Rural Financial Counselling Service: review released
10 November 2014
Today Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, released the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) report on the Review of the Rural Financial Counselling Service.
“Importantly, the independent review strongly supports the continuation of the RFCS—as do I, and outlines a number of ideas aimed at improving this vital service so that it better meets the needs of those who rely on it,” Minister Joyce said.
“Particularly, in times of drought and hardship I know the RFCS plays a key role in assisting our farmers, small rural businesses and fishers. Many farmers have been battling through a severe drought, particularly in Queensland and northern New South Wales, and across Australia there are also many farmers with a high level of debt. I have heard over and over of the invaluable assistance the RFCS is providing to those in need.
“As part of the independent review NRAC consulted with a wide range of stakeholders—including service providers, rural financial counsellors, clients of the RFCS, and key representatives from industry and government.”
The review examines the programme and its current and future roles and made 41 findings and 33 recommendations relating to governance and administration, funding, the eligibility of clients, how well services are delivered, and the types of services the RFCS should deliver into the future.
“I would like to thank Mick Keogh and his NRAC colleagues for their work on the report,” Minister Joyce said.
“I’ve now asked my department to seek further input from RFCS providers as well as the state and territory governments who contribute funding to the service.
“I will then consider this input, along with the NRAC review report, to ensure the government’s response to the review provides clear steps forward for an even more effective RFCS for the future.” Minister Joyce said.
The Australian Government provides grants to 14 not-for-profit organisations to employ suitably qualified rural financial counsellors—there are about 125 financial counsellors currently working across Australia. State governments and the Northern Territory government also contribute funds to the service.
NRAC is an independent advisory body, which provides advice and information to the Australian Government on a range of agricultural and rural issues. NRAC comprises eight members, with representatives from the Australian Government, the state/territory governments and the National Farmers’ Federation, with other experts in rural and agricultural matters also appointed to the council. Mr Mick Keogh is the chair of NRAC.