Thursday 09 Nov 2017

FCRC 2017 Conference highlights

Taking place in idyllic Lorne, the 2017 FCRC conference was an opportunity to look ahead and explore the shifting trends in technology and the sector. We discovered the ways in which we can work together with community and industry stakeholders to create better prospects for Victorians facing financial hardship, as well as recognising the accomplishments that have already been made.

Following the official opening of the conference by the Honorable Marlene Kairouz (Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation), who praised financial counsellors and the vital role FCRC plays in the government's ability to deliver life-affirming programs, the jam-packed program was immediately underway. Keynote speaker Dr Sally Gainsbury, a psychology gambling researcher with the University of Sydney, delved into the new frontiers of gambling technology. Virtual reality gambling is predicted to rise 800% over the next five years, while skilled-game gambling machines are being designed to target younger gamers. While Sally was clear that the risk and accessibility of gambling is evolving with these emerging trends, she indicated that so too are the technological advancements for prevention and treatment of problem gambling.

Above: Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Hon Marlene Kairouz officially opens the conference.

Above: Dr Sally Gainsbury (University of Sydney) delivers her keynote speech on the new frontiers of gambling technology.

In a presentation from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation's CEO, Louise Glanville, she shared her own statistics relating to gambling, which revealed that 70% of Victorians gamble. Louise - who defines the idea of 'responsible gambling' as "gambling without harm" - reiterated VRGF's aim to address gambling harm, co-morbidity, and normalisation of gambling.

In a greatly anticipated response to our Rank the Telco report, representatives from the three major telcos sat down with Sue Fraser for an open discussion on the issues plaguing the telecommunications hardship practices. The telcos agreed that telecommunications is an essential service, and were eager to improve their performance based on the results of the report. Sue was direct in conveying the message of FCs: consumers should be able to advocate for themselves and get the same outcome as financial counsellors. We were pleased to have the big telcos represented at the conference for the first time, and we are of course looking forward to seeing how much their hardship practices have improved in the results of the next Rank the Telco.

Above: Robert Morsillo (Telstra), Richard Gannon (Vodafone) and Dean Fraser (Optus) discuss the results of the Rank the Telco report with Sue Fraser.

The focus of the conference was not solely on addressing issues, but also sharing positive outcomes. Ciara Sterling shared the exciting work that has been started by the Thriving Communities Partnership (TCP) - a cross-sector collaboration that aims to ensure all Australians have fair access to modern essential services. Partner organisations include providers of utilities, financial services, telecommunications and transport. TCP also shared a message from their Chief Advocate, Tim Costello, who spoke about the need for service providers to restore Australia's confidence in them. You can watch the video here.

John Berrill (Berrill & Watson) spoke about the important work that is being done to develop a "medical toolkit" that aims to simplify the processes involved in Disability Support Pensions (DSP). There is currently a disconnect between what GPs provide clients and what is required for them to receive the DSP. The issue is that doctors don't know what is required; clients don't know how to get what is needed; and advocates don't have enough time to assist. The toolkit will hopefully improve this process in the future.

One guest who generated a lot of hype was the Barefoot Investor himself, Scott Pape. In a conversation with Peter Gartlan, Scott shared stories and answered questions from our conference delegates. Scott announced that his first book had recently sold its 500,000th copy. We were fortunate enough to have Scott sign copies of his book and pose for selfies with some very excited FCs.

Above: Speed dating conference-style

Above: Scott Pape signing copies of his book The Barefoot Investor.

The jewel in our conference crown was our Gala Awards dinner, which was attended by 200 guests. We were proud to acknowledge the hard work of all Victorian FCs, while recognising the specific achievements of our award recipients. Lisa Garlic was awarded the Jan Pentland Memorial Award for her dedicated work within the sector, supporting both clients and peers to reach positive outcomes. Rachna Bowman was presented with the Virginia Noonan Award for her exemplary casework and service to the sector. Susan Orchard received the Rising Star Award for her efforts and dedication in only a few short years as an FC. We extend our gratitude to this year's awardees for their leadership and commitment.

Julie Barrow and Kay Dilger, Chair and Secretary of the FCRC Board, took the opportunity to acknowledge the work of Peter Gartlan, who concluded his seven-year service as Executive Officer at the conference. Through Peter's guidance and persistence, FCRC and the financial counselling sector has gained visibility and stability. In his farewell speech, Peter thanked the Victorian FCs for their support and tireless work.

Above: Conference delegates let their hair down for the Gala Awards dinner.

Above: Peter Gartlan (FCRC), is presented with a token of gratitude by Julie Barrow and Kay Dilger, on behalf of members.

It is a result of the work of every financial counsellor that has affected changes within organisations, communities, families and individuals. As the conference wraps up for another year, we are grateful for all your hard work. We look forward to celebrating FCRC's special 40th Anniversary with you all next year!