We have much to celebrate as we look back on a big year. We are particularly proud of the launch of the National Debt Helpline,* the new name for the 1800 007 007 telephone financial counselling service and its accompanying website (www.ndh.org.au). Calls to the National Debt Helpline were up by 11% on the previous year and visits to the website continue to grow.
On the policy front, we continued our work on online gambling and the development by the Federal Government of a consumer protection framework. We are delighted with recent legislation reforming the Interactive Gambling Act. The changes prohibit gambling companies from giving credit to gamblers, ban in-play betting and set up a national self-exclusion register.
We continued to make waves at our annual conference, which was attended by a record 677 people from all over Australia. They immersed themselves in discussions and workshops on topics as diverse as modern slavery, the curse of gambling addictions and improving superannuation for women.
With financial counsellors working on ever more complex cases, FCA welcomed increased funding from the Federal Government allowing us to coordinate professional development for the sector and to support financial capability workers, including a number of workers whose clients are from remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
One ongoing project was the redesign of the financial counselling toolkit website — the password-protected website for financial counsellors. Over 70 pages of content has been rewritten and there is a new learning management system. We also conducted a training needs analysis focusing on family violence (with the training now rolling out across Australia).
We look forward to working with all of our stakeholders in 2018.
*The National Debt Helpline is operated by a different community agency in each State or Territory. FCA coordinates these services to ensure consistent delivery.
Fiona Guthrie, CEO Financial Counselling Australia
0402 426 835