Qld financial counsellors call on state govt to support people through resource sector job losses

A financial storm of Yasi proportions has once again headed straight towards Townsville with 1,500 jobs expected to vanish in 2016. The well publicised sacking of 237 nickel refinery and Townsville Port workers is seen by many as just the beginning, with Clive Palmer’s QNI going into voluntary administration earlier this month. In the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi, the State Government mobilised financial counselling services to assist people with the devastating financial impacts.

ICAN Financial Counsellor, Ray Kent believes that from a financial counselling perspective both disasters need to be treated with equal measure. “We have a window of about 3-6 months before the real financial problems will arise,” he said. “The banks will offer financial hardship provisions for a while and some may pick up a bit of work here and there.  But for others, it will eventually hit home that their incomes are no longer sufficient for the debt they have accumulated.”

Mr. Kent’s beliefs are rooted in the experience of delivering ICAN’s Townsville financial counselling service. “Over the past year we’ve seen a growth in clients that have had well paid employment to find themselves out of work with a mountain of debt,” he said. “An option that normally could assist in this instance is the sale of a vehicle or property, but Townsville’s market is so depressed that they will probably sell at a loss.”

These comments are supported in a 2015 report, The Carnival is Overpublished by Propell National Valuers that states Queensland has the highest number of homes (45,000) compared to other States that have dropped their property value, with sales activity also dropping by half. Gladstone, Emerald, Moranbah and Blackwater were named as some of the most affected towns in Australia from the mining downturn, noting that the report was released before the sacking of the 237 QNI and Townsville Port workers.

ICAN CEO Aaron Davis said, “The State Government needs to go beyond compiling service information and passing it on to those affected. A comprehensive plan is required, something more in line with the efforts shown after Yasi. Knowing the complexity of financial issues that come out of a disaster like Yasi, it’s really important that we have the most experienced and well trained financial counsellors providing assistance.”

Financial Counselling Association of Queensland (FCAQ) President Jon O’Mally, said, “Queensland is the only State in Australia that does not receive State funding for the delivery of financial counselling services. At present Queensland has only (34) full-time Commonwealth funded positions compared to NSW (170) and VIC (150) State and Commonwealth funded positions. Yet it could be argued that Queensland has the greatest need with the highest per capita rate of bankruptcies in Australia, continued downturn in the resource sector and 85% of the State under drought declaration.”

When the great Australian dream becomes a nightmare, a financial counsellor should be your first port of call. As Mr. Kent stated, “Financial counselling is all about supporting Queenslanders through the devastating impacts that financial stress can have on their health and relationships.”

To find a financial counsellor in your area call 1800 007 007 or go towww.debtselfhelp.org.au .