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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.