Category: News

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 .

Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program another national first

Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program participants on the look out for scams on Melbourne streets.


As the third National Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program (IFCMP) commenced in Cairns, a whole new Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program (MCSP) sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank launched in Melbourne last month. The Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program follows the success of the IFCMP and aims to build even greater diversity within the financial counselling sector. “We know from developing Indigenous financial counsellors that there are great benefits for communities that have financial counselling services delivered by people that not only have the required knowledge and skills, but an inherent cultural competence and shared lived experience,” said ICAN Learn Executive Officer, Bernadette Pasco.

Victoria was chosen as the launch state, as it has significant support structures and legislation to support Multi Cultural communities. The ICAN Learn program is based in the Melbourne CBD and has started well with 14 students from diverse backgrounds. Program interest from across Australia led to participants from Alice Springs, Derby and Cairns also joining the new initiative via online modalities.

“ICAN Learn is thrilled to have experienced financial counsellors and trainers, Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch and Cheryl Buttigieg on board to deliver the program, making good on our commitment to provide sector driven professional development and training delivered by industry professionals,” said Bernadette. “Like the IFCMP, we will also be incorporating our extensive industry connections into the delivery.”

ICAN Learn Trainer, Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch was slightly nervous going in to the course, as the MCSP is a totally new initiative for the sector. “Those feelings were short lived, the engagement, quality of assessments and overwhelming feedback from the group has been really encouraging”, said Robyn.

Quality of support was highlighted in class feedback as a common theme, with one student saying, “I’m really enjoying this course so much better and much more support than my first degree” and another, “definitely a step up from my economics degree.” Many participants also expressed that it’s great that the trainer gets back to you quickly, with an answer to your email concern or question.

What’s great about adult education is that sharing of knowledge goes both ways. “Coming from countries all over the world the group openly discusses cultural differences when it comes to money, I have learned a lot about different cultures and values already in the first week,” said Robyn. “It’s also great to see everyone starting to make friends with each other.”

Speaking about getting on board with ICAN Learn as a Registered Training Organisation, social enterprise, Robyn said, “I’m really enjoying work with a team that understands our sector, the way we are delivering all over Australia has been a dream of mine and Bernadette for a very long time. It’s about putting students and the sector first;. We want the people coming out of our courses to be tomorrow’s sector leaders.”

Third national mentorship program begins

The third national Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank commenced in Cairns on October the 16th, 2017. ICAN Learn Program Coordinator, Majella Anderson highlighted that the fifteen scholarship winners were from Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. “It was great to see representatives from the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) participating in the program again, showing their ongoing commitment to developing Indigenous financial counsellors in South Australia’s Port Augusta and Ceduna regions,” said Ms. Anderson.

Explaining what makes the third national mentorship program different, ICAN Learn Executive Officer, Bernadette Pasco said, “for one it’s being delivered by our own Registered Training Organisation, ICAN Learn, and two, we’ve now included the financial literacy skill set, which is a great Segway into linking the roles of financial counselling and capability.”

This sentiment was backed by ICAN’s new financial counsellor (associate) and mentorship program participant, Conrad Dwyer; “With my experience in the industry, I felt I was able to assist some of my colleagues in the course to gain a better understanding of what financial capability work involves, while also learning more myself around some of the cultural protocols and specific remote issues that I will need to be aware of when working in communities.”

The course delivery is modelled on a block training approach of five to six, one week blocks over an eighteen-month period, that are supported by weekly online sessions. “We are using the Electa live web based platform between visits. This has resulted in a few technological challenges, but overall enabled contact between group members and assisted people get ready for the Diploma part of the program and next block visit on November 27th,” said Ms. Pasco.

“Students are also engaging in submission of work via our e-learning platform, reducing the need for paper based documents and providing a platform to learn self-directed aspects of written tasks, effectively reducing our carbon footprint,” said Ms. Pasco.

ICAN’s new Financial Counselling Support Officer and program participant, Carmen Hegarty said, “I found it very enjoyable to meet others from different parts of Australia and more importantly discuss how they service their communities, and the experience they have in handling financial cases. It is comforting to know that we are all working to address similar issues together and we can pool our knowledge and resources for improved client and service outcomes.”

ICAN Learn enhances the delivery of the qualification through real education and industry connections. “We will be utilising ICAN’s extensive consumer regulatory, ombudsman and community service networks to present and discuss cases that make the education experience real. At the last block, past graduate and Yarnin’ Money Co-ordinator, Eddie Buli took participants through the concept of the ground breaking financial capability program and its value in working with Indigenous groups,” said Ms. Pasco. “Yarnin’ Money is developing a momentum of its own, with interest from diverse stakeholders in other States/ Territories, a promising way to develop different ways to have money conversations and empower service providers.”

ICAN Learn a shared vision

ICAN is pleased to announce the launch of ICAN Learn, our registered training organisation (RTO). The milestone is the realisation of a dream shared at opposite ends of Australia’s east coast. It was our  vision to create an RTO dedicated to the professional development and advancement of the national financial counselling, capability and resilience sectors.

“As a specialist organisation, it has always been vital that our community receives the best quality service in these areas”, explained Aaron Davis, ICAN CEO. ICAN’s model of training, supervision and professional development is central to our success and industry recognition.”ICAN Learn will replicate this model in its training delivery,” said Mr. Davis.

Bernadette Pasco, formerly of the Financial and Consumer Rights Council (FCRC),  joined ICAN in 2016 to lead the development of ICAN Learn. Ms. Pasco was instrumental in introducing the industry qualification, ongoing professional supervision and development for financial counselling in Victoria.

“My passion and driving force over the last 10 years has been the professionalisation of the financial counselling sector,” said Bernadette, ICAN Learn’s Executive Officer. “I firmly believe that the training and professional development of our sector is crucial in making a greater impact in the communities we service.”

Scholarship applications now open

ICAN Learn is now accepting scholarship applications for two concurrent Diploma of Financial Counselling courses: the Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program and the Multi-Cultural Scholarship Program, to be delivered in 2017-2019.

Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program

The Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program (IFCMP) has successfully graduated 34 students from across Australia with a Diploma of Financial Counselling, over the past 8 years. The Diploma of Financial Counselling is run over 18 months and will commence in July/August 2017. Learning will take place through classroom style block training in Cairns, weekly online group training sessions and one to one contact with trainers. It is a requirement that participants attend six residential block training sessions, for 5 days per block. The residential block training sessions are spaced approximately 2.5 – 3 months apart.