What motivated you to pursue Financial Counselling?
I usually answer this question ironically with, I was once a great and wonderful skip tracer for the Probe Group before I began disconnecting people’s electricity in rapid succession at Australian Power and Gas until eventually, I found the light.
Although to answer truthfully, my path to becoming a Financial Counsellor was paved long before I began employment in Australia.
I grew up in poverty stricken Flaxmere, New Zealand. This is a place, where if you’re open to noticing the content of shopping trolleys and bare feet passing you by, a trip to the local supermarket will quite literally break your heart. In short, my upbringing like many in the sector would tick all of Consumer Affairs vulnerability categories. From family violence, to family members in gangs and prison, financial abuse and poverty to the loss of immediate family members; you name it and I’ll have the T shirt. So like others, I’m here in the Financial Counselling role because I’ve lived it, in all its shame and glory.
Please tell us about your background
I left school when I was 15 years of age and since then life has been a series of curves, bumps, inclines and the occasional “top of the hill” moment.
My Financial Counselling journey has involved understanding that to build the capacity to harness a client’s strength, I have to work through my own weaknesses.
Nowhere more so did I learn that lesson than during my time at the National Debt Helpline.
Delivering information to clients in quick succession, reframed for each individual case is a challenge that’s guaranteed to see no stone left unturned within oneself.
What are the unique aspects of your role or the area you work in?
I would have to say my colleague’s passion. Christian and Noelene, our Financial Capability workers, quite literally serve as the valuable link between existing budgeting and debt resolution work. Playing to each other’s strengths, they’ve managed to master the art of framing financial wellbeing information to the point their clients then go out and educate others in their communities.
I also work with Peter, Natalie, Cindy, Martin, Sally, Antony and Rene who all raise the standard of practice in their vastly different approaches to resolving issues seen in our catchment area, including being willing to push back on industries.
Each member of our team asks more of the role in seeking to achieve client engagement to the point our services are no longer required by that person.
What has been your proudest achievement to date?
I would have to say in short, thriving instead of surviving.
I’ve most certainly gone the journey and am continuing to grow as a person by being willing to acknowledge and work on me.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Financial Counselling sector?
Ourselves, I feel as though we have largely allowed conversations to move away from where they should be.
That, and burnout.
I have worked factory floors from sunrise to sunset, six days a week and been so tired that I’ve fallen asleep standing up! However, those previous roles do not compare to what in my experience the Financial Counselling role demands of a person. Especially given the true extent of that strain is often not acknowledged or understood.
What has been the most valuable resource or advice you’ve received?
Whilst I don’t share details with clients, without a doubt the most valuable resource I have is my life experience, well that, and google.
The greatest advice I’ve had………..it’s a jungle out there, be open to the adventure. Unknown
What book are you reading at the moment?
Re-Reading: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High – Thanks PH
What artist are you listening to at the moment?
Metallica and Fleetwood Mac.