As I close out my first month as Executive Officer of FCVic, I want to start this message by saying how thrilled I am with the opportunity to lead this organisation.
In my second week on the job, I was able to attend the FCVic Conference in Lorne. It was my first opportunity to meet many financial counsellors from all across the state, and it was absolutely delightful. I met so many people who have so much warmth and passion and who were so welcoming to me.
It has been lovely to immerse myself in the sector and to see everyone’s contributions and achievements shared and celebrated. Thank you to the wonderful financial counsellors and our partner organisations who made the event possible – and of course, the hardworking FCVic team for ensuring its success.
At the conference, I announced the details of the open letter addressed to the Victorian Government, calling for an urgent relief package for the financial counselling sector amid the cost of living crisis. We were so pleased to have 36 organisations sign the letter, with only a week’s notice. The quick response and overwhelming support of the campaign is deeply appreciated.
To keep you all updated, we have had great success so far in raising public awareness of the challenges facing the sector, including in media such as The Age, ABC Radio Melbourne and Sky News, as well as several local publications. Our social media posts attracted plenty of engagement, and we thank everyone who reposted and shared the message widely.
Encouragingly, we have had a lot of interest from Parliament on this issue and have about a dozen meetings scheduled over the next two weeks with MPs from all parties. We are meeting many individual MPs from the Labor and Greens parties and will be addressing the Opposition Party Room later this week. At all meetings, we are including financial counsellors who can speak directly to the issues facing the community in these MPs’ electorates.
I shall take this opportunity to clarify a media release from 17 October by the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gabrielle Williams, which coincided with the release of our campaign in the media. While the Minister did not announce any additional funding for the sector, the media release recognised and acknowledged the important work that the sector does for our community and reiterated the existing funding arrangements.
These reflections are particularly relevant for our campaign and FCVic thanks the Minister for highlighting the important work that financial counsellors do, as well as putting into quantitative terms the substantial workload that financial counsellors are under supporting the community – a cohort of just a few hundred across the state helped “19,000 Victorians who needed it most in the 2022-23 financial year” according to the release.
Further, we are grateful to the Minister for discussing the instrumental value of financial counsellors in the community at South East Community Link’s Annual General Meeting on Thursday last week (26 October), and we were happy to hear her committing to continued support of the sector.
All of these comments tie in very well with our campaign and further demonstrate the need for the Government to provide long-term support to the sector to meet the growing needs of our communities.
We are going to keep raising awareness of these challenges with MPs so that they can understand the difficulties being faced in their communities and speak to the Treasurer about the need for more funding for the sector.
Thank you once again for the support and generous welcome I have received during this busy month.