Sector News (Page 2)

7 March 2019

Energy Australia offers full scholarships to people wishing to study the Diploma Financial Counselling

People aspiring to become financial counsellors can apply for a full scholarship to study the Diploma of Financial Counselling. We thank Energy Australia for this great opportunity.

click on the link below to see more information.

Continue »

26 February 2019

Four Reasons Why Digital Transformation Matters for the Community Services Sector

Technology is not inherently good or evil, but the outcomes may be, writes Dr Greg Ogle, in this article which calls on the not-for-profit sector to get in front of the issues.

There is no doubt that digital technology is changing the economy and society. Some, like World Economic Forum founder, Klaus Schwab, see it as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (the first three being: steam powered mechanical production in the late 18th century; mass production fostered by electricity and the production line from the late 19th century; and computerised technology, from the 1960s mainframes to the advent of the internet in the 1990s).

As digital technology now embeds computerisation in all aspects of life, much public debate focuses optimistically on new technology and gadgets, or pessimistically on concerns with data and privacy. However, there are particular implications of digital transformation for the not-for-profit sector and for community services in particular.

These can be summarised under four broad headings: digital inclusion/exclusion as a new frontier of inequality, data used against vulnerable people, data used to help vulnerable people, and digital technologies changing the services offered by our sector.

A new frontier of inequality.

Digital technology can be considered a new frontier of inequality because as government, commerce and culture increasingly go online (and close off access to physical shops, services and free-to-air content), those who are not part of the digital world will be left behind.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII), which tracks digital access, affordability and literacy/competency, shows digital inclusion is improving, but as the internet becomes the social default medium the cost of exclusion becomes greater – the digital divide gets deeper as it becomes narrower.

The ADII also highlights that the gap between the digital haves and have-nots is substantial and that those with lower levels of income, employment or education, and those living outside the capital cities generally have lower levels of digital inclusion. This is not a simple reflection of existing inequalities: digital exclusion compounds those disadvantages. For instance, with access to technology, training and income, those in employment are likely to be more digitally included. Those without digital access or skills are less likely to get jobs and are therefore more likely to remain economically and digitally excluded.

Data used against vulnerable people
The second reason why digital transformation matters to the community services sector is the potential for harm to vulnerable and disadvantaged people. The datafication of life, where so much of our lives is captured in data and explored by algorithms, raises privacy and surveillance concerns for all citizens. But vulnerable people are especially susceptible as retailers build customer profiles to milk already stretched household budgets, online sports betting creates new money drains for problem gamblers, abusive spouses have a new toolkit of surveillance devices, cyber-bullying becomes ubiquitous and online scammers target the vulnerable.

Those on low incomes are also particularly subject to government overreach. Virginia Eubanks’ landmark book Automating Inequality gives a series of examples from the United States of how using data to automate welfare systems actually backfires on the poor – importing and reinforcing disadvantage, and continuing systems of control that go back to 19th century poorhouses.

Australia’s “robo-debt” debacle, the paternalism of cashless welfare cards, and problems with e-government show that governmental use of digital technology to harm the poor is not limited to America.

Data used to help vulnerable people

The flip-side of this damaging use of data and technology is that digital technologies can make community services better. Digital technologies provide opportunities to make NFP administration more efficient and cost effective, to open up new communications and fundraising channels, and to better target service delivery.

To some extent, this is just standard business development, but there are already innovative examples in community services. For instance, Infoxchange’s Ask Izzy platform and phone app not only provides an information source to direct people needing help to the nearest services, the data collected is used to map emerging service needs and to identify gaps in service provision.

Changing the services offered

Beyond making NFPs’ existing operations better, digital transformation will change the services being offered. It could be smart glasses replacing guide dogs, driverless cars replacing community buses, sensors remotely monitoring health functions, or smart houses locking out violent ex-partners or assisting child protection. The potential for digital technology to transform the lives of people with disability is particularly profound.

In this context, some services which have been offered to support vulnerable people will no longer be needed or will be radically transformed. For instance, if artificial intelligence can provide basic legal advice, then key functions of community legal services may not be needed. This could lead to defunding, or alternatively those legal services might find their resources freed up to do more court representation and policy advocacy. Similarly, when community health or counselling services go online, they can reach remote areas which will necessitate awareness and expertise in cultural and geographic areas not previously required.

And most obviously, there will be a need for services to support people to access and use the new digital technology. Public libraries are already transforming themselves from book storehouses to being at the forefront of access to digital knowledge, while the Be Connected network’s efforts to increase computer literacy and use among older Australians is just one of many programs that are only necessary because of the digital revolution.

We may not be comfortable with all the changes that digital technology may bring, but it is clear that the technology will create opportunities and pressures for transformation in our sector.

However, as in all previous industrial revolutions, the outcomes of digital transformation are not inevitable or technologically determined.

The technology exists in a context and it will reflect and reinforce power and social relations. And that is the point really.

The technology is not inherently good or evil, but the outcomes may be. Unless the not-for-profit and community services sector get in front of the issues and help shape the transformation in all of the four areas above, we will spend the next 20 years picking up the pieces.

About the author: Dr Greg Ogle is senior policy and research analyst at the South Australian Council of Social Service, has a PhD in political economy and researches telecommunications access and affordability.

Continue »

21 January 2019

How Lazy Does A Dole Bludger Have To Be For Us To Starve Them?


Language is a funny thing, isn’t it?

By changing the words of a statement, we can change how we feel, even when we haven’t changed the meaning one bit.

Continue »

21 January 2019

Jan Pentland Scholarship(s)

Do you know someone you think would make a fantastic financial counsellor? Or do you want to become a financial counsellor yourself? Applications for Jan Pentland Scholarships are now open.

Each year the Jan Pentland Foundation makes several scholarships available to people who we think will make a great contribution to the financial counselling sector but require some financial assistance to complete the Diploma of Financial Counselling.

The scholarships cover costs associated with the diploma up to $5000. We invite people from all backgrounds to apply, but applications from people who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and people with a refugee background are particularly welcome.

Applications close You’ll find the applications forms, and a little more information here.  If you have questions, please feel free to give us a call, 03 85546980 or email us



Continue »

5 December 2018

On the banks


There are no roads to the spot where 93-year-old Margaret Kerans’s weatherboard home sits, perched on the edge of the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales.

The only way in is by boat.

A 20-minute journey upstream from the main marina will bring you to her property, tucked between holiday homes and million-dollar mansions.

To a passer-by it might look like a real estate gem. The worst house on the best strip of river bank.

For years, it was Ms Kerans’s sanctuary.

She would make the journey between her home by the river to Fiji’s remote islands where she worked as an anthropologist.

“She was amazing, she was truly amazing,” said her daughter, Marion Rae.

“She was at university as a teacher, then she went off and did research in Fiji.

Continue »

4 December 2018

Perth mother on disability pension charged $760 for $175 loan by short-term credit agent Cigno


It was her daughter’s first birthday that tipped Perth mother Jayde Lowe into financial hardship.

Key points:
Jayde Lowe borrowed $175 from Cigno and owed $935.50 a few months later
Cigno offers short-term loans of up to $1,000 but is not regulated by the National Credit Act
There are calls for credit law reforms to ensure vulnerable people aren’t ripped off
The 22-year-old, who has an intellectual disability and relies on a Centrelink pension for income, did not have enough money to buy food on February 19, let alone a gift for her child.

An advertisement on Facebook for Queensland-based short-term credit agent Cigno provided a quick fix.

“I borrowed $175 and that’s it,” Ms Lowe said.

Ms Lowe estimated it took half an hour to fill out the online form with her bank details, Centrelink statements and home address.

She said she did not speak to anyone from the company before the money arrived in her bank account at 7:00pm that same evening.

After missing a payment the following month, Ms Lowe was charged a $49 dishonour fee, plus $30 for a letter to notify her of the breach

Continue »

4 December 2018

Morrison Government backflips on funding cuts for counselling and charity groups


5:45pm Nov 26, 2018

The Morrison Government has performed a fresh backflip on funding cuts, with 16 financial counselling, legal aid and charity groups on the brink of losing their grants delivered a last-minute reprieve.

Many of the organisations feared they would have to cut jobs and community services, after learning suddenly their funding wouldn’t be continued in the new year.

In some cases, they received as little as two months’ warning.
But 9News can reveal the government has now agreed to extend their grants until December next year.

A spokesperson for Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the government “decided to provide funding certainty to the end of 2019” after the discussions with the sector.

Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher. (AAP)
But he declined to expand on why the government decided to pull the grants in the first place.

Labor has accused the government of bungling the funding rollout.
Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities Jenny McAllister said it was “a disaster of the government’s own making”.
“The government has thrown frontline services into chaos with only weeks to go before Christmas,” she said.  “This saga has caused immense stress to frontline staff and was entirely avoidable.”
Labor’s Jenny McAllister said the funding rollout was “a disaster of the government’s own making”. (9News)

The peak body representing the sector, Financial Counselling Australia, welcomed the news of the 12-month extensions.  CEO Fiona Guthrie told 9News that workers were initially facing the prospect of losing their jobs before Christmas.

“This gives us some breathing space and time to work through what to do,” she said.

Some in the industry told 9News it appeared the government had cut funding by mistake.

Shortly before the extensions were granted, the head of one of the organisations said “it’s not clear the government is even aware it has defunded us”.

The government has already reversed a decision to cut funding to charity group Foodbank. (9News)

It’s the latest in a series of backflips over government funding cuts.
Around two weeks ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison reversed a decision to cut more than $300,000 funding to charity Foodbank, which provides food to more than 710,000 Australians impacted by natural disasters or economic hardship.

The government also had a change of heart after pulling funding from two key groups operating Australia’s national debt helpline, extending their grant arrangments by 12 months.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018

Continue »

4 December 2018

Big variance in banks’ granting assistance to struggling customers


If you are in financial difficulty and you ask your bank for help, you’re more likely to get it from some banks than others.

A report by a committee set up by the Australian Banking Association (ABA) has found that while one of the big four banks grants 90 per cent of requests, two smaller banks grant just over 50 per cent of requests.

The Banking Code Compliance Monitoring Committee report, Assisting Customers in Financial Difficulty, specifically looks at how the banks deals with customers in financial difficulties.

In a sign that many Australians are doing it tough, requests by those in financial difficulty to their banks for assistance have increased by 47 per cent since 2011-12. Most of that increase occurred between 2011-12 and 2014-15 and has remained elevated since.

Continue »

20 November 2018

Power payment plans yet another cruel twist amid rising bills


Jane (not her real name) had fled from an abusive partner. She had slowly begun re-establishing her life with her two children, but money had been tight for some time. When her daughter fell ill, Jane had to take time off work to care for her, but as a casual worker she had no sick leave. She could not make payments on her debts, including utility bills.

Continue »

15 November 2018

Banks have answered the call by customers in financial difficulty, but more will need to be done before 1 July 2019 to be ready for the ABA’s new and enhanced Code

Source: Media Release

Australian banks have financial difficulty programs that, for the most part, meet the requirements under the 2013 Code of Banking Practice, according to inquiry findings released today.


The inquiry, Assisting customers in financial difficulty (Part 1), was conducted by the independent Banking Code Compliance Monitoring Committee (CCMC) and included data from banks and the views of consumer advocates.

Australian banks have financial difficulty programs that, for the most part, meet the requirements under the 2013 Code of Banking Practice, according to inquiry findings released today.


The inquiry, Assisting customers in financial difficulty (Part 1), was conducted by the independent Banking Code Compliance Monitoring Committee (CCMC) and included data from banks and the views of consumer advocates.

Continue »