• Loddon Herald

Support for farms, small business


THE Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) has operated nationwide for over 35 years, providing free and independent business support to primary producers and now also regional small business owners navigating the challenges of financial stress and uncertainty, including staying viable through drought, bushfire or COVID19.

RFCS Victoria West is the Loddon region’s local provider – a new name for anyone familiar with the service, under a program restructure in July this year.

The service’s team of highly qualified and experienced rural financial counsellors and small business financial counsellors are a tried and tested resource for the farm or small business operation.

They’re local, based in the regions they work in and understand local conditions and communities. Many of them are farmers or small business owners themselves.

Rural and small business financial counsellors can help you gain a better understanding of your financial position, identify and explore options, access grants and government support, negotiate with banks, creditors, the tax office or insurance providers, and plan for the next few months and into the future.

Anna McGee has worked in rural financial counselling in the Bendigo region for 13 years. McGee reports the team was able to provide an uninterrupted continuation of service to clients throughout the transition to the larger Victoria west service area, which saw eight north west region staff members join the former western region. This was especially important after a year of rural events not going ahead and, more recently, appointments taking place over phone or video calls, instead of in person on-farm or in the office.

“We do want to reassure primary producers that farm visits are still an important part of the rural financial

counselling process.

“We continue to offer the same level of service the region has always enjoyed, as RFCS Victoria West. We are only a phone call away if drought or covid or anything else is causing financial stress or uncertainty, and we can help in a number of ways. It costs nothing to have a chat and appointments with our counsellors are always free.

“If you’ve got a farming operation and you’re thinking you could use a hand with getting on top of your books or sorting something out with your creditors, you’d be glad to know that a rural financial counsellor can come out to the farm to minimise disruption to your farming day. If the farm isn’t a good place to talk business concerns, we can arrange a more suitable meeting place. We have a whole range of ways we can help a primary producer or small business, including referrals to legal specialists or support with FHA applications, RIC Loans or Farm Debt Mediation.”

McGee is joined by small business financial counsellor John Brewin, who brings a wealth of experience as a small business owner for most of his working career, and is already providing support to small businesses in the Loddon Shire.

Brewin notes that Bendigo locals are backed up by a team of rural and financial counsellors in nearby regions.

“Small business owners can make an appointment to chat with small business financial counsellor by calling our 1300 number during business hours.

“We’ll visit you at the business premises or can arrange another convenient location. Appointments are always free and support is ongoing for as long as required.”

In addition, we’re available through the Small Business Bus which is currently offering virtual appointments.

Booking information will be at our Facebook page and at the Business Victoria website.”

RFCS Victoria West takes a holistic approach to financial counselling. A well-being counsellor is available to ensure anyone working with a financial counsellor is fully supported.

Farmers and farming families, and small business owners, can make an appointment to talk to a rural or small business specialist on-farm, at business premises or at the Bendigo office.

Call 1300 735 578 or visit www.RFCSVictoriaWest.com.au.

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