Helping consumers manage
their financial challenges

How can financial counselling help me?

Financial counselling is a free community service provided by financial counsellors working in non-profit organisations that assist consumers who are experiencing financial problems.

A financial counsellor is a worker who acts without a conflict of interest, as a negotiator and
an advocate on behalf of people who are at financial risk.

Financial counsellors, during the counselling process are able to educate and pass on skills
to consumers as to their rights and responsibilities when using credit and other marketplace
services and empower the consumer through this knowledge.

Financial counselling is a combination of various traditional roles such as; social worker,
solicitor and accountant. It is a unique type of service, merging a number of skills into a
personalised “counselling” situation. The counsellor treats the concerns of the consumer in
a holistic manner, viewing the social and health issues alongside the financial problems and
assisting with appropriate referrals.

Financial counsellors have knowledge of para-legal issues however; they are not legally
qualified to give advice on legal matters.

Clients attend from all walks of life and are referred from a variety of sources such as;
medical, Legal Centre’s, voluntary organisations, The Australian Financial Security Authority
(AFSA, which handles bankrupt estates), employers, rehabilitation services and lending
institutions also refer clients to see financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors work closely with community organisations and have a highly
developed referral network. Consumers in crisis who require food vouchers, assistance with
electricity and water payments, personal counselling for family issues, legal advice and
mental health services will be appropriately referred.

Financial counselling goes further than the crisis intervention model, as the role of financial
counselling is that of social justice, where the problems of consumers are perceived as social
problems. The role of the financial counsellor is to affirm the rights and dignity of the
individual. Financial counsellors do not view the individual’s problems in isolation but work
towards changing attitudes, laws and institutions so that the individual consumer in society
has more equal rights and powers within the market place.

Financial counsellors in Australia are accredited with State Financial Counsellors’
Associations. There are strict rules as to who may be a financial counsellor, primarily that
financial counsellors hold no allegiance to the credit industry and act solely out of interest
for the well-being of the consumer. Only financial counsellors who are not funded by, or
employed by, credit providers are eligible for membership. Service provision must also be
free of charge. Financial counsellors must have successfully completed an accredited
training program and continue to attend a specified amount of training each year. Financial
counsellors must also have regular supervision from an accredited supervisor and must be
covered by a professional indemnity insurance policy.

As well as supporting and educating the client in various forms, a financial counsellor can
provide the following for their clients:

  • A full assessment of their financial situation, including regular income and
  • expenditure, assets and liabilities
  • Information as to entitlements to government forms of assistance
  • Information and options for change and improvement
  • The ability to negotiate on behalf of the client with credit providers, government
  • agencies and other business providers.