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David Stafford

Executive Officer


Wayne Stephen

Senior Business Financial Counsellor Coordinator

Wayne has been a Rural Financial Counsellor for some 17 years in both South West and North West Victoria, and has an enormous wealth of experience and expertise in this role.

He brings to the service a substantial scope of experience in small business management, paralegal and community welfare. He has been able to tailor his rural community lifestyle and empathy towards small business and farming enterprises to great advantage and is more than familiar with the issues faced by these enterprises.

Wayne was a member of the inaugural group of attendees to attain the Diploma of Community Service (Financial Counselling) and has undertaken formal training in mediation, negotiation, conflict resolution and Case Management: Train the Trainer together with a substantial participation in other training and professional development courses. Wayne was also a graduate of the Loddon Murray 2000Plus Leadership Program in the year 2000.

18Patrick White

Patrick White

Rural Financial Counsellor

Patrick White has worked with the Rural Financial Counselling Service as a Counsellor since 2005. He operates out of the Horsham office servicing farmers across the Wimmera district and beyond. Before joining the Rural Financial Counselling Service, Patrick worked as an accountant and a lawyer from a small practice based in Murtoa.

This background in commercial law; dispute resolution and accounting has been useful to assist farmers with understanding their current financial situation and to consider what options may be available. 

Patrick grew up in the Wimmera before moving Geelong to complete his studies. He returned to the Wimmera in 2002 and currently lives in Horsham. Patrick completed the Diploma of Community Services (Financial Counselling) in 2006. Patrick has a keen interest in helping people understand their current financial situation so they can make better choices for their future.


Sarah Moncrieff

Rural Financial Counsellor

Sarah has had vast experience in the Financial Services industry over the past 22 years, and worked as a Qualified Financial Planner in Warrnambool for 16 of these years. Through her Financial Planning experience Sarah has assisted many rural families navigate the complicated area of intergenerational change, and has a strong background of Government Support Services, such as Centrelink.

Sarah provides Financial Counselling and support to Primary Producers, with an emphasis on Dairy Farms throughout South West Victoria.

Sarah has completed her of Diploma of Community Services majoring in Financial Counselling.


Michael White

Rural Financial Counsellor

Michael is based at the Horsham Office of the Rural Financial Counselling Service. Michael is a Certified Practising Accountant and lives in Horsham with his family.

He started working in Horsham in 1998. Michael has been an accountant for over 19 years and has experience in income tax, bookkeeping, financial and management accounting. Michael has operated a small business for six years as a registered tax agent.

This experience has allowed Michael to gain the skills necessary to assist in exploring and understanding their current financial situation.


Mal Rowe

Rural Financial Counsellor

Mal has 30 years of experience in the agricultural industry specializing in soil, land and water. He holds a Bachelor of Natural Resources Management. His career journey includes working in catchment management, Landcare, local government, farmer organisations, communications and farm management. In his downtime, he likes nothing better than walking through mountains or winding back on beaches.

Throughout his career, Mal has participated in any number of short courses, including conflict negotiation, communication and mediation, farm and commodity management, and has convened many community group meetings and discussions. He has a passion for promoting the development of renewable energy options.

Mal has a heightened understanding of the challenges facing farmers and rural communities generally and brings a level of empathy to his task of shining the torch forward through periods of financial uncertainty for his clients. He is a good listener, and can help clarify goals and identify paths to achieve them.


Ken Dodds

Rural Financial Counsellor

Ken commenced work with the team at the Wimmera South West Victoria Rural Financial Counselling Service in February 2016. As a third generation active cropping farmer in the Victorian Western Wimmera with properties at Nhill, Lorquon and Glenlee, Ken has an enduring passion for farming and great confidence in the future of Australian agriculture.

Ken’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Business with a major in Economics, completed at the Deakin University in Warrnambool and a Graduate Diploma of Education from the University of Melbourne.

This academic background has led to off-farm career ventures highlighted by an extended time working in the Business Faculty of the University of Melbourne, as a business and investment lecturer and as co-ordinator of the rural business distance education program. This program was delivered to large enrolment numbers of mature age students across Victoria and Tasmania and featured hands on delivery of a wide range of computer and accounting units

Additional qualifications as an accredited computer consultant with Reckon Accounts, QuickBooks and Quicken and as a registered BAS agent, with the Tax Practioner’s Board, have also contributed to further professional work off-farm.

In the above context, interaction and work on behalf of our rural business clients is approached with empathy in a positive and pro-active manner. Ken says, “It is a pleasure to work in such a dynamic and important environment as financial providers, staff and clients are invariably brought closer together with accurately prepared business and financial information, facilitated by confident and respectful communication.”

George Leishman

Rural Financial Counsellor

George has been involved in agriculture since completing VCE in 1995. After jackarooing in WA on a cattle station near Shark Bay, he continued working on a vast cropping property in the northern wheat belt at Mingenew, where he operated all facets of machinery. George then returned and completed his Advanced Diploma of Business (Banking & Finance) and took on roles at AWB in logistics and assisting the feed wheat trade book for Victoria.

George returned to the family property in the Western Districts, helping run a 60/40 cropping and fat lamb operation with his family. Through the drier years, George’s attention was involved in a R&D role with a company designing a fertiliser biopolymer product to assist with better utilising fertiliser in broad acre cropping practice. A further tenure in the fertiliser industry followed with a focus on recyclables and the organics/ humates/ compost field.

Karen Brady

Rural Financial Counsellor

Karen’s early career was in the state government Treasury Department before moving to the banking sector where she worked in home loan application processing.  She has had 8 years’ Rural Banking experience in Colac working with farmers in Western Victoria. It is during this time Karen gained an understanding of farm business operations and the events affecting their financial performance.  She is a member of a local dairy farm discussion group which keeps her up to date with issues affecting farmers, their farms and profitability.

 Karen holds a Certificate IV in Finance and is currently studying for the Diploma of Financial Counselling.  She has also attended workshops on Mental Health First Aid, Negotiation Skills and Succession Planning.  Outside of work, Karen has volunteered with BlazeAid at Cobden and Terang, and is Vice Chair of Colac Otway Disability Accommodation Inc board.


Trevor Link

Rural Financial Counsellor

Trevor joined us in 2021 with over 20 years’ experience and extensive networks in regional financial and community services, and small business financial management.

Trevor’s first exposure to agriculture was working in agribusiness finance in Naracoorte, focusing on cereal and legume cropping, sheep and cattle activities. His business management experience includes roles with a motor vehicle dealership, a local wine producer and self-employment.

Trevor had small hobby farm in Naracoorte where he ran crossbred ewes and lambs, cut lucerne hay, had a small herd of cattle and was a member of the local CFS brigade.

Trevor spent a decade in the Wimmera assisting farmers with their finance and insurance requirements, from the western region to the Sunraysia district, before joining RFCS WSW as a rural financial counsellor for the Central Victoria – Ballarat region.

Trevor holds an AssocDip Banking & Finance, AssocDip Accounting and Dip Export Mgmt, and is currently undertaking a Dip Financial Counselling (Rural).

Photo coming soon! 

Shane Annett

Small Business Financial Counsellor

Shane has spent the majority of his life in the Western District of Victoria having grown up on the family dairy farm in the Casterton region.  He attended Glenormiston College and completed an Advanced Diploma of Applied Science (Farm Management).  Shane has experience in Agri lending and has worked across the South East of South Australia. 

Shane has vast experience in small business management. He ran his own business for 8 years and continues to help in the family business.  Shane has completed his Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning and worked as a qualified Financial Planner specialising in personal insurance and Superannuation.  

Shane loves where he lives and continues to be an active participant in his local community. 

Shane Dean

Shane Dean

Small Business Financial Counsellor

Shane has extensive experience in finance, having worked in the industry for over 35 years with the last 33 of those in rural and regional areas throughout Australia.

In that time he gained a strong understanding of the issues and challenges that affect our communities, and just as importantly how to access  various resources and support tools available to help navigate these challenges.

Before coming to south west Victoria 15 years ago, Shane worked in the south east and west coast areas of South Australia and in Alice Springs.

With knowledge and experience acquired across a wide variety of industry types, economic cycles and local conditions, Shane has developed a broad range of understanding that he draws upon to help people understand their current financial position and uncover what steps and actions can be taken to help achieve their future goals.

Caius Ryan Small Business Counsellor RFCS WSW

Caius Ryan

Small Business Financial Counsellor

Caius has 30 years’ financial experience in commercial business services and joined us in 2020 to support the Ballarat and Geelong regions.

Caius has an acute awareness of the specific issues regional businesses face. With extensive experience in small business finance, Caius has always adopted a supportive approach to seek the most beneficial outcome for the client. His career has exposed him to a vast array of industries including agriculture, manufacturing, hospitality and retail.

Caius is experienced in all forms of business challenges and is a strong advocate of early intervention and raising awareness of all options available to individuals and businesses in financial distress – which in turn increases the chances of a successful outcome.

Ann-Marie Byrne Well-being Counsellor RFCS WSW

Ann-Marie Byrne

Well-being Counsellor

Ann-Marie is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker whose passion is in helping people to ‘flip it’, believing it may be hard sometimes but there’s always a positive in every situation.

Her experience is in working with men and assisting them to understand counselling is more about rebuilding their strengths and less about dealing with their weaknesses. Ann-Marie is trained in parenting and relationships and supports individuals, families and couples to improve their coping capacity when it’s hard to focus and make good decisions.

Ann-Marie worked as the Farming Community Support Worker assisting farmers in the South West through the milk crisis and the St Patrick’s Day Fires, and has branched out to include small business now with the Rural Financial Counselling Team.

Call us on 1300 735 578 or send us a message to arrange a chat. 

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