Counselling Tasmanians about their finances for 40 years

Judy Cornwell is standing in her home garden smiling.

It’s been 40 years since Anglicare set up its Debt Help budgeting service with just one part-time employee. Research done at the time pointed to it as a practical way of supporting Tasmanians in need – and today it’s more important than ever.

Judy Cornwell had a background in geriatric nursing and qualifications in welfare when she commenced a work placement with the Debt Help service in Hobart that was established in 1983.  In 1985 she set up an office in Launceston and worked there until 2003. She reflects back on a time where it was difficult for people to access support.

“Clients were from all walks of life – wage earners, small business owners, farmers. When they came to Debt Help they were already severely overcommitted and most came in as a result of instigation of legal action.  It was so daunting for them to have to tell five or six creditors in the community about their situation,” said Judy.

“When we started Tasmania didn’t have consumer protection legislation, there were no dispute resolution bodies, no banking industry ombudsman, so in some respects the choices for the clients were a bit narrower. My role was supporting clients with whatever they decided to do, including bankruptcy,” she said.

Modern challenges

Today, financial counselling is more important than ever.  Anglicare’s statewide team consists of a State Manager, two dedicated program managers located in the North and South and 15 professional financial counsellors who provide face-to-face/phone and online financial counselling services. They also operate the National Debt Helpline in Tasmania.

The cost of living crisis is on everyone’s lips. People struggle to pay their mortgages in the face of relentless interest rate rises, and renting has become unaffordable and unstable. People feel they have no choice but to take out multiple Buy Now Pay Later loans – sometimes just so they can put food on the table.

Fiona Moore has been a financial counsellor based in Hobart for 11 years. She describes Buy Now Pay Later debts as a huge problem.

“One client had around 10 accounts – most people have got three or four,” she says. “People are going without food and they’re not eating properly; they’re going without medications – just to keep a roof over their heads. I really worry about some of my clients.”

Bert Aperloo also works in the South. Joining Anglicare around the same time as Fiona, he says his job “brings a smile” to his face.

“Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the bus or walking to work and someone will stop me in my tracks and say Bert, you did such a fantastic job. They’ll say that I helped them so much four years ago – and there’s a light in their eyes.”

“Courage and resilience”

Lynne Watson has worked with Anglicare for 20 years in many different housing and community service roles. Today she is Program Manager for Financial Resilience and Wellbeing in the North and North West of the State.

“I’ve worked with some amazing clients who’ve shown such courage and resilience in the face of sometimes overwhelming odds. They’ve been able to get up and keep going and find a way to move forward. It’s been such a privilege,” said Lynne.

Watch this video:

More information

Everything you need to know about Anglicare’s financial counselling service is available here.

If you call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 you will be put in touch with an Anglicare financial counsellor. Their advice is free and confidential and they will support you every step of the way to get your finances back under control.

Financial counsellors can also refer people to other services that they might need that are run by Anglicare, including Gamblers Help, mental health, and addictions support.

Anglicare’s Social Action and Research Centre published a report in March 2023 about the dangers of Buy Now Pay Later loans called Buy Now, Struggle Later? We advocate for stronger regulation of these products and more financial support for Tasmanians living on low and fixed incomes.

Photo:  Judy Cornwell brought Anglicare’s original Debt Help service to Launceston.


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