Media release: New Financial Literacy Program offers early-intervention support

Geelong Advertiser September 2, 2022
Geelong Advertiser September 2, 2022

People in the Geelong region experiencing financial difficulty are now able to receive financial-management support to avoid reaching a crisis point, thanks to Volunteering Geelong’s pilot Financial Literacy Program.

The program has grown from a joint initiative between the Geelong Community Foundation and Give Where You Live, with the aim of fostering a collective response to building financial capability for people in priority populations within the Geelong region. The Geelong Community Foundation’s 2021/22 30,000 grant to Volunteering Geelong has enabled the organisation to offer the Financial Literacy Program.

“What we love about this program is the role skilled volunteers can play to make a huge difference in people’s lives. The existence of waitlists to see a financial counsellor for those who just need to be heard and guided will ensure people don’t end up in crisis. This is a win for the client and a win for the service system,” says Gail Rodgers, CEO of the Geelong Community Foundation.

Along with partner agencies, Volunteering Geelong has developed a team of volunteers that are trained in financial-literacy support to deliver this program by helping participants build skills and confidence around everyday money matters. The volunteer-run free service assists people with building financial knowledge, setting financial goals, creating a budget, reviewing their income and expenses, improving their management of bills and exploring ways to save money, as well as offering financial mentoring and where to go for assistance. It is targeted at people experiencing financial distress who do not have access to financial counselling due to existing waitlists. The service is designed to offer early-intervention support by providing primary financial assistance before the financial pressure reaches a crisis point.

According to Vaughan Lamb, a retired lawyer, Volunteering Geelong Committee member and volunteer facilitator of the program, the most valuable feature of the Financial Literacy Program is “the ability to change the way people look at money”. “Part of this program aims to help people to look at money and their finances in a different way so they develop a more global picture of their finances,” he explains. “The reaction we’ve had from the people we’ve interviewed has been really uplifting to see how they can change their circumstances.”

For program participant Melissa Holmes*, her financial situation has improved drastically. Prior to seeking assistance, “I was in a really bad financial situation,” she says. “I was living pay to pay and it wasn’t working for me, and I finally decided that I needed to get help.” The mother of two says that her situation today is “amazing” compared to what it was like prior to seeking assistance. “I’ve got money saved; I have been able to get myself completely out of debt.” Melissa says that the two most valuable aspects of the program have been not being judged for her financial situation, as well as learning the skills required to transition from being in debt to saving money.

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.