The Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) is a free, independent and confidential service for farmers and small rural businesses who are experiencing, or at risk of, financial hardship. The RFCS was created in 1986 in response to increased financial difficulties across rural industries and was initially intended as a short-term assistance program, but has continued to this present day. In July 2021 the RFCS joined the National Recovery and Resilience Agency to continue providing important services to Australian farmers.
The service aims to support:
- Fishing enterprises
- Forest growers and harvesters
- Related small business owners
The RFCS are friendly and supportive, and offer immediate help with supporting farmers in crisis and disaster; aiming to assist farmers and farm related businesses to access immediate government financial support such as disaster recovery grants and income support, along with the recovery process. This includes assisting farmers in applying for the Farm Household Allowance.
Through case management they can assist with the following:
- Transition/succession (industry transition, exit and retirement)
- Financial position (business performance, forecasting and financial literacy)
- Refinancing and loan applications (including Regional Investment Corporation RIC Loan Applications)
- Business planning (cash flows, monitoring and measuring, transitioning and succession)
- Debt management (payment plans, communications with banks and creditors)
- Farm debt management
- Referral to other services
- Outreach service
Local challenges can vary from region-to-region and from year-to-year, but the result is often similar across regions and industries, including increasing overdrafts, cash flow difficulties and limited capacity to pay creditors. Rural financial counsellors provide a non-judgemental listening ear and someone to support your decision making during tough times. They can assist with communicating to banks and lenders to manage debt, along with working alongside farmers to assess financial position and business viability. While counsellors guide clients through the process, business owners are always in control of any decisions to be made.
The program is designed to offer financial guidance and support debt management, and rural financial counsellors are qualified professionals. However, they are unable to give advice on legal issues, family issues, mental health support or provide financial advice. Instead, counsellors can refer clients to other professional services. If you or someone you know is experiencing hardship and needs to seek mental health support there are other health and counselling support services available.
More information and national contact details can be found on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website or the National Recovery and Resilience Agency.
Website details and contact details for the 3 Victorian regions are listed below:
- AgBiz Assist – North East 1300 834 775
- Western Rural Financial Counselling Service – Western Victoria 1300 735 578
- Eastern Rural Financial Counselling Service – Gippsland 1300 045 747
Not sure which service to call? Visit RFCS Program – Rural Financial Counselling Network.