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Wednesday 29 May 2019

Chair's report - May 2019

By: Julie Barrow

Following the federal election results we continue to work at a national level in advocating for increased funding for financial counselling as identified through both the Royal Commission and Senate Inquiry. The Government appointed Louise Sylvan to engage with stakeholders and look at existing financial counselling service funding which concluded at the end of March. We await the release of this report and the Government’s response. We remain positive for an increase in funding.

On the state front, the Victorian State Budget was handed down on Monday which includes an increase of 10 FTE specialist family violence financial counselling positions across Victoria - click here for details. FCRC has worked with Consumer Affairs Victoria over the past few months in engaging with current family violence financial counsellors and the sector to identify areas of need, models of practice and ways in which the funding can be distributed to achieve the best outcomes to clients impacted by family violence in Victoria.

I recently attended the ASIC forum in Sydney with a theme of “Other People’s Money”. ASIC’s Chairman, James Shipton reflected on the Banking Royal Commission’s findings and changes which include increased oversight through direct supervision with financial service providers as a preventative measure; an increase in the number of Commissioners; and changes to their enforcement approach, which includes increased penalties available through the court systems to deter poor behaviour. As part of the bigger picture, ASIC has committed to asking the question “why not litigate?” in taking forward cases to court that have broader outcomes for the community in addressing systemic issues and practices. ASIC strongly believe financial services should be ensuring “fairness” in products, practices and outcomes for their customers. Banks need to meet community expectations, which was shown through client experiences shared through the Royal Commission as a significant and consistent failing. I encourage financial counsellors to send through trends and concerns you continue to identify in working with clients to both FCRC and ASIC. This will enable us to raise these issues directly with ASIC at the Consumer Advisory Panel.

It was also great to see many of our Victorian members at last week’s Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) Conference in Melbourne. A personal highlight was the “Garden of Gratitude” which showcased the amazing messages of thanks and hope shared with our colleagues by clients.

The opening address by Peter Greste was also incredibly moving. Peter certainly gave us a lot to think about in respect of resilience. He spent 400 days in an Egyptian prison in a confined space with 16 other prisoners. He spoke about realising very early in his incarceration that the physical space was the least of his concern, his focus had to turn to taking care of his mental health. The quote he shared that resonated with me, particularly in thinking of the clients we work with, was “I am far stronger than I gave myself credit for, I believe everyone is”.