones been so far?

There have been a number of significant milestones; building a business plan, including staff in the thinking about the future, building a marketing strategy; engaging with the financial counselling and capability sectors; designing learning resources; developing and investing in electronic learning opportunities; website development and finally passing the first audit and finally becoming registered in June 2017.

The next big milestones include the ability to enrol students and commence delivery of; the Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program; the Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program and a regional program in Bendigo, Victoria; the latter two being both first of their kind and supporting students in enrolling from remote areas in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

  • How has how CBA supported ICAN Learn?

The absolute commitment of CBA to the ongoing provision of student scholarships enables Indigenous and students from multicultural backgrounds, to study the Diploma of Financial Counselling. This support has been the back bone of the opportunity for ICAN Learn to establish and embed our ongoing ability to deliver education to up and coming financial counsellors and capability workers coming from diverse backgrounds and communities.

  • What are the positives of being a social enterprise in the current landscape?

A social enterprise gives back to the community. ICAN Learn operates on the social enterprise model, to ensure that any surplus can support the ongoing development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to become financial counsellors, and for their communities to benefit from the support of quality casework.

As a social enterprise ICAN Learn can work more effectively with industry to design and deliver appropriate education where it is needed most and still maintain the compliance determined by the Australian Skills Quality Authority.

  • Reflecting on the extensive business planning undertaken before ICAN Learn was established, what has and continues to resonate with you the most?

The process of establishing ICAN Learn RTO started with a robust approach to business planning; including a whole of ICAN staff approach, engagement with the financial counselling and capability sector, and generous support from Social Ventures Australia (SVA), Deloitte, Gilbert & Tobin and University of Queensland who assisted with the governance, financial modelling and marketing strategy.

ICAN Learn’s philosophy; Educate. Empower. Learn. Lead.  reflects the core values revealed through our business planning; recognising that the process of education leads to empowerment and that the continuous learning journey promotes leadership of people to build a better society espousing financial and social inclusion.

If you’d like to find out more about ICAN Learn, please visit the website at .