More Rural Financial Counsellors to support bushfire recovery

14 January 2020

The Australian Government stands by our bushfire-affected primary producers with additional measures to support recovery from this season’s fires.

Minister for Agriculture Senator Bridget McKenzie said the path to recovery over the next two years would include 60 more rural financial counsellors and support workers, with an injection of $15 million in additional funding to the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS).

“We’ve seen a massive scale of destruction—from vineyards, orchards and forestry plantations to livestock herds and abalone farms—so we’re boosting the RFCS to help our farmers through the difficult financial decisions they may be facing," Minister McKenzie said.

“Existing rural financial counsellors are already on the ground working with communities and assessing needs.

“We expect demand for these services to grow as the situation unfolds and people return to their properties to evaluate the damage.

“We’re committed to getting the right support to the places it’s most needed. That’s why we are recruiting an additional 60 rural financial counsellors and support workers.

“Early assistance will be critical to help farmers apply for support payments, complete insurance claims and get in touch with the right people for broader services. 

“It can be difficult to properly assess what it may take to recover. RFCS will also provide longer‑term financial counselling to help farmers better understand their financial position and make decisions in response to bushfires and ongoing drought conditions.

“Rural financial counsellors already play a vital role in our regional areas, particularly given the ongoing drought. For over 35 years, the RFCS has provided free financial counselling to farmers, foresters, fishers and related small businesses in times of need. Currently, there are approximately 120 counsellors located within key agricultural communities across Australia.

“Not only are RFCS staff well-qualified to do this work, but as part of these communities they have also seen the impact of bushfires up close.

“When you are ready, if you need help in assessing the financial position of your farm business, understanding what support might be available,  and developing a plan to move forward, get in contact with your nearest RFCS office by calling 1800 686 175.”

Rural financial counsellors can help by:

  • Identifying financial and business options
  • Negotiating with lenders
  • Identifying other assistance schemes
  • Assist in applying for Farm Household Allowance.

Rural financial counsellors do not give family, emotional or social counselling or financial advice, but can refer clients to other professional services, including accountants, agricultural advisors, education, or mental health services.