Wednesday 27 Mar 2019

Interview with Jennifer Holcroft, Good Shepherd

Please tell us about your background.

I grew up in Sydney NSW and came to Victoria to work after completing a Social Work degree at the University of Sydney. I worked for a new Community Health Centre in Central Victoria for over three years and then moved to Melbourne.

After five years in Social Work, I decided to go in a different direction and worked in marketing and advertising.I eventually ended up working at Australia Post headquarters for 16 years in their Financial Services area. This included products such as Bank@Post, Postbillpay, Money Orders, etc.


What motivated you to pursue financial counselling?

I thought I had retired in 2011, but after a couple of years I was feeling restless and came across information about becoming a Financial Counsellor. Having a keen interest in managing personal finances, it seemed like a perfect “fit”. Information is power! The challenge of completing a Diploma also appealed. So, I enrolled in the Victoria University course in 2014 and finished it at RMIT in 2015.

I remember how my mother taught us budgeting basics.She had a system of “Strepsil” tins with expense labels - milkman; baker; dentist; haircuts; school holidays; shoe repairs; school uniforms; train fares,etc.Every week a pre-determined amount was added to the tins from the weekly housekeeping money. There always seemed to be money available to meet expenses when they occurred.


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

I work with Good Shepherd located in St Albans. The service offers family and youth services, as well as financial security services in Brimbank and Melton Council areas.It is a truly multicultural area. It is fascinating to learn about different cultures and about the incredible life journeys of clients.

Another part of my work involves visiting the women’s prison at Ravenhall – the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. I have been going to the prison once a fortnight for the last two years. It has been a privilege to be able to learn so much about the financial difficulties the women face.The report produced last year by FCA titled “Double Punishment” described in detail many of the financial issues.


What has been your proudest achievement to date?

Completing the Diploma of Financial Counselling after so many years away from formal study was a moment of personal achievement.However, I have to say that some of the outcomes Financial Counsellors get for clients are well and truly worth celebrating.They can be life-changing for clients.


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

The demand for financial counselling services continues to increase and sometimes the sense of overwhelm is daunting. Triaging at intake and empowering clients to follow through on issues where they can do so is good practice, but in the end the number of clients able to be seen is limited by the work hours in a day.

In terms of the qualification, I think Financial Counselling should become a degree qualification.I understand that an Advanced Diploma may be available soon, however with increasing complexity and a widening range of issues, a longer education period would be useful to consolidate knowledge and case practice.


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

“Remember, it is about the choices we make”.


And now for the easy questions...

What books are you reading at the moment?

“A monk’s guide to a clean house and mind” by Shoukei Matsumoto, 2018

“Empress Dowager Cixi” by Jung Chang, 2013


What TV show are you currently watching?

“Trust me I’m a Doctor” - Michael Mosley on SBS


What is your favourite blog? 

“FS, Farnam Street - Brain Food Newsletter”