SAFCA was formed from the Para Districts Counselling Service, which was established in 1970 as a non-government organisation to provide outreach service in Elizabeth and its surrounding suburbs.
In 1990, a working party drew up a constitution to form SAFCA and lead the burgeoning financial counselling sector that had grown to approximately 15 service providers, which were funded by the State and Commonwealth Governments. SAFCA's main concerns of the day included encyclopaedia sellers, time-share schemes, and door to door sales.
At this time, Australia's unemployment figure was at 11.5% and the figure for national credit debt (not including mortgages) was $42 billion $5,700 for every wage earner.
In response, SAFCA also developed the first accredited 10-day financial counselling training course, which was delivered by the Adelaide Central Mission and attracted 26 government and non-government trainees.
The success of the course saw it extended to 12 days in 1991 and require trainees to spend time working in social service agencies. That year, then SAFCA President, Vin Glenn, was quoted in a story in the Sunday Mail:
"We see clients who have encountered temporary hardship through ill health, loss of job or family breakdown. Our experience indicates that the obligations will be repaid in full if extended terms are granted".
In 1994, poker machines were introduced into South Australia. Consumer affairs and legal groups, SAFCA and financial counsellors met to discuss the need for Consumer Credit Legal Service, and a working party was formed. The Australian Financial Counselling and Credit Reform Association released the National Accreditation Policy. Funding for the Para Districts Counselling Services was cut by the Department of Health and the service was closed.
In 2017, SAFCA expanded to assume responsibility for the provision of accreditation of financial counsellors in the Northern Territory.
Since its inception, SAFCA has grown to include over 100 financial counsellors focused on different areas of consumer protection and financial counselling practice.