AV financial counsellors awarded for bushfire recovery support

Bairnsdale residents, Leonie Cooke and Tammy Cross, have been recognised for their dedication to financial counselling in East Gippsland by the Financial Counselling Victoria peak body, where they both were awarded for their services to the industry.

Leonie Cooke, Team Leader for the Bushfire Recovery Financial Counselling Team at Anglicare Victoria, won the Jan Pentland Memorial Award – an honour which recognises a member of Financial Counselling Victoria who has worked in the service to the wider community.

Tammy Cross, a student financial counsellor with Anglicare Victoria won the Rising Star Award, which recognises the work of a student or associate member of Financial Counselling Victoria who has demonstrated excellence in service delivery.

Leonie and Tammy work exclusively with local residents who were impacted by last summer’s bushfires. Almost 12 months on from the fires, Anglicare Victoria’s bushfire financial counselling team in East Gippsland are still busy working with people in affected communities who need support navigating their insurance claims, organising payment plans for bills or need help managing their finances.

2020 has not been a normal year for financial counsellors with many having to upskill in the area of insurance and accessing of grants on behalf of clients.

“Many of the people impacted by the bushfires are over 60 and have never received support from an agency before.  People are generally very private about their finances and in smaller communities there is greater reluctance to seek assistance,” said Leonie.

As a financial counsellor with more than 10 years’ experience, this year Leonie felt that financial counsellors exposed systemic issues in relation to insurance claims and the delays associated with processing them. Leonie feels proud to have worked towards holding insurance companies to account and working together with the industry to make some significant long term change.

“This is the best job in the world – to act as an advocate for people who don’t have a voice.  There’s nothing better than having a win for your client with a corporation,” said Leonie.

Leonie’s role involves overseeing a team of nine people including six financial counsellors and two staff from the Financial Wellness program funded by the Andrews Government’s Working for Victoria initiative.  The team supports the Bushfire Recovery Hubs which assist community members and provide access to a one-stop-shop of related services.

“This year there is lots of anxiety about the upcoming summer period, so AV’s financial counselling teams have been working with the community hubs to ensure there is good community education around the right level of insurance coverage,” said Leonie.

Tammy came into the bushfire financial counselling team at the start of May in 2020, she said her experience to date has been a real eye opener, but the outcomes she’s able to achieve for her clients makes her feel rewarded every day.

“I have learnt so much since beginning a career in financial counselling, I am lucky to have an incredibly supportive team, they have been unbelievable,” Tammy said.

“We’re still finding that a lot of people don’t know that this service is available. We want to let people know that if they’re struggling financially, or they’re having trouble dealing with their insurance provider, we’re here to help – we’ll do the hard work for you.”

If you would like to get in touch with Anglicare Victoria’s Bushfire Financial Counselling team in Gippsland, please call 1800 286 260 or email bushfirefcpgipps@anglicarevic.org.au

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