Sandra Blake was born and raised on a sheep, wool and beef farm in north east Victoria and trained as a financial counsellor in Melbourne. She combines her skills and training, and knowledge of local farming issues working part-time as a financial counsellor at UnitingCare Wodonga, and part-time as a rural financial counsellor at Goulburn Murray Hume Agcare.
The people she sees in both roles need help understanding their financial position, although Sandra says this is an area of particular concern with farming clients, where debts can be much higher, combined with significant asset protection. In any given week Sandra may be helping people prepare budgets and cash flows, negotiating with lenders, including Farm Debt Mediation, untangling issues around succession planning and helping families identify the Centrelink benefits they are eligible for.
Particularly in her role as a rural financial counsellor Sandra helps people cut through financial jargon to better understand the viability of their agricultural businesses, whilst maintaining their passion for farming. A farm that is turning over millions of dollars may still not be viable, and being able to talk to farmers in their own terminology is key.
Each farming business is unique and needs a different solution depending on the type of farm; the Goulburn Valley, Ovens and Murray region in northern Victoria and Riverina in South West New South Wales is home to fruit and vegetables, dairy, beef, sheep, wool, grains and wine production. This is where Sandra’s background helps to bridge the gap between her clients and FOS.
“There’s definitely a learning curve involved for everyone, including myself”, Sandra says. “In a recent conversation with FOS I needed to talk about an issue a farmer was having with a loan for his Header – I began the conversation by explaining what a Header was!”
“Most rural financial counsellors have contact with FOS and appreciate the work they do”, Sandra says. “Awareness of external dispute resolution and how to get the most out of it is important.”
For more information on Goulburn Murray Hume Agcare, click here.
For more information on UnitingCare Wodonga, click here.