Monday 26 Feb 2018
Please tell us about your background.
After finishing school, I decided to pack my clothes, jump in the car and explore our incredible country. Several years later (and what an amazing experience), I had travelled through most of Australia, from the outback to the most beautiful coastal towns, working in bars, picking fruit or taking whatever jobs were available.
After learning about life, I decided to study naturopathy. Although I never completed it, I learnt much about holistic health which came in handy when I had my 2 daughters.
I knew I wanted to work in the community development/welfare sector, so I returned to study whilst my kids were young. After completing my diploma, I worked in the drug/alcohol sector, the prostitutes collective, the housing sector, the fundraising sector, Bent TV, and then landed a job at Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) as the volunteer coordinator. When the position of coordinating the David Williams Fund (DWF) came up (which back then was just an Emergency Relief Fund), I applied and got the job!
What motivated you to pursue financial counselling?
Actually, I fell into it as a result of the ER work I was doing with the DWF. Working in the fund gave me insight into the huge need there was for financial counsellors, and their work just seemed more holistic to me. I wanted the fund to be "a hand up, not a hand out" which rang true to my values. At heart, I am a pit-bull terrier, that loves to fight for the underdog, and being a financial counsellor gives me the ability to do exactly that.
What are the unique aspects of your role or the area you work in?
The DWF provides practical support & assistance to people living with HIV. The Fund provides financial assistance, financial counselling, financial literacy, NILS, rural outreach to Bendigo, support for returning to study, and we are about to embark on domestic violence financial counselling.
Unique to my role is the freedom to tailor programs specifically for our clientele. Being funded by a philanthropic organisation allows me the autonomy and flexibility to approach my work from a broader perspective than most financial counsellors.
What has been your proudest achievement to date?
The successful grant of funding from the Consumer Credit Fund for my role. Having seen the need for the DWF to have a financial counsellor, which at the time VAC was unable to fund, I applied for and was granted the funding to include financial literacy workshops in the services provided by the DWF. Acknowledging the necessity and success of the service after the initial 12 months, VAC began, and continues, to provide the funding for my current role.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the financial counselling sector?
Huge waiting lists! Quite simply, there are not enough financial counsellors to provide for the clientele requiring our service. The sector, like most in the community/welfare sectors, desperately needs more funding.
What has been the most valuable resource or advice you’ve received?
Attending conferences is always of huge value. Meeting contacts from debt collection agencies, utility companies, banks and so on are amongst the most valuable resources. At each conference, I make it a mission to get to know the 'head honcho' from a different company as I found having a personable and professional relationship with them often results in greater outcomes for clients.
In terms of advice, listening to client needs has informed the majority of my professional decisions. I believe that the best advice a worker in the service provision sector can receive is that which comes straight from the mouths of those receiving the service.
And now the easy questions:What book are you reading at the moment?
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
What TV show are you currently watching?
Big Little Lies