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The Financial and Consumer Rights Council Inc (FCRC) is the peak body and professional Association for Financial Counsellors in Victoria.

The Financial and Consumer Rights Council Inc (FCRC) is the peak body and professional association for financial counsellors in Victoria.

FCRC provides resources and support to financial counsellors and their agencies who assist vulnerable Victorians experiencing financial difficulty. FCRC coordinates access to professional development through an ongoing training calendar for its members. FCRC works with government, banks, utilities, debt collection and other stakeholders to improve approaches to financial difficulty for vulnerable consumers.

FCRC does not provide financial counselling directly to the public. If you need a financial counsellor, please call 1800 007 007.

Purpose

  • Advocate for vulnerable Victorian consumers who are experiencing financial difficulty*
  • Support the financial counselling sector to adopt and maintain best practice, through casework, advocacy and law reform

*We do this through our work supporting financial counsellors and through stakeholder relationships to create systemic change. We don't provide direct advocacy for individuals.

Objectives

To ensure that:

  • financial counsellors in Victoria are supported to comply with best practice
  • the financial counselling sector has secure, stable and sustainable funding
  • financial counselling has a high profile
  • vulnerable consumers have an effective voice
  • the Council is a strong, adaptive organisation that is valued by members, government and other stakeholders.

A bit of history

FCRC commenced in 1978 as the Financial Counsellor’s Association of Victoria (Inc.) and later changed its name to the Consumer Advocacy and Financial Counselling Association of Victoria (CAFCA). Following a review of the Constitution in 1996 CAFCA changed its name to the Financial and Consumer Rights Council Inc (FCRC).

Since then, FCRC has grown to include nearly 250 financial counsellor and organisation members, all of which are focused on different areas of consumer protection and financial counselling practice. Members of FCRC are very active in supporting each other through participation in regional, statewide and case specific working groups. FCRC also contributed to Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) on the development of national standards for the profession.

The systemic advocacy, policy and project work of FCRC has contributed to an increase in the number of financial counsellors in Victoria. This has also resulted in the development of numerous resources to assist consumers and caseworkers to deal with financial hardship, and to advocate strongly for those who need it most.

Our Team

BERNADETTE PASCO

Project Lead - Elder Abuse

Bernadette has worked for many years to build programs and use innovation to develop the financial counselling profession, and build opportunities to ensure better outcomes for financial counsellors, the sector and consumers. She is currently the Project Lead for FCRC's project on Elder Abuse Prevention and Financial Counselling.

In 2018, Bernadette was awarded FCRC Life membership.

DONNA LETCHFORD

Project Worker - Family Violence

In addition to her work at FCRC, Donna has been a financial counsellor at Women’s Legal Service Victoria working with women who are dealing with family violence and predominantly economic abuse for the past 3 years. She became a financial counsellor in 2001 after a 20 plus year career in the banking industry.

Donna was convener of the Banking Issues Working Group for 10 years, is a current member of the Economic Abuse Reference Group, and a financial counselling supervisor.

JAMES DEGENHARDT

Communications and Membership Manager

Before starting with FCRC in 2016, James worked as a Student Services Manager in the VET sector. As well as managing membership administration, James edits the monthly e-newsletter, the Devil’s Advocate. He enjoys the variety of the role, which connects him with financial counsellors around Victoria.

RON ROWLEY

Accounts

Ron is a long term employee of FCRC where he manages the finances of the organisation. Away from FCRC, he can be found walking, riding his bicycle, or volunteering with several charities throughout Melbourne.

SANDY ROSS

Executive Officer

Sandy joined FCRC in September 2017. He has most recently worked as a consultant, and at the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, and prior to that, as an academic and researcher, and in roles representing federal public sector science agency staff. In the community sector, Sandy has Chaired the Boards of Fitzroy Learning Network and UnitingCare ReGen (now Uniting ReGen), and in 2000 undertook Leadership Victoria’s Williamson Community Leadership Program. He also plays keyboards for the band The Menage (aka Menage a Ska).

TANJA HAEUSLER

Training Manager

Tanja joined FCRC in May 2018 as the Training Manager. Tanja initially started off her career in the community sector while studying toward her Masters in Adult Education. She has since worked as a Learning and Development Consultant putting together and organising leadership trainings for corporate clients. Tanja first started learning about the work of financial counsellors when taking on a contractual role as Trainer/ Developer of Financial Capabilities Coaching with Good Shepherd ANZ.

Our Board

JULIE BARROW

Chair

Julie joined the Board of FCRC in September 2015 and was elected to the role of Chairperson in 2016. Julie has worked for many years towards her goal of becoming a financial counsellor, and during that time worked in Community Development, Financial Literacy, Consumer Participation and Consumer Policy Development in Health, and as a Law Clerk at a local law firm.

Julie brings to her role of Chair the ability to think strategically, encourage participation and a passion to sustain FCRC’s capacity to support its members as Victoria’s state peak.

CATHY CLARK

Secretary

Catherine currently works as a Gambling Financial Counsellor at Lentara Uniting Care and a Family Violence Financial Counsellor at Banyule Community Health. Catherine joined the community sector in 2013 after an extensive career as a Senior Leader in the Corporate Sector working across Mining and Banking. Catherine made the move to the Community Sector to follow her passion for social justice.

Catherine is a member of the Financial Counselling Australia Representative Council.

MARK PHILLIPS

Treasurer

Mark joined the FCRC board in 2015, and currently serves as Board Treasurer. Mark is a Financial Counsellor employed at Jewish Care.

CARLY BAKER

Board member

After 14 years in the banking industry, Carly started in the community sector as a financial counsellor in 2011. Carly was fortunate enough to be a Jan Pentland Scholarship recipient in 2014, as well as being nominated for the Jan Pentland Memorial Award in the same year. She is the sole financial counsellor covering the Wimmera, and is experienced in the issues affecting regional FCs and their clients.

COLIN HARTE

Board member

Colin works as a Financial Counsellor for the Salvation Army. With a background working in State and Federal Government, the banking and telco sectors, as well as policy experience with Unions WA and WACOSS, Colin brings with him a diverse set of skills. Colin has a passion for Social and Economic Justice and desire to support his fellow workers in the sector.

HEATHER BARCLAY

Board member

Heather started her financial counselling career in Swan Hill with Mallee Family care in 2009, then moved to CAFS Ballarat in 2011, and the Rural Financial Counselling Service Wimmera South West in 2016. Heather has worked in areas of Generalist, Gambler's Help, Rural Financial Counselling, and most recently worked on a successful pilot project for Small Business Financial Counselling.

Heather is passionate about service delivery, employee health and wellbeing, and would like to be involved in further training and building of community knowledge for financial counselling.

JO McMAHON-HIDE

Board member

Jo has worked in the sector with the Salvation Army for ten years, eight of which have been financial counselling.
Prior to that she spent 20 years working for unions - the National Tertiary Education Union for ten years and the AWU for ten years. And before that, she worked on the "dark side", in banking and finance.

Jo is passionate about social justice and advocacy.

MAX SMART

Board member

Max has worked as a financial counsellor for four years at Good Shepherd, Casey North Info. & Support Service & now at Cranbourne Info. & Support Service. He spent 30 years working for a bakery franchise company & running a small business after completing an accounting degree. Prior to entering the community sector, he volunteered for MIND (in the partnership & linkages program) which strengthened his commitment to the need for social justice.

NORM MCMURRAY

Board member

Norm works as a consumer advocate at Berrill & Watson lawyers with a particular interest in superannuation disability claims. In addition to working with the FCRC, Norm is also on the board of Grampians Disability Advocacy. Norm’s strengths are in bringing various sectors of the consumer network together so as to promote and improve consumer issues nationally.

Governance

FCRC is governed by a Board consisting of eight to ten people elected by the membership, with up to two external directors co-opted for their expertise. The Annual General Meeting of the Council elects the office bearers and ordinary members of the Board including Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer and no less than three and no more than five ordinary members of the Board.

FCRC is a small organisation with a robust approach to governance. FCRC is committed to good governance to ensure that it remains focussed on its purpose and delivers quality professional development to its members, to governments who rely on it for policy advice and to the disadvantaged consumers for whom its members act.

In 2015, FCRC conducted a review of its governance structure and processes. The review made 24 recommendations in regard to building a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities, developing a succinct statement of the organisation’s purpose, communicating the work of the Board to members, building the skill base of the Board, streamlining and strengthening Board processes and reporting by the Executive Officer. These recommendations were adopted over a period of 12 months in 2016.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does FCRC work with financial counsellors?

As the peak body representing financial counsellors, we are not only advocates for the continued funding and expansion of the sector to meet community need, we are also the primary support and development body focused on professionalizing and resourcing the sector.

We do this is a number of ways, including:

> The provision of professional development training
> The development and support of working groups and regional networks
> The co-ordination and delivery of an annual statewide conference focusing on issues relevant to financial counsellors and their clients.
> Representing the sector to industry and government
> Assisting financial counsellors to meet the ongoing requirements which allow agencies who employ them to hold an ASIC Exemption

How does FCRC work with industry and government?

We work with government (both state and federal), banks, utilities, debt collection and other industries, and with many other sectors and organisations that impact those who do it tougher than most.

We meet regularly with industry and government to communicate issues of concern for financial counsellors and their clients.

Through our relationship with other state bodies and the national peak, Financial Counselling Australia, we are often able to resolve issues and reach consensus on how hardship provisions and communication with the sector should occur.

Interested in becoming a member? Find out about membership benefits.

Further reading

FCRC constitution

The FCRC constitution was adopted in 2015 and serves as a guideline for all members.

FCRC Annual Report

Read the latest Annual Report released by the Victorian state peak for financial counsellors.

The FCRC brand story

With 2016 bringing a year of change for FCRC, it was the perfect opportunity to update the identity to be more reflective of the organisation’s values, purpose and new strategic direction. Read the full brand story below.