News from the Integrated Services Project

News from the Integrated Services Project

Social Security Rights Victoria Inc. (‘SSRV’) and Financial Counselling Victoria (FCVic) are continuing their partnership in 2020. The Integrated Services Project (ISP) has been funded for a second year. We look forward to continuing to improve client outcomes by bringing together the work of specialist social security lawyers and financial counsellors.

We are pleased to introduce Karl Schaffarczyk who takes over this year from Bryn Overend as the ISP Community Lawyer. Karl has strong experience in community justice, working as an aged care advocate assisting clients to stop elder abuse, and later as a tenancy lawyer. Karl is looking forward to working with financial counsellors across the state to develop partnerships and further integrated service delivery. Bryn has moved into the SSRV Principal Lawyer role. He will continue to support the project and SSRV’s work with the financial counselling sector.

The ISP Financial Counsellor position is currently being advertised. Applications close on 10 February 2020. This is a great opportunity for an experienced financial counsellor who is interested in contributing to innovative, cross-sector collaboration. Please view Jobs at the FCVic website or contact SSRV for further information.

We are all aware of the devastating impact of the bushfires on so many Victorians. We know that financial counsellors are at the frontline in assisting people and communities who have been affected. SSRV wishes to acknowledge this work and invite financial counsellors to get in touch if you or your clients require information or assistance regarding Centrelink matters such as being rejected for payments, compliance and debt issues.

  • >General Advice Line operates Monday and Wednesday, 9.30am-12.30pm, 03 9481 0355
  • >Worker Help Line operates Monday to Thursday, 9.00am-5.00pm, 03 9481 0655

If you have a more general query or would like to know more about the Integrated Services Project, please feel most welcome to contact Karl – karl@ssrv.org.au, 03 9481 0299 (SSRV Administration Line). This Project is funded by the Victorian Government Department of Justice and Community Safety with funding administered by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

Chair’s report – January 2020

Chair’s report – January 2020

As I write this now it is raining outside, and I am glad. Normally, at this time of year rain would disappoint me. The bushfires have changed all this. By all reports, mega-fires and extreme weather events are the new norm.

There is an immediate sadness with all of this as we think of the victims of the bushfires, the loss of lives, the destruction to homes and livelihood, the destruction of the land where we have lived and played and destruction of the animals that walk upon it. There is also the existential sadness for a future when the environment becomes less habitable, for us and for our children.

However, there is a light that never goes out and that is the extraordinary capacity to endure, and the generosity of the average Australian and their propensity to give. Which, when I read the actual dollar amounts, staggers me and gives me hope.

To all those who are reading this who have been affected by the bushfires, or who have family and friends affected by the bushfires, my thoughts go out to you and so do the thoughts of the FCVic Board and staff.

FCVic has not been caught on the back foot by these events. We have been working behind the scenes long before this bushfire season started, lobbying hard for the inclusion of financial counselling in future disaster relief planning. When this current crisis unfurled the Victorian Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) welcomed our offer of support and have brought us into the tent. FCVic aims to have financial counselling become an integral part of future disaster relief efforts.

The State Government has agreed to fund 9.5 FTE financial counsellors across both Gippsland and the Upper Murray region affected areas, as well as providing funding for FCVic to coordinate the response. To date, FCVic has received over 60 offers of support from the financial counselling sector! We have also employed Annette Lumsden to help coordinate the sector’s offers of assistance. To all of those who have offered support, thank you!

Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) has also received funding from the Federal Government and donations from the Westpac bank. I will be attending the FCA Representative Council meeting next month and will take part in discussions on how best to deploy these funds.

There has been a lot going on at the FCVic office and the good staff there have been run off their feet. As is obviously apparent though this communication, the name has changed. As of the twentieth of this month FCRC shed its skin and became FCVic.

The FCVic Board is looking to recruit another external board member. The position is advertised currently on the FCVic website and through Open Communities.

FCVic will also release a history of the Victorian financial counselling sector to mark FCRC/FCVic’s 40th anniversary. This will happen on the evening of the 16th of March to which you will all be invited, so save the date. More details to come. FCVic is working hard, so expect more positive announcements as the year progresses!

Sometimes in life what matters is how you walk through the fire, saying this, we have a lot to be proud about as a sector.

Interview with Joy Mason, Centrecare (WA)

Interview with Joy Mason, Centrecare (WA)

Please tell us about your background:

I grew up in country NSW and went to Sydney and Melbourne to attend university and nurse training. I returned to the country, then ended up in the wonderful Bendigo where I have bought a home. I came to financial counselling from a background in Nursing, Community Development and Mental Health. I stumbled across financial counselling when I saw an advertisement in the local paper and was lucky enough to gain the position and train as an FC at RMIT. Before that, I didn’t know there was such a thing as financial counsellors.

What motivated you to pursue financial counselling?

It’s an area of work where you can genuinely make a difference. To be truthful, I found working in mental health draining and sometimes unsatisfying. I was also a programme manager and started seeking work where I could just work with clients and not manage people.

I have had a background in being part of a low income family, have been a poverty stricken single parent, have worked and studied while children were young and have been in post marriage debt. So I feel I bring some life experiences to this role that are beyond my training and career skillset and I understand the stress of poverty and debt.

What are the unique aspects of your role or the area you work in?

My current role is unique in that I work remotely, work mainly with Aboriginal clients as well as with miners who are earning money that the rest of us only dream of!

The area I work in is economically subject to the changes in the gold economy and is therefore financially volatile. The outreach I provide is to remote communities, usually about 800kms per round trip and 4.5 hours to get there, I stay overnight in miners camps. Other staff who work in the organisation might travel to the lands, about a 12 hour trip on dirt roads. My role doesn’t travel so remotely but I get to see amazing scenery and incredible wild life – its been an adventure and a half. Aboriginal clients that I work with have English sometimes as their third language and live on Country.

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

To have the courage and the vision to travel to another state, to immerse myself into a remote community and to learn and learn and learn. It’s scary to leave your comfort zone, but it’s been so incredibly worthwhile and what I am coming home with cannot be priced.

I encourage anyone who has the ability to be flexible enough, to work in another state, to work remotely and to take up opportunities that the city or regional life will never offer you. Get amongst the red dirt and blue skys of WA – it is an experience that you wont regret. I am happy to be contacted to discuss possibilities and experiences, would love to chat about my experiences and possible opportunities you might have for employment in WA.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the financial counselling sector?

Funding, funding, funding! Always a challenge in the sector, but people need to have better job security and some certainty.

We are also an aging group – let’s encourage the younger folk. And proper training that allows new FCs to be an asset to an organisation – FCs training FCs.

What has been the most valuable resource or advice you’ve received?

The most valuable resource has been other FCs who are willing to share expertise and knowledge and who are a source of encouragement.

Advice: “Go west and give it a go – work remotely”, I am forever grateful to the person who offered that.

Oh, another piece of advice “be where your feet are” – it always grounds me.

What book are you reading at the moment?

I am reading “Dark Emu” by Bruce Pascoe. Read it and be amazed that White Australia didn’t know this stuff and it wasn’t taught/still not taught in schools.

What is your favourite podcast?

On my travels I listen to podcasts – I love Brene Brown and find her truly inspiring, enjoy her Ted Talks around shame and vulnerability.

For a laugh I listen to “The Guilty Feminist” – a reminder that we try but don’t always get it right.

Chair’s report – November 2019

Chair’s report – November 2019

There is an old Chinese curse that goes, “may you live in exciting times,” however with the release of the Sylvan Report when I think of these words, I think of the great potential our sector has for growing in number of practitioners, influence and reach. Hopefully, the government will deliver on this report and we, as a sector, can overcome the tensions between growth and maintaining our high level of professional quality.

FCRC has been busy writing and submitting a tender in conjunction with Carers Victoria that, if successful, could help the sector to grow and continue its move into the health care space.

FCRC has also been working hard on the name change and James has been writing a history of the organisation to celebrate a historic 40 years. Both will have launches in the new year.

The work on stress and burnout continues with the engagement of a professional writer to produce a report and with FCRC and the Board developing strategies to maximise its impact and strategies to get agencies and funding providers involved in the solution. Unfortunately, these things take time to be done properly, so I thank members for their patience and ask that in the interim we FCs stand by each other and are mindful of the pressures on our colleagues.

The Board has been busy since the conference, having met twice already. At its first meeting the Board invited Lisa Garlick to fill the casual vacancy created by my election to the Chair’s position. Welcome Lisa.

I would also like to welcome, again, our new Board members David Balcombe and Tracey Grinter, and congratulate Carly Baker on being re-elected to the Board.

We also bid farewell to the retiring members of the Board, Mark Phillips (Treasurer for four years) and Heather Barclay (Board Director for two years), and thank them both for their significant contribution to our sector.

I would like to give a special farewell to Julie Barrow, outgoing Chair, who stepped up after the passing of Tony Naughton. I also congratulate Julie on being elected to the Board of Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) where she will be an asset to financial counsellors across the country. I look forward to hearing more about her good work at the national level.

The new Constitution means that all Board office bearers, apart from Chair, are appointed by the Board. The Board has met and decided to invite Cathy Clark to stay on as Secretary and David Balcombe to fill the positon of Treasurer to acknowledge the will of the members’ votes, and their distinct skills sets and experience. The new position of Deputy Chair, I am excited to announce, will be filled by Carly Baker. I am looking forward to leading the team into the future.

The Board is currently looking to expand its skill base by recruiting a second co-opted member. Watch this space.

Interview with Linda Burnett, knowmore legal service

Interview with Linda Burnett, knowmore legal service

Please tell us about your background.

Prior to deciding to go back to uni in 2017 to study to become a FC, I worked in a variety of accounting roles. My career started at Mobil Oil, where I worked for 13 years. Our family relocated overseas to both New Zealand and Singapore for a couple of years at a time and, on our return, I decided that I would like to move away from corporate work to work in small and medium sized businesses. Over the years, I have worked in a variety of businesses including a sound and post production facility, a real estate agency, a charity and also with Sammy J’s (and other comedians) producer and promoter.


What motivated you to pursue financial counselling?

We moved from the suburbs to live in Docklands almost five years ago. This was a huge change for our family, as we moved from quite a large suburban home to a city lifestyle. At the time my sons were in the senior years of high school and were becoming more independent. I had become disillusioned working for the ‘rich’ man and with the frequent requests for ‘creative accounting’. At the same time, I was being faced with the awful number of homeless people living on the streets of Melbourne. I started thinking that there had to be some way I could use my skills to help these people – there had to be a more sustainable way to offer assistance than just to drop some money in their buckets as I walked past. I can remember hearing an interview on ABC radio with a financial counsellor. I had never heard of financial counselling before, but this sounded like the perfect job for me. I can’t remember the name of the FC being interviewed, but that interview changed my life.


What are the unique aspects of your role or the area you work in?

My current role is with knowmore legal service, working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are applying for a National Redress payment. I have been involved in setting up a financial counselling service within this multidisciplinary service. knowmore offers clients access to a wrap-around service when applying for redress, including access to lawyers, social workers, Aboriginal engagement advisors and financial counsellors.

In this role, I work in three distinct areas with my clients:

  1. Assist them with hardship and debt issues – ideally before they receive a redress payment
  2. Discuss the implications of receiving a payment on their individual situation, particularly in relation to Centrelink payments and their housing situation
  3. Work with them around managing their lump sum, especially around protecting the money from elder and other economic abuse.

As this is a national role, my clients are spread all over the country. I have been on a steep learning curve, needing to learn about the applicable laws and hardship policies in the different states. I have also been involved in a lot of outreach interstate where I have been training people who are also working with clients applying for redress payments. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this role has been working at a high level with banks and other organisations to assist clients at a systemic level with protecting their payments. Finally, 26% of knowmore clients are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. I have been learning a lot about our First Nations peoples.


What has been your proudest achievement to date?

Moving from what was quite a comfortable role as an accountant and going back to uni after raising my children has been quite extraordinary for me. I have made many new friends with similar values, have learnt such a lot and have the privilege of making a real difference in people’s lives. I have been stretched and challenged and have found an amazing new career path. My proudest achievement is that I actually made a decision to become a financial counsellor.


What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the financial counselling sector?

Professionalising the financial counselling sector is really challenging. Ensuring that FCs are appropriately skilled while still retaining their passion and creativity is really important. Offering a meaningful career path and longevity in the sector without burnout is imperative. FCs need support from their employers, FCRC, Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) and each other. There is also the challenge of moving into multidisciplinary organisations, where the FCs work with others in different disciplines to assist the clients. This model makes a lot of sense, and I am working in this environment now, but it is not without its challenges.


What has been the most valuable resource or advice you’ve received?

The most valuable advice I have learned is how to stop hearing the stories that I don’t need to. The first time that a client downloaded extensive information about her experience of family abuse I did not have the skills or knowledge to direct her conversation. I had been working with this lady on her $10,000 power bill – the fact that she had been abused by both her father and husband was completely unexpected. It affected me quite badly. I needed to attend some EAP sessions. And it was there that I received some of my most valuable training. I learnt how to stop the flow of information, make sure my client was safe and had appropriate support, and then direct the conversation to what I could help her with. This training stays with me today and I use it daily in my current role. I know that every client that I work with has been sexually abused as a child. I don’t need to know the details. I do need to work with them in the areas that I can help.


And now the easy questions…

Who is your favourite musician?

Anyone who knows me would know the answer to this question… I am a huge supporter of live Australian music and frequently go to see bands. My absolute favourite (and has been since I was in high school) is Mick Thomas. I listen to heaps of Aussie music, but always come back to Mick’s music. I’ve even got my name as a sound recorder on one of his CDs…


What is your favourite app?

My favourite app would have to be messenger. When travelling recently, I was easily able to contact my sons without the exorbitant costs associated with making overseas phone calls that we used to experience in the ‘olden days’. I love it that I can easily keep in contact with friends both in Australia and around the world. I am unlikely to send a long letter, but I have lots of conversations over messenger which allows me to keep in contact with friends that I don’t get to see very often.

FCRC submission to the Local Government Rating System Review

FCRC submission to the Local Government Rating System Review

FCRC recently made its submission to the review of council rating systems, on behalf of Victorian financial counsellors. We received considerable feedback from our members raising concerns about how councils respond to vulnerable people in the community experiencing hardship resulting from rate charges and rate arrears. These issues are essential to address if Victoria’s rating system is to be fair and equitable for everyone in the community.


We included the following recommendation in our submission:


Recommendation

The State Government, in consultation with peak bodies and consumer organisations develop and introduce mandated hardship and related processes for Councils to adopt and implement, including the following features: 

  • -Consistent, humane and best practice hardship response – incorporating principles of transparency and accessibility, flexibility, fairness and responsiveness to individual circumstances.
  • -Specific provisions for response to family violence circumstances and support for vulnerable people dealing with challenges such as mental health, family violence, low incomes, gambling, substance use, and language and cultural barriers.
  • -Standards for council use of debt collection companies, to ensure debt collectors used by councils comply with the law and all relevant codes and standards.
  • -Promotion of early intervention engagement processes including strategies to support people who are identified as at risk of falling into arrears, and appropriate referrals to financial counselling support.
  • -Provision in flexible responses for options, including debt moratoria, affordable payment plans that take account of individual circumstances, debt waivers, deferral of interest accrual or waiving of interest charges, flexible payment schedules, access to Centrepay as a payment method.

Click here to read the full submission

FCRC 2019 Conference highlights

FCRC 2019 Conference highlights

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OUR CONFERENCE PHOTO GALLERY


The FCRC Conference this year took place in beautiful Ballarat. Our delightful MC, David Tennant, did not miss any opportunity to appropriate our host town into the punchline of a few jokes about the weather, while he kept the mood of the event light and the schedule running like clockwork.

Over 140 Victorian financial counsellors joined us on Wednesday for a full day of professional development and member networking. Our colleagues from Consumer Action Law Centre delivered the first training session of the day, which covered the topic of unregulated credit contracts. This was followed by another engaging session on effective referral practices, presented by Kat Lane and Bernadette Pasco.

At the conclusion of the training, we witnessed an historic AGM. The members voted in support of a new constitution for the Association, as well as a name change – the details of which will be announced fully in the near future. Our delegates were then whisked away to another time and place with a trip to Kryal Castle, where the “Kryal Players” provided the evening’s medieval entertainment.

We were honoured on Thursday morning to be welcomed to Wadawurrung Country by Indigenous Artist, Deanne Gilson, who shared details of her own personal exposure to financial hardship.

The Honorable Marlene Kairouz (Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation) was present once again to show her support for the sector, and officially open the conference.

This year we were thrilled to welcome back journalist Adele Ferguson to deliver the keynote address. In her speech, which focused on the Banking Royal Commission and its aftermath, Adele acknowledged the importance of financial counsellors. She highlighted that prior to the royal commission, the power of the banks had been secured in the relationship between the banking and political classes. Adele’s message was a call for a stronger media with people prepared to speak up.

Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah Glass, once again spoke about her role in making the system fairer for all – reminding us that the Ombudsman exists because of the imbalance of power between individuals and the state.

State Trustees CEO, Matt Carrick, took the opportunity to respond to the Victorian Ombudsman’s recent report into the public trustee service. State Trustees have recently engaged with FCRC and local financial counsellors in order to find ways of better meeting their clients’ needs, as part of their new Client First model.

FCRC provided a preview of the findings from its upcoming report into the levels of stress and burnout in the financial counselling sector. FCRC EO Sandy Ross and researcher Polly Bennett described an increasing trend of “moral trauma” among financial counsellors, which refers to an ethical desire to do good, but inability to meet the requirements due to the current demands and complexities of casework. The next steps in responding to this growing issue will be delivered as part of the soon-to-be-released report.

We were also pleased to hear updates from Financial Counselling Australia (FCA), Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV), and Consumer Affairs Victoria, as well as Bernadette Pasco, who spoke about her work as FCRC’s Project Lead in building financial counselling into health and aged care services as part of Elder Abuse response and prevention.

Transurban’s Jane Calvert made an exciting announcement: the launch of the toll-road operator’s first dedicated financial hardship assistance service, Linkt Assist.

Once again, we took time to share and celebrate casework success stories during our “Casework Conferencing” session. The celebrations continued as part of our annual conference dinner, where we recognised the work of our many long-serving financial counsellors who have dedicated more than 10 and 20 years of service to the profession.

We also presented our three conference awards. This year’s Jan Pentland Memorial Award recipient was Wodonga Financial Counsellor, Sandra Blake, for her tireless service to the wider community, particularly through her commitment to payday lending reforms. In her acceptance speech, Sandra spoke about the power of storytelling in creating change. We were fortunate to have Virginia Noonan in attendance once again to present the award named in her honour. This year’s Virginia Noonan Award recipient, Tracey Grinter from Bendigo, was recognised for her contributions to the profession through the development of our regional workforce. Tracey emphasised the importance of supporting student financial counsellors, and encouraged more agencies to engage in student placement. Our Rising Star Award, presented to an exceptional financial counsellor in their first three years of practice, was awarded to Kylie McLoughlin for her dedication to her clients. Accepting on Kylie’s behalf was colleague, John Hastings, who shared details of Kylie’s passion for paperwork which led her to becoming a financial counsellor…

In many respects, this year’s conference was a success. However, for many, the standout from the program was The Great Debate. Two teams went head-to-head to thrash out the topic: “The problem is consumerism, not credit.” While moderator, Dr June Smith (Deputy Chief Ombudsman, AFCA), awarded the final victory to the affirmative team, it’s fair to say that all involved were outstanding debators; passionate and entertaining.

We are grateful for the support of all of our conference partners in helping to bring together such a large-scale and successful event. We have set the bar high for ourselves for next year’s conference in Melbourne, and we are already getting ready to deliver. We looking forward to seeing you there.

Interview with Leanne Khan, SSRV

Interview with Leanne Khan, SSRV

Please tell us about your background:

I began my career in the community sector as a youth housing support worker at 25. At the time, I was a single parent with two children and I was a community development student.

Given the position was in regional Victoria and I was the only direct service youth worker in the 874 sq km area, with my life circumstances, my learning curve was steep and fast.

Before beginning in financial counselling,  I had a varied background including mental health, program coordination, case management and community development project roles.


What motivated you to pursue financial counselling?

I was working as a mental health support worker and Peter Gartlan and I shared a client. Peter told me that there was an opening for a financial counsellor and it just happened that the timing was right, as I was looking for a new challenge. However,  Peter did not really paint a fair picture of the role or indicate that the role could be quite challenging. I was particularly attracted to the position because it was solution focused and a role where case work and systemic advocacy meet, as well as being underpinned by community development principles and social justice, two of my very favourite things.


Please tell us a bit about your work within the Integrated Services Project with SSRV.

I have learned so much about Centrelink and the underpinning legislation, it has provided so much insight into Centrelink decisions and why they are made. It has been a really enjoyable experience- working so closely with lawyers on cases and seeing the advantages for clients that come out of integrated practice. The project to date has seen so many great outcomes for clients and now we have secured a second year of funding, I am excited to see what comes next.


What are the unique aspects of your role or the area you work in?

Like most financial counselling work, each case is very individual. However, I am enjoying working with the asylum seekers and refugees as this is not an area that I have had a lot of exposure to.


What has been your proudest achievement to date?

I don’t think that I can pick one thing, however I am always impressed to see how debt waivers can change clients’ lives. I am always really amazed by how clients trust us with their lives and I always like to remember that it is a privilege to work with vulnerable people.

Essentially I am always proud of the awesome work that the sector does with the wider community.


What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the financial counselling sector?

I can’t pick one, so my top two are:

Resources – there is just not enough funding or financial counsellors to meet demand for service.

The need for specialised financial counsellors to be available to provide service to people in hospitals and aged care facilities.


What has been the most valuable resource or advice you’ve received?

Being non-judgemental is not about not having judgement, as without judgement we are unable to moderate our own behaviour. Being non-judgemental is being able to identify our own biases and treat people with the same unconditional positive regard, regardless of their values or behaviour. This allows others to make their own decisions and choices without fear of being judged; this is best practice and not just with our clients but also our colleagues, family, friends and the rest of the world.


What book are you reading at the moment?

I am currently listening an audio book called The Mabinogion, this is a collection of Celtic myths and ancient Welsh tales, some were written as early as the 11th Century.


What is your favourite podcast?

I usually listen to the podcast called Talking Health on 3AW hosted by Dr Sally Cockburn. She has a variety of different guests and the show is about demystifying medical issues.

EO’s report – October 2019

EO’s report – October 2019

As this issue of Devil’s Advocate goes to press, we see the end of a significant month for FCRC. At our Annual General Meeting on 9 October, the organisation resolved to adopt a new constitution, and a new name to go with it. From 2020 we will be known as Financial Counselling Victoria (FCVic). Watch out for more information about our rebranding and launch, probably to take place in March 2020. In the meantime, the fact of the change has triggered many to ask why we had the old name for so long, and why it seemed not to describe us very well. Our old name referred to the fact that in the late 1990s when it was adopted our organisation also represented Consumer Rights Advocates (positions that were defunded back in 2005). Also, there was a service organisation in SE Melbourne that had the name Financial Counselling Vic (Inc) that was only wound up last year, freeing the name up. It was a happy coincidence that these events all coincided with a constitutional review process that enabled the adoption of the new name.

The adoption of a new constitution, was the culmination of a long consultative process of development, guided by a constitutional review committee established by the FCRC Board. Members of that committee did an enormous amount of work scoping out issues, surveying members on constitutional options, then drafting and reworking and consulting further. The new constitution is not perfect (such documents never are), but it is an improvement on the old document, with more clarity and transparency over important principles and the role of the Board in establishing policies to guide our functioning. There are new member categories – including students as a separate category for the first time; the clauses on professional conduct have been substantially revised, along with greater clarity about the role of the Board.

In the meantime, the world keeps turning, and advocacy for improved hardship practices continues to be important. The State Government is running a review of Council rates at present, and FCRC will be making a submission, alongside WEstjustice, advocating for significant improvements in council practices via establishing more rigorous requirements for councils on how they treat citizens in hardship. Our submission will be on our website once it is finalised, and we are hopeful that the many councils with poor practices will (be required to) lift their game substantially as a result.

Chair’s report – September 2019

Chair’s report – September 2019

It is with sadness and optimism, I sit down to write my final Devil’s Advocate report as Chair of FCRC.I have decided the time has come to hand over the reins to a new Chair and I do so with utmost confidence we will find a person with amazing skills, knowledge and passion to contribute to our organisation.

As I reflect on the past 4 years, I am proud of the significant work of our Board members (past and present) and in particular the unsung heroes who deliver way beyond the capacity of our organisation, our Executive Officer, Dr Sandy Ross, our former Executive Officer, Peter Gartlan and the friendly and talented staff at FCRC. I would particularly like to thank James for going above and beyond in his availability and support to me during my term as Chair.

I also hope I have shown it is possible for an introvert and someone terrified of public speaking to have a voice and make a difference. I believe we have many voices that we need to hear from in our membership, particularly from those who see the broader landscape and are passionate in contributing positively to effecting change for our clients. I would encourage you all to believe you can step up and make a difference.

Over my time as Chair I have witnessed many changes: a change of Executive Officer; changes in Board members; and most proudly building and strengthening relationships with funding bodies and external stakeholders. There are new financial counselling positions specialising in Family Violence, and there has been continued work towards professionalism of financial counselling, and opportunities for our sector to grow through recognition of the important role financial counsellors play in many service delivery areas.

I have also experienced many personal challenges during this time and look forward to the time to focus on my children as they grow into young adults.

Finally, I would like to thank the current Board: Colin Harte, Mark Phillips, Norm McMurray, Cathy Clark, Heather Barclay, Max Smart, Joanne McMahon-Hide, and Carly Baker for their significant contribution to the governance of FCRC over the past 12 months. I also remember with fondness, as I sign off, the person who encouraged and had confidence in me in standing for the position of Treasurer of the Board when I first nominated; a great man, friend and colleague who will always be missed, Tony Naughton.