Thursday 23 Feb 2017

Interview with Eleanor Mason, Salvation Army Geelong

Please tell us about your background.

My first job was business/property journalist at Business Review Weekly and Personal Investor Magazine – I worked with Adele Ferguson so it was a buzz to see her at the 2016 conference.

Left that career to pursue what I had studied - property valuer, doing residential valuations for banks and local government in Melbourne - a great job being mainly out of office!

With the birth of my first child in 2004 I returned to Geelong (where I grew up) for family and housing affordability reasons.

It was holding that baby for the first time that ignited my passion for social justice. I’m sure it was always there but I was distracted by corporate land.

My great epiphany led to a community services diploma, completed in maternity years.

I started the financial counselling course in 2015 and began working at The Salvation Army mid 2015.

I’ve also had a lifelong passion for social justice for animals, and that’s where I concentrated my efforts – toward animal welfare activism which I am still very involved with.


What motivated you to pursue financial counselling?

I first heard of financial counselling was in the welfare course and it seemed like a perfect marriage of my financial and community service skills. A fellow welfare student told me it pays well!

I had doubts re: job prospects and clocking up a student debt, but that was blown away in an info session (thanks Bernadette!). I was addicted - remember going home to my husband saying I really want to do this!

After ten years maternity leave it felt brave to start a new career. A valuations job fell through right at that time. In hindsight the universe looked after me because this vocation has provided something I never thought possible – genuine happiness and satisfaction in my job!


What has been your proudest achievement to date?

Only list one? Impossible in this line of work!

Having the gumption to join the industry and embellishing it!

I am proud of casework achievements, like all financial counsellors – we amaze ourselves with outcomes. It is so humbling to work with clients and assist them to find strength/hope and better their situation through our practices.

Of course the 2016 Jan Pentland scholarship, which I nearly didn’t apply for (so go for it everyone, you’re worthy!), and yelling ‘financial counsellors rule the world!’ in my acceptance speech!


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

Money of course…and the power and greed associated with it. We live in a world where immigration and social policies are based on monetary not humanitarian values. What hope do we have for any morally conscious financial regulations?

It’s a simple fact - money permeates everything and, coupled with technology, has dictated rapid changes in our society in the last 20 years.

Alongside this I sense improved recognition of our sector because the need continues to grow (unfortunately) and obviously casework is becoming increasingly complex.

Technology is a massive problem in my mind, on many levels and we see the direct repercussions from this every day.


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

By far the best resource has been the skilled industry doyens willing to impart knowledge. They have been generous and I seized that aggressively!

That would be my advice to any new financial counsellor – embrace the wonderful mentors and role-models.

No names here but from supervisors and teachers to that person who mentions at a conference that I can call for advice - there is nothing like picking up the phone and running it past experience!

This has been very important to my learning, confidence and my own sense of belonging as a new financial counsellor. Geelong, being regional, also has its own sense of camaraderie, but it’s something I sense throughout the sector.

This was lacking in my experience in corporate and it is extremely uplifting. We do call ourselves the devil’s advocate after all – we’re in this together!

I was privileged to have had Jan Pentland’s advice bestowed by her colleagues – always know what you want to achieve before you make the call and then make other person think it was their idea to do it!


And finally, some easy questions:

What is your favourite TV show?

Wilfred (Aussie version only!)


What artist are you listening to at the moment?/ Favourite artist?

Violent Soho on CD

Everly Brothers on vinyl (I have 800 records)

Nineties rock is my genre, but favourite all time artist is John Lennon (for music and his activism of course!)