In these early days, community workers focused on providing budgeting and debt repayment services to people living in Elizabeth and its surrounding suburbs. Issues of concern at the time, included door-to-door salespeople selling encyclopedias and time share schemes.
Over time, the role that unfair markets and inadequate incomes play in creating disadvantage became clear and specialist workers (the first financial counsellors) emerged and changed the way they engaged with their clients. Financial Counsellors built networks and shared experiences so they could better help their clients and increase advocacy opportunities.
By 1990, there were 15 financial counselling providers who were funded by State and Commonwealth governments to deal with issues related to high unemployment (11.5%) and credit card debts. The national credit debt (not including mortgages) totalled $42 billion or $5,700 for every wage earner.
The growing need for financial counselling saw SAFCA develop the first accredited 12-day training course, which required trainees to spend time working in social service agencies. The first course was delivered by the Adelaide Central Mission and attracted 26 government and non-government trainees.
In 2017, SAFCA assumed responsibility for the provision of accreditation of financial counsellors in the Northern Territory. Today, we have over 300 members who are based in not-for-profit community organisations and continue to support people who are financially vulnerable.
The financial counselling profession is now more than 40 years old while having developed and responded to social and political change and remaining dedicated to helping people with their financial struggles.