The National Rural Counselling Program was first established in August 1986 by the Department of Primary Industry. The program was to provide rural financial counselling to farmers to help them to research financial strategies when faced with dry climate conditions, low commodity prices and increasing interest rates. The Service has continued and evolved over the years in response to the changing needs of the agricultural sector.
Historically, there have been four rural financial counselling services in the region covered by Wimmera South West:
– South West
Counsellors based in the Hamilton, Terang and Warrnambool areas
Counsellors based in the Warracknabeal, Nhill and Horsham areas
– Central Highlands Barwon
Counsellors based in the Colac, Ballarat, Grampian areas, and
– Corangamite Catchment
which was formed when Central Highlands Barwon folded, and with Counsellors based in the Colac, Ballarat and Geelong areas
These Services were administered by locally based, incorporated not-for-profit management committees. Our first Rural Financial Counsellors (RFC’s) were hired in 1987. Originally, they were employed to provide a free, independent and confidential rural financial counselling service as well as provide the administrative support to the volunteer community management committees.
In 2006, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) saw a need to change the administration of the provision of the Rural Financial Counselling Program and these three services combined to form one service Rural Financial Counselling Service Victoria – Wimmera South West (RFCSV-WSW) covering all locations. The resulting service covers a geographical area comprising over 30% of the State; embracing the municipalities of: Hindmarsh, West Wimmera, Horsham, Yarriambiack, Northern & Southern Grampians, Ballarat, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Surf Coast, Colac Otways, Moyne, Ararat, Glenelg, Melton, Greater Geelong, Brimbank, Warrnambool and Wyndham.
The change in 2006 saw the establishment of a Board of Management to implement the development of an appropriate corporate governance structure. The Board is comprised of skilled nominated local support group members from across our service area. We have established support groups across the region to enable grass roots input, counsellor support and better networking across our service region. These groups provide local knowledge to assist our Board to understand and interpret current agricultural conditions across our region.
We pride ourselves on our continued commitment to listen to the communities located in the Wimmera South West. We constantly look for local input to ensure the currency and relevance of the services that we provide.