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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 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 through its casework, advocacy and law reform, to adopt and maintain best practise

*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.
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

ANNA LIENHOP

Training Coordinator

Anna joined FCRC in July 2016, bringing a strong background in training, compliance and administration to her role as Training Coordinator. Her goal is to creative positive learning outcomes by providing our members with a solid knowledge base and reliable support.

BERNADETTE PASCO

Special Projects

Bernadette works with stakeholders 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.

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.

JO BENVENUTI

Acting Policy and Campaigns Manager

Jo has extensive experience as an advocate in the community sector across diverse policy areas. Jo was previously Executive Officer of the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre and held executive positions for the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria and RSPCA Victoria. She was previously Chair of the Consumers’ Federation of Australia. Most recently Jo has been working as a consultant on energy sector research and consumer engagement projects.

LISA FARRANCE

Researcher

Lisa was the researcher for Rank the Energy Retailer 2016 and Rank the Telco 2017. She is passionate about accurate research, which gives voice to the vulnerable, and provides resources for advocacy. She has also researched: professional development for women, safety for international students, sexuality education in schools, and the impact of surveillance on Muslim communities. She can sometimes be found tumbling for the Women’s Circus.

PETER GARTLAN

Executive Officer

Peter is the Executive Officer of FCRC, a position he has held for nearly seven years. He has had a long history of involvement in the community services sector in a variety of roles. Peter has also sat on a number of boards including ombudsman, code compliance and not for profit organisations.

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.

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.

KAY DILGER

Secretary

As FCRC’s longest current Board member, Kay joined the FCRC board in 2012 as Board Secretary.

Kay joined the financial counselling sector in 2005 and now works as the Manager of Community & Financial Wellbeing at South East Community Links. It is her passion to see the financial counselling sector grow as a profession and be a part of systemic change that drives her in her many roles. Always seeking to understand, Kay brings to the Board attention to detail for good governance, strategic thinking, and a curious mind.

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.

CATHY CLARK

Board member

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.

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.

JENNY ELVEY

Board member

Jenny works as a general manager and financial counsellor for Bendigo Family and Financial Services Inc, an agency she helped form in 2006. Jenny has an understanding of challenges that face a financial counsellor working alone in a small agency and the importance of developing strong relationships with other financial counsellors and organisations.

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.

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.