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 membership and accreditation standards for financial counsellors. They also provide a vital voice for their members on issues affecting them or their clients. This is why it is so important to have a properly constituted professional body in each jurisdiction.

In the past 15 months, two other new financial counselling associations have also been formed: the Money Workers Association of the Northern Territory and Financial Counselling Tasmania.

The existing associations are: the Financial and Consumer Rights Council (Victoria); Financial Counsellors Association of NSW; Financial Counsellors Association of Qld; Financial Counsellors Association of WA; and South Australian Financial Counsellors Association.  Each State and Territory body elects one person to represent their association on the board of the national peak, Financial Counselling Australia.

The challenge for all financial counselling associations is a lack of resources. The majority of Associations receive no government funding, relying on voluntary management committees. The workload in organising professional development, supervision, accreditation processes and conferences is enormous. But even the funded associations can struggle – as the sector grows and professionalises, so to do demands on associations.

We acknowledge however the support of some financial institutions toward the cost of conferences, websites and similar  projects for State and Territory associations. While direct industry funding for casework is problematic, capacity-building funding for the sector  has been vital, particularly in helping the unfunded organisations continue to function.

This however is not a sustainable model for the future. The sector will be held back unless unfunded associations in particular can access adequate and ongoing funding. The role played by these bodies is absolutely critical – a “voluntary” model will simply not cut it.