News

Finally, gambling credit ban passes Parliament

11/08/2017

Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) welcomes amendments to the Interactive Gambling Bill (IGA) that passed through Parliament yesterday. "The online wagering companies will no longer be able to give people credit to gamble online. This was getting people into so much trouble" said Lauren Levin, Director Campaigns and Policy, FCA. "We're so relieved to see the end of gamblers being offered credit and the ferocious debt collection that followed, when they inevitably lost.&q

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FCA Congratulates CEO Fiona Guthrie

20/07/2017

A quote attributed to Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu say "a leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves." This quote is apt to describe Fiona Guthrie's role in the consumer movement over 25 years. The Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) Board and staff congratulate CEO, Fiona Guthrie, for her Queen's Birthday Honour - Order of Australia, Member in the General Division. Fiona is a truly worthy r

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CBA Commits $900,000 to Support Financial Counselling

18/05/2017

Commonwealth Bank has joined forces with Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) to enhance the skills of financial counsellors in identifying and understanding the impact of economic abuse in domestic and family violence. FCA announced this week at its national conference that Commonwealth Bank will provide $400,000 to train financial counsellors across Australia to assist people affected by domestic and family violence. Commonwealth Bank has also pledged $500,000 to the Jan Pentland Foundatio

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Progress on Banking Code, but missed opportunities too

30/03/2017

Joint media release from Consumer Action Law Centre, Financial Rights Legal Centre and Financial Counselling Australia. The Australian Banker's Association (ABA) response to the Independent Review of the Code of Banking (Khoury Review) is a positive start, but consumer advocates say there are some missed opportunities for the banking industry. Advocates say improving responsible lending assessments and making it easier to cancel credit cards will help Australians have a better experien

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Consumer groups urge banks to implement recommendations of banking code report

20/02/2017

Joint media release from Financial Rights Legal Centre, Consumer Action Law Centre, CHOICE and Financial Counselling Australia. Consumer groups today welcomes the release of the Independent Khoury Review of the Australian Banking Association's Code of Banking Practice as an important step in the right direction of improving the way banks work with their customers. "This report sends a strong message to banks that they need to make some fundamental changes to bridge the yawning tru

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Financial Counsellors Welcome “Better Banking” … but Where’s the Funding for Financial Counselling?

29/01/2017

Financial counsellors welcome today’s commitment by the banking industry to better banking (www.betterbanking.net.au), including making financial hardship support programs more accessible and setting up a debt repayment service.   But the big question remains: why is there still no funding for financial counselling? Most of the clients seen by financial counsellors have debts with banks, yet the banking industry as a whole does not contribute one cent to financial counselling servic

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Financial Counselling Australia Announces New Board

25/01/2017

Financial Counselling Australia is delighted to announce the membership of its inaugural Board under its new constitution. The Board comprises four financial counselling directors and three appointed, external directors. The four financial counselling directors are: Carmel Franklin (Chair), Kay Dilger, John Harte and Rosalyn Williams. The three appointed directors are: Jocelyn Furlan, Tony Robinson and Greg Tanzer. The new Board will bring a range of skills and expertise to FCA that wil

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Veda to refund consumers after breaching privacy rules

15/12/2016

Joint media release from FCA, Financial Rights Legal Centre, Consumer Action and the Australian Privacy Foundation. Veda Advantage Information Services and Solutions Ltd (Veda) is being forced to refund thousands of consumers who paid to obtain credit reports under Veda’s expedited delivery deal, according to a decision handed down today by the Australian Privacy Commissioner. The Commissioner found that Veda breached a series of privacy rules when they: charged for “expe

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Financial Counsellors Call on Best & Less to Stop Spruiking Payday Loans

8/12/2016

8th December 2016 - Financial counsellors are appalled with news today that Best and Less are now encouraging their customers to take out payday loans and other high cost credit products.   Loans with effective interest rates ranging from 48% to 400% per annum are not in the best interests of the customers of Best and Less, many of whom will be struggling to make ends meet.   High cost, predatory loans do nothing to address financial stress and trap people in a cycle of debt. &nbs

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New Services for People Struggling with Debt

7/12/2016

From today, people struggling to pay their bills and debts will find it easier to access trustworthy information and advice that will help them get back on top. Today (Wed 7 Dec 2016) Financial Counselling Australia, with special guest Paul Clitheroe, are launching the new National Debt Helpline website and national brand for the telephone financial counselling helpline.   “We’re excited to be taking this new step towards a recognisable brand for conflict-free consumer help. T

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Victims of financial scandals need simple justice - response to Ramsey EDR Review

7/12/2016

Joint media release from FCA, Consumer Action and Financial Rights Legal Centre: Following the slew of financial scandals Australians have faced in recent years, consumer advocates say that Australians need simple and accessible justice with reformed Ombudsman services. The Review of the Financial System External Dispute Resolution and Complaints Framework (Ramsay Review), led by Professor Ian Ramsay, today released its interim report. In response to the review, Consumer Action Law Cen

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Financial Inclusion Action Plans

4/12/2016

Financial Counselling Australia is pleased to support the release on Friday 25th November 2016 of the first Financial Inclusion Action Plans from 12 trailblazers in industry, community and government.   Financial Inclusion Action Plans have the potential to address some significant problems in our community including a lack of access to safe, fair and affordable financial products. This has seen a continuing growth in high cost lending, such as rent to own contracts and payday loans,

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Financial Counsellors Support Merger of FOS and CIO

30/11/2016

30th November 2016 - Financial counsellors - who help hundreds of Australians with financial services disputes each year - have provided overwhelming support for the merger of the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Credit & Investments Ombudsman into a one stop financial complaints ombudsman service. Seventy-five percent of financial counsellors that responded to a survey by Financial Counselling Australia supported a merged ombudsman service. (See the one page infographic here) FCA c

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Big step forward for consumer protection in online gambling

30/11/2016

29 November 2016: Financial Counselling Australia welcomes the pledge from the State, Territories and Federal Government to establish a strong consumer protection framework for online gambling. “We congratulate Minister Alan Tudge in developing this framework in a consultative way and for doing it quickly. Although there is still a lot of detail to work out, the principles are absolutely right,” said Ms Lauren Levin, Director Campaigns and Policy. “Real, meanin

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From Despair to Hope: Financial Counsellors Share Their Stories for Anti-Poverty Week

21/10/2016

21st October 2016 - To coincide with anti-poverty week, Financial Counselling Australia has today released “Financial Counselling: It Makes a Difference” a compendium of 65 case studies from the files of financial counsellors. Many people don’t know or understand what a financial counsellor does - they are often confused with financial planners or budget workers. This report will help dispel some of that confusion, providing an insight into the day to day work of a financia

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Release of Consultation Paper - Everyone Needs a Savings Buffer

8/07/2016

8th July 2016 - FCA has today released a consultation paper “Everyone Needs a Savings Buffer”. We put the paper together because of concerns that people experiencing financial hardship and trying to repay their debts, are not able to put aside any money for a “rainy day”. At the moment, most statements of financial position used by creditors don’t include a line item for savings - after allowing for living expenses, creditors expect any surplus income will b

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Congratulations Betty Weule, AM

13/06/2016

13th June 2016 - On behalf of the financial counselling sector, Financial Counselling Australia congratulates Betty Weule on receiving an honour in today’s Queens Birthday honours list. Betty is being made a Member of the Order of Australia. The citation for the order is “for significant service to social welfare, through the development of financial counselling services in New South Wales.” To our knowledge, this is the first time the Australian honours system has

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Bet365 Loses and ACCC wins - Online gambling companies cannot ignore Australia’s consumer protection laws

10/06/2016

10th June 2016 - Financial Counselling Australia welcomes today’s Federal Court judgment that will see betting giant Bet365 pay a $2.75 million fine for engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct. In September 2015, the Federal Court found that Bet365’s offer of “$200 FREE BETS FOR NEW CUSTOMERS” was misleading and deceptive and involved false representations. According to the court, the offer was misleading and deceptive as: The customer had to pay a deposit

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Financial Counsellors Welcome Continued Funding for Problem Gambling

3/05/2016

3rd May 2016 - Financial counsellors welcome with relief the May budget announcement that $7.1 million in funding for 50 problem gambling positions will be continued.    On behalf of the State and Territory financial counselling associations and financial counselling agencies around Australia, we thank the Government for their continued support for the valuable work of financial counsellors.   Financial counsellors specialising in problem gambling have been on tender ho

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Financial Counselling Australia welcomes Government’s reforms on online gambling – consumer protection is central focus

28/04/2016

28th April 2016 - Financial Counselling Australia welcomes today’s announcement by the Federal Government to rein in online sports betting, putting consumer protection at the heart of its response. We commend the government for its plan to introduce a national consumer protection framework within 12 months covering: A national self-exclusion register for online gambling A pre-commitment scheme, albeit a voluntary one Regular financial statements so gamblers can see the

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Financial Counselling Help for Problem Gamblers Needs to Continue

26/04/2016

A report released today by FCA, “Problem Gambling Financial Counselling: Survey and Case Studies” shows the devastating impact of problem gambling on individuals and families. The report also highlights the important role of financial counselling in helping people get back on track financially and emotionally. Gambling is ruining people’s lives – people are unable to pay bills and debts The majority of clients affected by problem gambling were unable

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User-Pays Model to Fund ASIC Should Extend to Financial Counselling

21/04/2016

20th April 2016 - Today’s announcement of a user-pays funding model for ASIC – effectively a levy on the banking industry – is good news for ASIC, but a missed opportunity for financial counselling. The user-pays model should also be extended to include funding for free financial counselling. Financial counsellors work in not for profit community organisations and assist consumers in financial difficulty, providing information, support and advocacy. The large majori

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Communique: Debt Management Firms - Regulatory Reform

7/03/2016

Experts Roundtable, February 2016 Around forty representatives from consumer advocacy organisations, industry associations, ombudsman schemes, government agencies and regulators met in Melbourne on 18 February 2016 to discuss the social and industry impacts of businesses that provide quasi-financial service “solutions” to consumers with debt problems or who have concerns about their credit worthiness. The Roundtable followed the release of a report in January 2016 by the

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When The Great Australian Dream Becomes a Nightmare

25/01/2016

  Townsville, Australia January 25, 2016 – The Queensland financial counselling sector is calling on a strategic response from the Queensland State Government in supporting people through resource sector job losses.     A financial storm of Yasi proportions has once again headed straight towards Townsville with 1,500 jobs expected to vanish in 2016. The well publicised sacking of 237 nickel refinery and Townsville Port workers is seen by many as

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FCA Releases Correspondence with Santa

24/12/2015

24th December 2015 - Usually FCA keeps our correspondence private, but we think it is in the public interest to release this recent important exchange with Santa. 1st December 2015 Dear Santa  We would like more funding for financial counselling. Love FCA PS We’ve been really, really good this year. ******** 8th December 2015 Dear Santa  We ref

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Services that help people overcome problems with debt will drastically reduce from 1 January 2016

23/12/2015

23rd December 2015 - Access to financial counselling and financial capability services in areas where government welfare recipients are subject to income management, will drastically reduce from 1 January 2016.   The areas affected are the Northern Territory, Shepparton (Vic), Bankstown (NSW), Playford, APY Lands and Ceduna (SA), Logan (Qld), outback WA and parts of Perth.   FCA estimates that face-to-face services will reduce by at least 50% and sometimes more.   For exampl

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FCA releases submission to O’Farrell review of the Interactive Gambling Act – consumer protection needs to improve dramatically

8/12/2015

Financial Counselling Australia has today released its submission to the Barry O’Farrell review of the Interactive Gambling Act. The submission sets out “12 Things that Need to Change” (attached) if Australian consumers are to be adequately protected from the harm associated with gambling. “The current consumer protection regime is manifestly inadequate,” said Lauren Levin, FCA Director of Policy.  “For a start, we need a national regulator, as the

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ASIC report highlights exorbitant costs of rent-to-buy household goods

14/09/2015

The poorest and most vulnerable Australians are paying grossly inflated prices for household goods via “rent-to-buy” or “consumer lease” deals, as shown by a new report from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) released today. The report found that people receiving Centrelink payments are being charged much higher prices than the prices advertised by consumer lease providers. For two year leases, half the Centrelink recipients in ASIC’s

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Legislative Review of Gambling Must Also Address 'Legal' Online Gambling in Australia

8/09/2015

Financial Counselling Australia welcomes the Government’s announcement of its inquiry into the Interactive Gambling Act legislation, but as the terms of reference stand, by focusing on offshore illegal betting, they fail to address the damage that legal online gambling companies are causing. “It is a welcome first step, but the review with the terms of reference as they were announced today, won’t really address the problems that our recent report brought to light,” sa

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Online Sports Betting Review Needs to have Wide Terms of Reference

2/09/2015

 2nd September 2015 - Financial Counselling Australia welcomes the Government’s announcement today of a review of online betting legislation. If the review is to be meaningful, it needs to have wide Terms of Reference, looking at the activities of legal onshore operators, as well as offshore bookmakers. Financial counsellors, who work in community organisations and assist people in financial difficulty, are seeing a rise in the number of clients who have online sports betting

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Ban Gambling With Credit Says FCA Report Into Online Sports Betting

17/08/2015

Access to credit provided by online sports betting companies, as well as inadequate mechanisms for limiting losses, is fuelling a dangerous increase in online sports betting and problem gambling according to a report released today by Financial Counselling Australia. Launched by Senator Nick Xenophon, (read his media release here) the report, ‘Duds, Mugs and the A-List: The Impact of Uncontrolled Sports Betting’, is based on the experiences of financial counsellors and th

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WA Government Urged to Reverse Decision to Close Financial Counselling Services in the Perth Metropolitan Area

8/06/2015

8th June 2015 - The national peak body for financial counsellors, Financial Counselling Australia, urges the WA Government to reverse funding cuts that will see the closure of ALL state-funded financial counselling services in the Perth metropolitan area.   This sudden and shocking decision was notified to financial counselling agencies, funded  through the WA Department of Child Protection and Family Services, on Friday 5th June. The services are expected to close in just over three

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Rank the Banks Survey Shows Improvements Across the Board

1/04/2015

1st April 2015 - The latest survey of financial counsellors assessing how well banks are dealing with customers in financial hardship, Rank the Banks, has seen improvements across-the-board. The improvements were evident for the big four banks, the smaller banks and GE. “We are really encouraged by the survey results,”  said Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of Financial Counselling Australia. “They indicate just how far the banking industry has come in the past few

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Rural Financial Counselling Funding Continues

25/02/2015

25th February 2015 - Financial Counselling Australia welcomes today's announcment by the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce that funding for the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) will continue at current levels. A review of the RFCS had recommended an across-the-board reduction in funding of 20%. Recognising the continuing drought and difficult conditions in the bush, it was heartening that the Government did not accept this recommendation. Rural financial counsellors a

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FCA Conference to go Ahead (but our funding is still uncertain)

9/02/2015

9th February 2015 - Key Points The FCA Conference 18th – 20th May, 2015 in Canberra will go ahead. FCA’s funding has been continued until 30th June 2015, but ongoing funding remains uncertain. The financial counselling sector itself has endured a tumultuous and difficult time for well over 12 months, initially due to funding uncertainty and subsequently through a bruising tender process.  Release of details about the successful tenderers, expected i

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FCA Releases 2013-14 Annual Report

27/01/2015

27th January 2015 - Financial Counselling Australia has today released its 2013-14 Annual Report.   FCA’s Chair, Carmel Franklin, notes that just one issue dominated the year: funding. As we began the year, it was very uncertain as to whether the Government would continue the Commonwealth Financial Counselling Program. We were extremely relieved when the May 2014 budget continued funding, albeit with some minor reductions.   Achievements in 2013-14 include:   Si

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Queensland Political Parties Urged to Fund Financial Counselling

12/01/2015

12th January 2015 - The Financial Counsellors Association of Queensland has today called on all political parties to commit to funding a dedicated financial counselling program in Queensland. Queensland is the only State or Territory in Australia that does not fund a financial counselling program.   Financial counsellors, who work in community organisations, help people in financial difficulty.   “There are simply not enough financial counsellors in Queensland

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Funding for Financial Counselling Australia Uncertain

23/12/2014

23rd December 2014 -  A number of financial counsellors and other stakeholders have contacted FCA asking us about our funding position.  We think it is important that we respond to those concerns. At date, the best we can say is that the position remains uncertain and that we hope to know more in January. In the light of this uncertainty, the Board of FCA will urgently need to assess its financial position and the status of ongoing projects. Yesterday we were advised that the Gov

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Financial Counsellors Welcome Consumer Guide on Debt Collection

16/12/2014

16th December 2014 - Financial Counselling Australia has welcomed ‘Dealing with debt collectors: Your rights and responsibilities', released by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission last week. The overwhelming majority of consumers want to pay their debts, but unfortunately some people, often due to a change in circumstances or low income, struggle to do so. This group of people will inevitably come into contact w

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Community Agencies Welcome AGL Commitment

15/12/2014

15 December 2014 - Community organisations today have welcomed AGL Energy Limited’s (AGL) $6m commitment to provide greater support for vulnerable energy customers.  Brotherhood of St Laurence, Financial Counselling Australia, Kildonan UnitingCare, Queensland Council of Social Service, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, South Australia Council of Social Service and St Vincent de Paul Society endorsed AGL’s Affordability Initiative and urged other energy companies to follow sui

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Congratulations to Financial Counselling Winners in MoneySmart Week Awards

9/09/2014

9th September 2014 - Financial Counselling Australia congratulates the financial counsellors who received awards as part of MoneySmart Week. The Salvation Army’s MoneyCare financial counselling service in Newcastle received the highest honour in the community category, with an outstanding achievement award. Their You’re the Boss program, set up by financial counsellor Kirsten Harnett, is a series of face to face workshops that has now been delivered to over 950 participants in

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Credit reporting agency accused of breaching new credit reporting rules

26/08/2014

Thursday, 21 August 2014 - Veda Advantage Ltd, a company which stores the credit history of millions of Australians, has been accused of breaching new credit reporting laws by promoting its $79.95 credit report at the expense of the free credit report it is legally required to offer. Consumer advocates say Veda Advantage is leading many Australians to pay for something they could otherwise receive for free. Under new credit reporting laws implemented in March 2014, credit reporting agencies l

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Consumer Advocates and Financial Counsellors applaud Federal Parliament’s move to scrap $120 bankruptcy fee

24/06/2014

24th June 2014 - Consumer advocates and financial counsellors have applauded Federal Parliament’s move to stop the Australian Financial Security Authority charging individuals $120 to declare bankruptcy. The fee, introduced in April, caused wide-spread concern among consumer advocates and financial counsellors who argued it would act as a roadblock for people seeking a fresh start. But a disallowance motion, introduced by The Greens, supported by Labor and not opposed by the Governm

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FCA Releases "Too Poor to Go Bankrupt"

22/06/2014

22nd June 2014 -  Financial Counselling Australia has today released “Too Poor to Go Bankrupt:  The Impact of the New Fee for Lodging a Debtor’s Petition”. The report describes the results of a survey of financial counsellors about the impact of the $120 fee for lodging a debtor’s petition for bankruptcy that was introduced on 1st April 2014 by the Australian Financial Security Authority. The survey covered the first month of operation of the fee, from 1st Ap

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14% of Australians won’t understand this press release, 22% will struggle with the numbers in it

4/06/2014

4th June 2014 -  Last week the Productivity Commission released a hugely important report documenting the literacy and numeracy of adult Australians. The report has received hardly any media attention[1] but should be a wake-up call for all of us - the community sector, industry and government – about how we communicate and respond to clients and customers. Too much of our communication assumes that our audience has the same level of numeracy and literacy. In fact, large numbers

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Financial counselling conference will help our community’s most vulnerable and launch new Telecommunications Industry Hardship Framework

24/05/2014

19th May 2014 - Four hundred financial counsellors will converge on Melbourne this Tuesday for the annual Financial Counselling Australia Conference. With the assistance and renewed funding from the Federal Government, financial counsellors will provide free and independent advice and support to over 220,000 cash-strapped Australians this financial year. Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of Financial Counselling Australia, said this advice would have positive effects on clients’ financi

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More about financial counselling funding

16/05/2014

16th May 2014 - Financial counsellors around Australia have welcomed continued funding for financial counselling services in the Commonwealth Budget. The mood is one of relief, rather than celebration however. The last few months have been particularly difficult for the sector, with the potential for 350 financial counsellors to lose their jobs and progress over the past two decades lost. We appreciate that the government faces a difficult fiscal environment and the continuation in fu

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Good News - Funding Continues for Financial Counselling

14/05/2014

Good news - after a roller-coaster few months of disturbing messages around Commonwealth funding for financial counselling, it now seems that funding for financial counselling and ER will be very similar -  largely intact (a minimal cut).   More information soon as it emerges, but we wanted everyone to hear the good news .   A big thank you to all the financial counsellors, peak bodies, agencies, and other supporters who visited MPs, made phone-calls, assisted with media, wrot

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Tuesday 10 pm - Budget outcome still unclear for financial counselling

13/05/2014

Tuesday 13th May 2014 - 10 pm - The budget outcome for Commonwealth-funded financial counselling services (and emergency relief services) remains unclear. The Commonwealth is continuing to invest in the sector, through what is called the "Financial Wellbeing and Capability Programme". You can find programme information here. What is unclear is the amount of funding involved. FCA is meeting with the Minister's office on Wednesday morning. We will let financial counsellors and

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Financial Counselling Key to Tackling Domestic Violence

4/05/2014

Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service (WDVCS) is calling on the Federal Government to continue its funding of financial counsellors as part of an integrated response to tackling domestic violence.   WDVCS CEO Annette Gillespie said many clients had experienced economic abuse alongside other abusive tactics including intimidation, threats to kill, emotional abuse and coercive control.   “Economic abuse is a form of domestic violence that ultimately aims to deprive a p

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Commission of audit gets it wrong on financial counselling, emergency relief and money management services

1/05/2014

1st May 2014 -  Stunned.  Incredulous. Shocked. Financial counsellors around Australia will be aghast that the Commission of Audit can so blithely – in 72 words – recommend de-funding all but $6 million of the $100 million the Commonwealth Government invests in the Financial Management Program.[1] The Commission of Audit has also recommended the de-funding of rural financial counselling services. We urge the Government to reject these recommendations. We note in

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Financial Counsellors Call on the Federal Government to End Funding Uncertainty

10/04/2014

10th April 2014 -  On behalf of financial counselling agencies and financial counsellors, FCA is today calling on the Federal Government to end current funding uncertainty. On 30th June, the entire $20 million in Federal funding for financial counselling expires. FCA notes that there is a precedent for an early announcement, with the  Minister for Social Services announcing recently that funding for both homelessness services and suicide prevention services would be rolled over.

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Charging $120 to go bankrupt? Sadly it's no April fool's joke

1/04/2014

Tuesday, 1 April 2014 - Charging struggling Australians a filing fee for bankruptcy is like trying to get blood from a stone. Consumer advocates and financial counselling agencies say the $120 fee, to be charged from 1 April, will be an unwelcome roadblock for people seeking a fresh start. Financial Counselling Australia, Consumer Action Law Centre, Consumer Credit Legal Centre, and Footscray Community Legal Centre, say many of their clients spend years trying to meet their financial commitme

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Website Audit Demonstrates Importance of Financial Counselling

31/03/2014

31st March 2014 -  Financial Counselling Australia has today released its report “Click Here: Who is Referring to Financial Counselling Services?” All of the major banks, a number of major government departments, finance industry peak bodies and dispute resolution schemes include information on their websites explaining how people can access financial counselling. The national telephone financial counselling helpline – 1800 007 007 -  was the primary point of acces

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Economic Evidence About the Benefits of Financial Counselling - $5 return for each $1 invested

24/03/2014

24th March 2014 -  A cost-benefit analysis of financial counselling services funded by the Wyatt Trust in South Australia, has found that every $1 invested provides a $5 return. The research “Paying it Forward” was undertaken by the Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre at Adelaide University and was launched by well-known financial commentator, Paul Clitheroe. “Our clients tell us time and time again about the difference financial counselling ma

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Stop Hiding the Free Option: Credit Reporting Agencies Told to Lift Their Game

11/03/2014

11th March 2014  - With just one day to go until Australia’s credit reporting system changes, financial counsellors have called on Australia’s credit reporting agencies to do the right thing – stop hiding information about how to access a “free” credit report. The introduction of comprehensive credit reporting tomorrow (12th March 2014) will affect almost every single Australian over the age of 18. “Credit reporting agencies will soon have massive a

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FCA Welcomes Consultation on Consumer Leases

26/02/2014

26th February 2014 - Financial Counselling Australia has welcomed today’s announcement by the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Sinodinos about options to address problems with short-term leases of less than four months and indefinite leases with no fixed end date. Currently these leases are not regulated by the national credit laws. As a consequence, some lease providers have structured their contracts to avoid the stronger obligations of these laws, including the requirement to lend respon

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Advocates object to new fee for entering bankruptcy

16/02/2014

12th February 2014 -  A coalition of consumer advocates and financial counselling agencies has expressed dismay at a plan to charge Australians filing for bankruptcy. The Australian Financial Security Authority (ASFA) has proposed to impose a new fee of $120 from 1 April 2014.   Financial Counselling Australia, Consumer Action Law Centre, Consumer Credit Legal Centre, and Footscray Community Legal Centre, will be taking their concerns to the Federal Government in the hope it will int

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ASIC Action Against Rental Companies Highlights the Critical Role of Financial Counsellors

6/02/2014

5th February 2014 -  The critical role of financial counsellors in alerting regulators to unconscionable and unfair business practices was highlighted in yesterday’s announcement by ASIC of enforcement action against unlicensed rental companies.    ASIC has entered into enforceable undertakings with companies including Home Essentials Pty Ltd and I Love My Water Pty Ltd and the companies’ principals. The companies were involved in the hire and sale of over-priced wat

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Pre-Budget Submission Calls for Ongoing Funding for Financial Counselling

3/02/2014

3rd February 2014 - Financial Counselling Australia’s pre-budget submission calls for the ongoing funding of Commonwealth-funded financial counselling services.   The Federal Government currently invests around $20 million per annum into financial counselling services. All of this funding expires at 30th June 2014.   The financial counselling sector is uncertain about the future of the program.   “We estimate that Commonwealth-funded face-to-face and phone financ

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FCA Releases Funding Snapshot of the Sector

29/01/2014

29th January 2014 -  Financial Counselling Australia has today released a “Funding Snapshot”, documenting total funding for financial counselling from State, Territory and the Federal Governments.   The document is in “draft” form. It was very difficult to obtain accurate figures about funding levels. Publicly available data is often hard to find, hard to analyse or has not been kept up to date.  However, at a global level, the figures are adequate for dr

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FCA Releases 2012-13 Annual Report

28/01/2014

28th January 2014 - Financial Counselling Australia has today released its 2012-13 Annual Report.   “It was a big year for FCA with significant milestones”, said FCA’s Executive Director Fiona Guthrie. “We all like to think we’re making a difference, but in writing this annual report we’ve tried to step back and actually assess our impact. For a small organisation, we are proud of what we achieved.”   Highlights from the past financial year

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Sunsuper Trustees Should Ask "Why", say Queensland Financial Counsellors

22/12/2013

19th December 2013 - Rather than a simple “yes” or “no”, Sunsuper and other superannuation trustees should be asking the question: “why?”   The Financial Counsellors’ Association of Queensland (FCAQ) has noted that from 1 January 2014, Sunsuper, Queensland’s largest superannuation fund, will no longer allow members to lodge claims for early access to superannuation on the grounds of severe financial hardship. FCAQ believes that rather tha

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Avoid a financial hangover this Christmas

18/12/2013

18th December 2013 - Financial Counselling Australia: Avoid a financial hangover this Christmas.   The real price of an expensive Christmas gift can be financial stress, says Financial Counselling Australia.   Technology transcends income levels and with iPads, play stations, electronic games and other technology-driven items at the top of many Christmas “wish lists”, the pressure on families to spend up big at this time of year can be overwhelming. This Christmas finan

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Financial Ombudsman Service Provides Access to Justice

23/10/2013

23rd October 2013 - The release of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) annual report today highlights just how important this service is for consumers.  Over 30,000 people accessed the free and independent dispute resolution services of FOS during 2012-13.   “When it comes to access to justice, the existence of external dispute resolution schemes such as FOS is one of the most significant advances in consumer protection of the past 30 years,” said Fiona Guthrie, Executi

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Anti-Poverty Week: Five Poverty Traps

14/10/2013

13th October 2013 - To mark Anti-Poverty Week, Financial Counselling Australia has highlighted five for-profit business models that target people struggling with debts  – but instead of solving financial difficulty, can actually increase it.   These businesses – budgeting services, credit repair companies, debt negotiators, bankruptcy services and debt agreement administrators – have a few things in common.  They all market their services as helping to solve fi

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Cash Converters Class Action - Statement from Financial Counselling Australia

10/10/2013

10th October 2013 - Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) attended today’s announcement in Sydney by Maurice Blackburn that they are commencing a class action against Cash Converters International  and related entities.  Financial counsellors – who work in community organisations and assist people in financial difficulty – see many clients struggling with payday loans.    A survey of financial counsellors conducted in 2011 was overwhelming in its findi

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Independent review confirms Centrepay is a good idea that has lost its way

7/08/2013

7 August 2013 - Two of Australia’s leading consumer organisations have welcomed Ms Anna Buduls’ independent report into Centrepay—a payment system which helps Centrelink recipients manage their income. Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) and Consumer Action Law Centre said the report confirmed a number of their concerns with the way the system is being administered, in particular, that some inappropriate and even exploitative businesses are using and compromising Centrepay.

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New website helps banking customers save money

29/07/2013

15th July 2013 - Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) welcomes the launch of a new website by the Australian Bankers Association (ABA) which could help members of the public save up to $750 per annum.   Launched today, the ‘Affordable Banking’ website (www.affordablebanking.info) lists all basic bank accounts offered in Australia by retail ABA member banks. The website includes the account names, a list of features and a direct link to the financial institutions offering the

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Newman Government asked to Fund Financial Counselling

13/06/2013

13th June 2013 - Financial Counselling Australia has today written to the Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, expressing disappointment that last week’s budget did not include funding for financial counselling.  The letter calls on the Queensland Government to fund a dedicated financial counselling program.   Queensland is now the only State and Territory Government that does not provide specific funding for a generalist financial counselling program (see table below for a

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Good News in South Australia

11/06/2013

Last week’s  South Australian budget  is good news for people in that State struggling with credit and debt issues.   The budget includes $1 million per annum for additional financial counsellors and $400,000 per annum for a specialist consumer credit legal service for the next four years.   Financial counsellors – who work in community organisations – help people in financial difficulty. They work extremely closely with specialist consumer credit lawyer

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Financial counselling groups welcome banks' new hardship package

4/06/2013

  Financial Counselling Australia, the Consumer Action Law Centre and the Consumer Credit Legal Centre have welcomed a new hardship package released by the Australian Bankers Association (ABA) today. The package demonstrates a real commitment by the industry to improve hardship policies and practices and we appreciate the genuine consultation involved in its development.  However, as a recent national survey of financial counsellors showed, there is definitely room for improvemen

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FCA Conference Puts Spotlights on Economic Abuse

22/05/2013

22 May 2013 -  Recognising and responding to economic abuse is one of the focus sessions at the annual Financial Counselling Australia conference, taking place this week in Sydney. The presenters, Sue Fraser from Kildonan Uniting Care and Tanya Corrie from Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service, will draw on a significant body of recent research (‘Spotlight on economic abuse’) to be released jointly by Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service and Kildonan Uniting Care on 29 Ma

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Financial Counsellors Rank the Banks

22/05/2013

22nd May 2013 - State and Territory financial counselling associations from around Australia have today launched the first national “Rank the Banks” survey.   The survey asked financial counsellors – who provide information,  support and advocacy to people experiencing financial difficulty – to rate how well each of the ‘big four’ banks, and some of the smaller banks, were assisting customers in financial hardship.   The headline rankin

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Financial Counsellors Celebrate Professional Milestone

2/03/2013

1st March 2013 - Financial counsellors around Australia are today celebrating a major leap forward for the profession: legal protection of the terms “financial counsellor” and “financial counselling”.   Financial counsellors work in community organisations and assist people in financial difficulty to get back on track. Funded by government, the services provided by a financial counsellor are free, confidential and independent of industry.   This historic ref

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Banking Code Welcomed by Financial Counsellors

31/01/2013

31st January 2013 - Financial counsellors have welcomed today’s release of a revised Code of Banking Practice.   Banks obviously already have to comply with a number of  laws – credit laws, privacy laws, fair trading laws – to name a few. The strength of a Code of Practice is that it goes beyond black letter laws such as these. An effective code is akin to a set of promises that an industry makes to its customers.  Importantly, an effective code is also enforce

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Time to Move "Hardship" out of the Too Hard Basket

26/11/2012

26th November 2012 - Financial difficulty disputes have increased by 42% according to the recent annual report from the Financial Ombudsman Service.   This comes on top of an increase of 130% in the previous financial year.   “The continuing increase in financial difficulty disputes is something that is a cause of concern not just for financial counsellors – who each year help thousands of Australians struggling to pay their bills – but also for financial institut

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Centrepay Review Welcomed

22/11/2012

22nd November, 2012 -   Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) has welcomed the announcement by the Federal Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr, of an independent review into Centrepay.   “Centrepay was set up to help Centrelink recipients budget for essential costs, such as rent and utilities,” said Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of FCA. “At the request of a Centrelink recipient, a regular amount is deducted from their payment to pay bills, wi

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FCA Annual Report Released

19/11/2012

19th November 2012 -  Dear Stakeholders   I am delighted to release the Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) Annual Report 2012, containing information about our activities, highlights during the year and our challenges in the future.   Distributing our Annual Report is timely, given the release in late October of the PwC-CSI Community Index – a survey of confidence and operating conditions in the not-for-profit sector. The index confirms what many of us instinctively k

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Fee-Free ATMs to Help Remote Indigenous Consumers

12/11/2012

12th November 2012 - Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) welcomes the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s decision to authorise an initiative from the banking industry that will lead to fee-free ATMs in a number of remote Indigenous communities.   “This is a huge step forward in reducing the financial disadvantage suffered by people living in remote communities,” said Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of FCA.   In December 2010, FCA released a

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Superannuation Consumer Centre a Fantastic Initiative

23/10/2012

 24th October 2012 - Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) congratulates the Federal government on their $10 million investment towards advancing the interests of consumers in the superannuation system.   By providing seed capital for the establishment of a not-for-profit Superannuation Consumer Centre, the government is developing the framework to provide superannuation-related education and advocacy for all working Australians. Executive Director of FCA, Fiona Guthrie, welcomes th

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"I Wish I'd Known Sooner" say those in Financial Difficulty

22/10/2012

22nd October 2012 - An insightful report into the impact of financial counselling on both debt resolution and the overall wellbeing of consumers has found that the significant majority of those surveyed benefitted both financially and personally from seeking the assistance of a financial counsellor – and that many wished they had done so earlier.   The report, I wish I’d known sooner, surveyed 225 participants who had accessed the financial counselling services of The Salvati

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Small debts could lead to big problems

9/10/2012

9th October 2012 - A coalition of consumer groups is urging the Federal Government to reconsider aspects of its planned credit reporting reform which could see Australians have their credit history tarnished for late payment of amounts as little as $100. In a recent discussion paper on credit reporting regulations, the Government proposed not to increase the minimum debt that can be listed on a credit report beyond $100.[i   The consumer groups believe the minimum amount for which consume

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Cut to Single Parent Payment may be a False Economy

9/10/2012

10th October 2012 - Under legislation passed by the Senate this week, around 100,000 single parent households face the prospect of increased financial stress next year.   Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) is disappointed that changes to the Single Parent Payment, mooted earlier this year by the Federal government, have now passed the Senate. FCA fears that these changes will cause added financial stress for many already struggling households.   “In the May 2012 budget, t

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Don't Knock - Its the Law

30/09/2012

1st October 2012 - Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) congratulates the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on their historic and significant win in the Federal Court last week, in a case cementing the legal enforceability of ‘Do Not Knock’ stickers.   The case, brought against an energy retailer and a marketing company acting on its behalf, is the first under the Unsolicited Consumer Agreement provisions of the Australian Consumer Law. The court awarded p

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Want to be MoneySmart? Halve your income

2/09/2012

2nd September - “Plenty of people on low incomes are terrific at budgeting; they have to be!”   Today marks the beginning of MoneySmart Week - a national initiative bringing together more than 100 organisations from the business, government and community sectors, with the aim of advancing the financial literacy of all Australians. Financial Counselling Australia is delighted to support MoneySmart Week and encourages Australians to take advantage of the free informati

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Support the Do Not Knock Register

27/08/2012

28th August 2012 - Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) encourages the public to throw their support behind a private member’s bill that aims to establish a “Do Not Knock” register.   Introduced to Parliament by Federal MP Steve Georganas, and currently the subject of a House of Representatives' Social Policy and Legal Affairs committee inquiry, the objective of the bill is to empower consumers to opt out of receiving door-to-door sales visits. Similar to the D

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Legal protection for the term "financial counsellor" - An historic win

26/08/2012

27th August, 2012 - Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) welcomes the passage of Section 160C of the Consumer Credit and Corporations Legislation Amendment (Enhancements) Bill 2011, by the Federal Parliament earlier this month. This section restricts the use of the terms “financial counsellor” and “financial counselling” to organisations that provide financial counselling services as prescribed under the National Consumer Credit Protection Regulations 2010. Whi

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Boost to Centrelink call centre staff a welcome relief

6/08/2012

6th August 2012 - Financial Counselling Australia and the National Welfare Rights Network have both welcomed the federal government’s announcement of a boost in staff numbers for the Centrelink call centre. With some welfare recipients currently remaining on hold for up to 90 minutes, both organisations describe the boost as sorely needed.   “The volume of calls made to Centrelink has increased by more than twenty percent over the past six years, to a current level of around o

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Free ATMs good news for remote ATSI communiites

25/05/2012

25th May 2012: Financial counsellors and money management workers have welcomed today’s announcement from the banking industry and private ATM providers that should ultimately see ATM fees abolished in a number of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The announcement follows a report by FCA* in December 2010, that highlighted the high cost of ATM fees for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities. FCA’s report found that some pe

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Launch of ATSI ‘Do Not Knock’ sticker by Minister Shorten

15/05/2012

15th May 2012: Minister for Financial Services, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP, has helped Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) and CentaCare Wilcannia-Forbes launch a new front in the Do Not Knock campaign aimed at reducing harmful door-to-door sales practices in Indigenous communities. Minster Shorten launched the project, which includes a new ATSI Do Not Knock sticker, at Financial Counselling Australia’s National Conference which was attended by over 300 financial counsellors from around

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Free calls for mobile phone users

24/04/2012

24th April 2012: Financial counsellors today welcomed news that the cost of ringing 1800 and 13 phone numbers from mobiles will finally be the same as those from a landline. The campaign for "Fair Calls for All" was led by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), ACOSS and FCA. The original impetus for the campaign came from financial counsellors. Many of their clients rely solely on mobile phones. The cost of calling say the bank or Centrelink can be huge for

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Formation of Financial Counsellors ACT is a milestone

1/03/2012

1st March 2012: The financial counselling sector has warmly welcomed the formation of a new incorporated financial counselling association:  Financial Counsellors ACT. The formation of Financial Counsellors ACT represents a huge leap forward for the profession.  There are now incorporated financial counselling bodies in every State and Territory in Australia – a huge milestone and well worth celebrating. The  State and Territory financial counselling associations set m

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