Tuesday 23 Jan 2018

Interview with Brian Kerr, National Debt Helpline

Please tell us about your background.

I was born in a tiny and very picturesque village in remote Scotland. Famous for its whiskey, scenery and fascism. There was a police crackdown on gay men in 1974 with most of my friends going to prison and their names being published in the local press. It’s an image that they don’t put on tins to sell shortbread. I left as soon as I could. On my 20th birthday I arrived in Australia and discovered the Victorian Alps which led myself and my partner in 1978 to co-founded The Nomads, Victoria’s first Gay and Lesbian bushwalking group. This was a successful alternative to meeting safely socially away from pubs and clubs. The clubs in those days were frequently raided by cops and arrests meant job losses and public humiliation. Things were still a lot better than in Scotland. The Nomads are still going from strength to strength although I left the club many years ago my bushwalking days ended after a nasty motorbike spill 15 years ago (on that note, chocolates and bottles of wine are still appreciated as get well gifts).


What motivated you to pursue financial counselling?

Financial counselling was a seamless progression from my work at Monash Uni educating doctors on the stresses that some of their patients endure living with financial hardship and living off Centrelink benefits.


What are the unique aspects of your role or the area you work in?

Working with a diversity of clients, with a diversity of financial issues. Working as a team, as opposed to most FCs who tend to work as stand-alones. The NDH has a huge client scope, we eventually meet all on the financial spectrum from the self-entitled with multiple assets and multiple attitudes to match, to those on the streets thankful to be treated with some dignity even if we haven’t the resources that they need.


What has been your proudest achievement to date?

Like every FC, for a client to feel as if they have had a win makes us proud even though this is not possible for all clients. Reflecting on my past, I think setting up the HIV outreach program for the Northern Territory which brought me into contact with gay and bisexual men, including First Nation men in the remote outback.


What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the financial counselling sector?

The AI revolution. Artificial intelligence is affecting every sector including ours and every worker. Clients, workers and the issues both groups have will be affected in ways that are yet unknown. Brave New World or Bold New World?


What has been the most valuable resource or advice you’ve received?

The old classic. “You’re never too old to learn”.


And now the easy questions:

What book are you reading at the moment?

Re-reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin, fav as a boy


What TV show are you currently watching?
Grace and Frankie … we all have our trash TV …don’t judge!