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.