​Media Release

Funding boost for financial counselling in northern Queensland

3 September 2018

  • Coalition Government has invested over $1.3 million in additional funding for the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) in the North Queensland region to meet demand and support drought-affected farmers.
  • This includes a new RFCS Farm Liaison Officer, Tahna Jackson, to connect farmers to assistance.
  • Rural Financial Counsellors provide free assistance to farmers in financial hardship.​

Farmers across northern Queensland feeling the strain of financial hardship or the impacts of drought will soon have better access to the free Rural Financial Counselling Service.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud today visited Charters Towers with the new Farm Liaison Officer, Tahna Jackson, to announce more than $1.3 million in additional funding for the Queensland Northern RFCS region.

"The RFCS is an essential service and there's high demand for it right now. This funding will help put more boots on the ground," Minister Littleproud said.

"The RFCS in Northern Queensland is currently assisting more than 110 clients, an increase of more than 20 per cent since last financial year.

"The new Queensland Farm Liaison Officer Tahna Jackson will connect farmers to drought and financial hardship measures, help assess the impact of measures and assist the RFCS to target communities most in need.

"The government has committed $750,000 over two years for the new role.

"The RFCS program is working—around 75 per cent of people who leave the program saying they have built new skills and gained valuable insights into the running of their business."

Liberal National Party (LNP) candidate for Kennedy Frank Beveridge welcomed the additional funding and farm liaison officer role to help the people of north Queensland during drought.

"I can't express how essential these counsellors are to our rural communities up North," Mr Beveridge said.

"I congratulate Tahna on her new role. She brings 10 years' experience assisting the grazing industry in northern Queensland to the role. Recently she was the Regional Manager (north) and Drought Project Manager for AgForce. "

LNP Senate candidate for Queensland Susan McDonald also welcomed the additional RFCS support especially useful to those applying for the Farm Household Allowance and other programs.

"Businesses and families need this support to navigate these assistance programs to make the best decisions for their future," Ms McDonald said.

For more information on the RFCS visit agriculture.gov.au/rfcs or call 1800 686 175.

Fast Facts

  • Nationally, the RFCS assisted almost 4,800 clients in the 2017-18 financial year, with around 3,000 clients receiving assistance at any one time.
  • The current RFCS funding round (April 2016 to June 2020) will see more than $77 million invested in helping farmers in financial hardship.
  • The government has invested more than $6.5 million between April 2016 and 30 June 2020 to continue valuable Rural Financial Counselling Services (RFCS) in northern Queensland. This includes:
    • $400,000 from the government's $5 million commitment to ensure the RFCS can meet demand from drought-affected farmers, including those applying for Farm Household Allowance.
    • $750,000 for a new Farm Liaison Officer, Tahna Jackson, who works to connect farmers in hardship to available assistance, including the RFCS.
    • $170,000 in 2017-18 to develop, implement and monitor a communications and marketing plan for the benefit of all RFCS providers.
  • The Coalition Government has committed a total of $1.8 billion in drought assistance.
  • Includes immediate depreciation of fodder storage assets over one year instead of three, increasing RIC low interest loans from $1m to $2m and $23.7m to improve drought resilience in the Great Artesian Basin.
  • A special drought round under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund will deliver $72 million for water infrastructure in drought-affected areas.
  • $2.7 million has been delivered to ensure farmers can make better weather predictions in their local area.
  • Farm Household allowance boost payment of $12,000 per couple, bringing this year's assistance to $37,000, and a $7200 boost for singles, bringing this year's assistance to $22,000.
  • The Coalition Government has lifted the net asset threshold for the Farm Household Allowance from $2.6 million to $5 million. The increase to the net asset threshold potentially means about 8,000 extra farmers will soon be eligible for the FHA. The Department of Agriculture estimates 27,000  farmers are potentially eligible for FHA and have not applied.
  • The Coalition doubled the amount farmers could set aside from their taxable income and hold in Farm Management Deposits to $800,000 and changed the law to allow them to be used as offsets against a farmer's mortgage. After relentless pressure NAB, CBA, Rabobank, Westpac and ANZ have agreed to offer FMD offsetting to farmers.