Category: News

Growth equals opportunity to advance financial counselling

Labor Leader Bill Shorten announces $640 Million fairness fund to support financial counselling. Photo Credit AAP

A recent federal government review of financial counselling and a Labor Party funding announcement made for the upcoming election has placed future funding in the spotlight, which would provide greater opportunity for new sector development through training delivery. ICAN Learn provides quality industry education to those seeking to become qualified financial counsellors and capability workers across Australia.

ICAN Learn, through its EnergyAustralia partnership and links to State peak financial counselling bodies, has recruited 20 experienced financial counsellors in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to undertake Certificate IV in Training and Assessment TAE40116. The training will increase the number of teachers available to deliver units in the Diploma of Financial Counselling, drastically improving the opportunity and quality of vocational education.

In 2019-2020, ICAN Learn and EnergyAustralia are providing Diploma of Financial Counselling Scholarship opportunities for 20 students in each of the states mentioned above. Highlighting the significance of this delivery model, ICAN Learn Executive Officer Bernadette Pasco said, “this model could be scaled with increased corporate funding and administered through a traineeship approach, where participants undergo a combination of classroom and workplace learning and become work ready in the process.”  

The team at ICAN Learn has an extensive background in the provision of high-quality financial counselling services. Over the past 10+ years ICAN Learn’s co-founders have noted the inconsistency in agency financial counselling approaches to systemic advocacy work with regulators and EDR schemes and other sophisticated financial counselling services. ICAN Learn co-founder, Aaron Davis said, “I believe varying approaches are major contributors to service variances, and can be attributed to agency understanding of the role of financial counselling as well as the differing quality of training received by financial counsellors.”

The financial counselling needs of our communities across Australia are becoming increasingly more complex, not less. “Financial counsellors are now witnessing complex emerging issues including small business/sole trader debts linked with personal assets, family violence, elder abuse and an increase in the fluidity and complexity of financial product/contracts,” said Mr. Davis. “There is also a significant increase in insolvency actions as middle class representation is growing, especially in regions that have industries in decline.” With these growing complexities in daily financial counselling casework, brings the need for more technical and placement-based training for future financial counsellors. “This is exactly the moment when we need to be building upon and increasing the quality training standards for our sector”, said Mrs. Pasco. In a current landscape where RTOs are seeking to reduce the work-placement requirement(s) implemented through the industry skills council review 2013 – 2016, we argue for its preservation noting the role it can achieve in building a workforce of financial counsellors who will be effectively prepared to meet the complex needs of our communities.

Studies have indicated that a disciplinary knowledge base alone – that is, training without hands-on experience – may not wholly prepare students for the workforce nor guarantee employment upon graduation (Govender & Wait, 2017; Wheelahan, Leahy, Fredman, Moodie, Arkoudis & Bexley, 2012). Work placement or work-integrated learning (WIL), can consolidate theoretical learning with practice by aiding students to “develop skills and attributes they need in a job” which are acquired in experiential environments (Govender & Wait, 2017; Wheelahan et al., 2012). Work placements “embedded into course curricula are an important vehicle” for assisting students towards work readiness by integrating the real-life contexts in which they will work into their learning environment (Von Treuer, Sturre, Keele & McLeod, 2013). In the work placement environment, “knowing and learning are co-constructed” through onsite learning, where students can “transform work experience into knowledge”, only achieved by considering both the role (of the trainee financial counsellor) in conjunction with the environment “in which the role is enacted because this has a direct impact on the knowledge and skills practised and learnt” (Armatas & Papadopoulos, 2013).

Since ICAN Learn’s establishment and registration in 2017, ICAN Learn’s Lead Instructor, Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch, has been providing real-life learning opportunities for up and coming financial counsellors and capability workers, by supporting Diploma of Financial Counselling students to secure their 220-hours work placements, an integral component of vocational education. The placements have resulted in real employment outcomes for a significant number of ICAN Learn students, who have now entered the workforce in financial counselling roles. “Our training is delivered by accredited trainers that have at least five years’ experience as practising financial counsellors,” said Ms Shepherd-Murdoch. “ICAN Learn believes strongly in the mandatory 220-hours work placement for Diploma of Financial Counselling students. Having financial counsellors who have been involved in real-life case work by the time they graduate, provides assurance to the sector and the wider community that our growing sector is fully equipped to meet the financial counselling needs of the Australian community.”

References

Armatas, C., & Papadopoulos, T. (2013). Approaches to work-integrated learning and engaging industry in vocational ICT courses: evaluation of an Australian pilot program. International Journal of Training Research, 11(1), 56-68.

Govender, C. M., & Wait, M. (2017). Work integrated learning benefits for student career prospects–mixed mode analysis. South African Journal of Higher Education, 31(5), 49-64.

Von Treuer, K., Sturre, V., Keele, S., & McLeod, J. (2011). An integrated model for the evaluation of work placements. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 12(3), 195-204.

Wheelahan, L., Leahy, M., Fredman, N., Moodie, G., Arkoudis, S., & Bexley, E. (2012). Missing links: the fragmented relationship between tertiary education and jobs. Adelaide: NCVER.

EnergyAustralia’s Queensland FC Teacher Program Underway

Top L to R: Jon O’Mally, EA’s Mathew Morrison, Natasha Syed Ali, Tukie Balanzategui, Mathew Morrison and Jill McKinlay. Bottom L to R: Jill McKinlay, ICAN Learn’s Majella Anderson & Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch, EA’s Louise Nicoloudis and Natasha Syed Ali.

ICAN Learn and EnergyAustralia recently caught up with all four of Queensland’s up and coming financial counselling teachers at the annual Financial Counselling Association of Queensland (FCAQ) conference held at Southbank Brisbane, between the 5thand 7thof March. The Queensland contingent is part of a larger EnergyAustralia sponsored Financial Counselling Teaching Development Program in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales where a total of 20 experienced financial counsellors are either currently completing or updating their TAE40116 Cert IV in Training and Assessment.

Tukie Balanzategui, Natasha Syed Ali, Jill McKinlay and Jon O’Mally have a combined 50+ years of financial counselling experience that they will share with the sector. “I want to support and boost the professionalism of financial counselling by doing my part to ensure we have well-trained, well-informed and well-supported people,” said financial counsellor, Tukie Balanzategui.

Experienced financial counsellor, Natasha Syed Ali supported Tukie‘s sentiments, stating, “A lot has changed over the last 10 years in the consumer advocacy space, I would like to expand my passion and motivate new financial counsellors to be the best they can, not just for our clients but also for our sector.”

Highlighting the need for teaching diversity within the financial counselling teaching program, ICAN Learn Executive Officer, Bernadette Pasco said, “We want to match the right teachers with the right units within the Diploma of Financial Counselling. Everyone has a passion, and when they’re sharing that passion, it’s an extremely effective way to share and build knowledge .”

Jill McKinlay commenced her career in financial counselling after the Brisbane floods in 2011. For Jill, the impact of financial counselling on a person’s economic and personal wellbeing has always been an extraordinary thing to observe. “People will often comment that they wish they’d known about financial counselling sooner,” said Ms McKinlay. “I recently studied a masters of counselling to meet the increasingly complex needs of our vulnerable clients, learnings to be utilised in my teaching endeavours.”

Newly appointed FCAQ president Jon O’Mally summed up the EnergyAustralia sponsored program, “It’s about practising financial counsellors taking charge of the teaching provided to new people coming into the sector,” said Mr O’Mally. “This makes the teaching relevant and a real game-changer for the professionalism of the sector.”

North Meets South

Yarnin’ Money team (front) with participants from various Victorian organisations.

When North meets South, amazing things happen! ICAN Learn made history last week by taking a specially designed for women Yarnin’ Money ® program to a whole new Victorian audience. 

Eddie Buli, the brains behind Yarnin’ Money said “it’s a fantastic opportunity to show the adaptability of Yarnin’ Money® to all audiences, transcending cultural boundaries, building respect.” 

Carmen Hegarty joined ICAN in 2017, and aside from working alongside Eddie to develop an understanding of the Yarnin’ Money® style, she developed the women’s approach whilst working as a financial capability worker and undertaking the Diploma of financial counselling with ICAN Learn. 

February 21 and 22 saw the culmination of 12 month’s work by Cathie Oddie, ICAN Learn and staff from Fitted for Work, Women and Mentoring [WAM] and HESTA , provide a unique opportunity to explore different ways to talk about our money story – an empowering way to explore barriers to financial inclusion and financial literacy for marginalized women. 

Ms Oddie stated that the driving passion to link women at various levels to opportunities for empowerment and change led her to instigate this partnership. 

Day 1 of Yarnin’ Money® with women,led by Carmen, provided a great opportunity to explore different ways to talk about money, expose barriers and guide new ways of thinking through the money story; all members felt the full exposure of their story and the vitality that brings to money conversations.  

Participants were led through day 2 by Eddie, exploring the pillars on which Yarnin® Moneyis built so that they could use it to develop their own approaches.

Participants were thoroughly engaged in the approach with reflections including: 

“The Yarnin’ Money® wheel gave me a bird’s eye view of my situation and along with the timeline- it made me think differently. I think it’ll be great with clients.” 

“It [the approach] opened my eyes to different issues.” 

Participants will become part of the Yarnin’ Money ICAN Learn community of practice and continue to develop their own Yarnin’ Money® style to empower change in those they work with every day. 

Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program Rising Stars – Part 2

Zion Lo pictured above.

Zion Lo is a social worker with a large palliative care organisation in Victoria. He works daily with clients who are impacted by health issues and sees first-hand the disadvantage caused by chronic illness and the impact that financial difficulty has on care choices and wellbeing. Zion decided to undertake the Diploma of Financial Counselling when the opportunity arose through some key communication facilitated by Sonia Vignjevic, a Victorian Multi-Cultural Commissioner at the time. Zion Lo joined the Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program with ICAN Learn in 2018 and has since been able to offer his services as a volunteer financial counsellor to other multi-cultural organisations.  

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

“I have been in Australia for about ten years. I came to Australia as an international student from Hong Kong, and I have decided to call Australia home to serve the Australian community as a social worker. In my social work practice, I am privileged to work with people who are, by large, disadvantaged by social inequality depending on our social and political discourses. While we cannot ignore the significant impact driven by our sociopolitical systems, I believe that I can to play a vital role in the community, and be part of something that is important for those who seek help. That’s why I decided to undertake the Diploma of financial counselling.”

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

“Hong Kong operates under the common law system due to its colonial history. For many new Chinese Australians, including myself, financial counselling, its values and the philosophy of this service are a new concept to me. Australia’ consumer protection laws and its mechanisms are more advanced and well-developed compared to Hong Kong. 

In Asian culture, my cultural heritage, financial responsibility is considered to be an individual / private matter; the “social justice” approach that is in Australia, might be foreign to those of Asian background. I can clearly remember one of my relatives accused me of learning to be a profession of helping those who are being “irresponsible” in the community. 

I am extremely pleased to embrace the challenge of knowing and understanding the critical role financial counselling plays in our consumer and financial sectors, and how far financial counselling could be extended to ensure the wellbeing of our clients regardless of cultural differences. I highly recommend FC service as an essential settlement service to be promoted across different communities nationally.”

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 practice social work in community palliative care settings and hospitals. My core work is with people affected by terminal illness and domestic violence. Undertaking the Diploma of Financial Counselling has enabled me to develop knowledge and skills to respond to clients’ financial and social needs. Organisations I work for are slowly progressing on an idea of “combined professional-social worker and financial counsellor”; timely referral is critical in a crisis, and financial counsellors possess the skills and theory to assess the financial situation of the client adequately.  

My Financial Counselling skills are also being utilised by the Chinese Cancer and Chronic Illness Society of Victoria (CCCIS) where I volunteer to ensure people can access information and support when in financial difficulty, regardless of their mobility, cultural differences, language barrier and life expectancy. I’d want to thank the manager of CCCIS Dorothy Yiu OAM for taking on this leadership role in the community.” 

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 multicultural clients / are there additional practice considerations?

“Clients from diverse backgrounds need cultural responsiveness, active listening and willingness to go the extra mile; doing some research into various cultures; to consider and discuss clients’ social circumstances with the client are some of the vital aspects to this work to achieve sustainable outcomes. I always reflect on what my ICAN Learn educator Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch and placement supervisor Julie Trompf have humbly and genuinely demonstrated in their financial counselling practice – ‘do the financial (advocacy) bit and the counselling bit’.”

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

“Knowledge and skills in financial counselling are crucial in different areas of human services practice. I’d love to see the integration of financial counselling into social work education and other professions, and professionals refer to financial counselling as a priority across the human services and financial sector.”

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.