Category: News

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.

Seeking Expressions of Interest

Are you interested in becoming a trainer in the financial counselling, capability and resilience sectors? Are you wanting to take your career to the next level? ICAN Learn is seeking Expressions of Interest from trainers and students interested in either delivering or undertaking the Diploma of Financial Counselling (CHC51115). For more information about ICAN Learn’s delivery of the Diploma of Financial Counselling, please contact us or contact Bernadette Pasco on 0488 229 133 or email .