Please tell us about your background.
I have been a Financial Counsellor for over 20 years, and during that time I have worked in many programs and with many funders. I started as a generalist Financial Counsellor, a Family Violence Financial Counsellor (yes, 20 years ago we had family violence funding and CALD funding), and Gambling Financial Counsellor. I have worked with CALD communities, and been involved with community education, financial literacy, microfinance, energy and community housing.
Positions I have held include Program Manager for Financial Counselling and Community Housing for over 10 years, and a Team Leader Financial Inclusion as well as being a Professional Supervisor.
During that time I have had the opportunity to mentor, supervise, manage, recruit, work with, and support many new and highly experienced financial counsellors, whilst keeping a close connection with community and clients.
I am particularly proud of our work during the Black Saturday Kinglake Bushfires in 2009, as I was one of the first financial counselling responders, followed closely by the whole financial counselling team at Uniting Kildonan working seven days a week, taking it in turns to support the communities of Kinglake and surrounds.
What motivated you to pursue financial counselling?
I first heard about financial counselling whilst completing my BA Degree in Community Development, which was surprising as I was working with and supporting CALD communities, was on the board of the Migrant Resource Centre and had worked with Women’s Health in the North. I enrolled in the financial counselling as an elective subject and thought this is where we can make a real difference to clients. I was amongst the first group to complete the newly developed two year Diploma Community Services (Financial Counselling), and graduated in 1999. I completed my first placement with Peter Gartlan at Coburg Brunswick Legal Service and Financial Counselling in 1997.
What are the unique aspects of your role or the area you work in?
I work with an organisation that has provided many opportunities to work on innovative programs that support clients and the community, including energy, financial literacy, micro-finance, community housing and many outreach services, Credit Helpline (now NDH) and to hospitals.
I have enjoyed working with a great team, a highly committed, experienced, caring, supporting team, who make a great positive difference to their clients every day. Getting great outcomes and making a difference to client’s health and wellbeing. We constantly get positive feedback from clients and other agencies to thank the financial counsellors for the positive difference they have had on their lives.
Amongst the many opportunities provided, I have appreciated the opportunity to consistently be involved with community education especially to Aboriginal and CALD communities, to empower communities, by providing them information about their consumer rights, and the availability of financial counselling and other services.
Some client feedback for the FCs: “I will never be able to thank you for all that you have done for me.”
“You truly are an incredible lady. Your kindness, caring and compassion you have shown me is second to none.”
“Just want to say thank you and your team for all the support I got in a difficult time of my life and for the overwhelming result which I would’ve never been able to achieve myself, such a wonderful result. Once again thank you very much.”
The work is rewarding to know we are making a difference.
What has been your proudest achievement to date?
There have been many achievements as there have been many firsts, but working at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) stands out. I was the first financial counsellor to work at the RCH in 2003, which started off on the oncology ward, and supporting those families. Providing them with support, and advocating on their behalf to allow them to care for their child and spend precious time with their loved ones.
That work resulted in receiving funding for five other hospitals, which I coordinated. We had a financial counsellor at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Monash Hospital, Mildura, Horsham, Newcastle and Brisbane Hospitals. That is a great achievement, and a service that is greatly needed.
As I always say, I believe that there should be a financial counsellor at every hospital. A financial counsellor to advocate for clients who are under great stress, and often experiencing trauma, to provide information and explain options, and to make a difference to clients who are not in a position to advocate for themselves at that time.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the financial counselling sector?
Ongoing funding is always an issue for financial counselling, and financial counsellors need to have the security of knowing that they will always have funding.
Financial counsellors need to feel supported by their agencies, and their managers need to know and understand the complex work of financial counsellors, including working with:
- The complex and ever-changing nature of legislation and policy related to financial counselling.
- Clients with mental health issues.
- Victims of family violence.
- Perpetrators of family violence.
- Clients suffering from addictions.
- Clients in extreme financial hardship.
- Clients impacted by the bushfires, and other natural disasters.
What has been the most valuable advice you’ve given?
“We do the best we can, we don’t have a magic wand.”
”We have a great resource with a wealth of experienced financial counsellors. If not sure, always ask.”
“Listen to your client, build rapport, believe your client’s story, advocate, and show compassion.”
“Be passionate about making a difference”
What TV show are you currently watching?
I am watching Anne with an E on Netflix as I had in my younger years enjoyed reading Anne of Green Gables and the set of books by the author Lucy Maud Montgomery.
What is your favourite app?
At the moment, with COVID-19, I like WhatsApp as it is free and I can video call my Mum, send and receive photos, videos, voice messages txt etc. even with no sim card in the phone.
Thanks to FCVic and FCA for the resources and CPD.