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Wednesday 31 Oct 2018

FCRC 2018 Conference highlights

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This year FCRC celebrated a milestone, marking its 40th year in financial counselling and consumer advocacy. While reflecting on the significant changes that have taken place over the years, we looked at new strategies to take forward into the future. Our conference theme was something meaningful to all financial counsellors and industry partners alike: Empowering People. It was wonderful to have so many FCs, students and industry partners in the one space, as we considered pathways to empower not only our clients in hardship, but also those who support them.

The Wednesday brought in over 170 Victorian financial counsellors who participated in professional development on the topics of fines - conducted by the Infringements Working Group - and advice giving - a panel discussion facilitated by former FCRC Executive Officer Peter Gartlan. Following our AGM, delegates enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Melbourne skyline from the STAR followed by canapes and drinks at Berth Restaurant.

Kicking off Thursday, the Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass gave a keynote address on our conference theme "Empowering People", and shared the ways in which her office is working to make the state fairer. 

The Honorable Marlene Kairouz (Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation) was present once again to show her support for the sector, and officially open the conference.

Above: Deborah Glass, Victorian Ombudsman, gives her keynote address. Above: Minister for Consumer Affairs, Hon Marlene Kairouz officially opens the conference.

David Locke, Chief Ombudsman and CEO of the newly formed Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), announced the release of the organisation's new brand and its strategy. David advised that they were already reviewing approaches to systemic issues, including responsible lending & unfair practices. The independent service will start taking complaints from 1 November 2018.

We also heard from the other Ombudsmen - TIO and EWOV - in a panel discussion facilitated by Sue Fraser, in which they responded to questions and shared the ways in which they can help financial counsellors and the people they work with.


Above: David Locke, Chief Ombudsman AFCA, announces the release of their strategy.

 

The focus of the conference was not solely on addressing issues, but also sharing positive outcomes. We ended the plenary program on Thursday with a new session "Casework Conferencing" in which financial counsellors were invited to share and celebrate their successful casework stories. It was a refreshing note to end on, and uplifting to hear the enthusiasm with which FCs talk about their clients. Often it is the journey that the client goes through that is more meaningful than the outcome itself.

We continued the celebration of our members and their work with the Gala Awards dinner, which was attended by over 200 guests and held in the Members Dining Room at the iconic MCG. We were proud to acknowledge the hard work of all Victorian FCs, while recognising the specific achievement of many long-serving financial counsellors - many of whom have dedicated upwards of 10 and 20 years of service. Those long-serving FCs that were in attendance were presented with commemorative pins in gratitude of their dedication and hard work.

This year Jo Parkin was awarded the Jan Pentland Memorial Award for her dedicated work within the sector, in particular her work in advancing the Work and Development Permit scheme and her contributions to the Infringements Working Group. Colin Handreck was presented with the Virginia Noonan Award for his exemplary casework and service to the sector. This year's Rising Star Award was presented to Issam Alameh for his efforts and dedication in only a few short years as an FC. We also awarded a very special Life Membership to Bernadette Pasco, whose tireless commitment has been significant to the professionalisation of the financial counselling sector. We extend our sincere thanks to all of our award winners, and commend them for their dedication.


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

Above: Bernadette Pasco is awarded Life Membership.

Other exciting news from the conference was the announcement from Energy Australia that they will be providing funding to help further develop the delivery of the Diploma of Financial Counselling through ICAN Learn. This will include a new Advanced Diploma qualification, as well as training for existing financial counsellors to become educators in the delivery of the diploma to new students.

The conference ended with a surprise visit from the Barefoot Investor, Scott Pape, who shared details of his new book Barefoot Investor for Families.

We are grateful for the support of all of our conference partners is helping to bring together such a large-scale and successful event. We look forward to even more networking, knowledge and news at next year's conference.