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Rural Financial Counselling Service Southern Queensland (RFCS-SQ) provides free, impartial, confidential and responsive rural financial counselling services across Southern Queensland.
The RFCS Programme in Queensland is funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments.

NEWS

INCREASED RURAL DROUGHT SUPPORT

Recent media announcements about low interest Farmer and Small Business loans and changes to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) Scheme have dramatically increased the demand for financial counselling from the Rural Financial Counselling Service Southern Queensland.

FARM HOUSEHOLD ALLOWANCE
Changes to the FHA payments have been announced.
"The Farm Household Allowance Income Support will be available to primary producers for a total of four years in every 10 year period and more support has been announced," said Rural Financial Counselling Service Southern Queensland Chair, Karen Tully.
Up until now, the FHA support was available three years in a lifetime.
The legislation ensures farmers whose have been receiving FHA payments for three years will have an extension of one year and at the end of four years, will receive a one-off payment of up to $13,000 for a couple and $7500 for a single person.
Minister for Agriculture, Senator Bridget McKenzie commented in media this week that the one off payment is designed to help people determine whether they will be sustainable, should look at succession options or, in some instances choose to sell.
Off-farm earning allowances have been increased from $80,000  to $100,000 a year and will now include agistment income.
The Rural Financial Counselling Service Southern Queensland is funded through the RFCS Program with rural financial counsellors located across 15 locations in Southern Queensland.
The counsellors proactively support eligible rural operators to access free, independent, impartial and confidential support and assistance.
“Over the last 12 months, our organisation has streamlined the process for those rural operators applying for the Farm Household Allowance Support through the inhouse designated Farm Household Allowance Support Centre,” Mrs Tully advised.
The service is experiencing very high workloads currently with the extended drought, damaging bushfires across the region and high enquiries from primary producers about new assistance packages.
For more information go to Centrelink.

REGIONAL INVESTMENT CORPORATION LOANS
Federal announcements about low interest drought loans for farmers and small businesses drought loans have been finalised.
The current Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) drought loans for farmers will be enhanced to offer 2 years interest free, 3 years interest only and 5 years principal and interest.
These loans are for amounts up to $2 million and are available for feed, water, freight, restocking, refinance or anything that might keep a farmers operation going.
The Small Business Drought Loan is for amounts up to $500,000.
The first two years will be no interest and no repayment, followed by three years interest-only and then five years principal and interest.
Eligible small businesses are those that directly provide primary production related goods and services to farm businesses in the most drought-affected communities.
The loan can be used to provide working capital required to help manage their businesses through this drought.
Examples could include harvesting and fencing contractors, carriers, stock and station agents, and businesses dealing in agricultural equipment and repairs.
Businesses not directly linked to the farming sector, such as the local hairdresser or cafe, would not be eligible.
For more information go to the Regional Investment Corporation.

DROUGHT COMMUNITY SUPPORT
Farmers, farm-workers or farm supplier/contractors doing it tough because of drought may be entitled to recieve a one-off payment of $3000 funded by the Australian Government's Drought Community Support Initiative Round 2 (DCSI).
The funding is designed to provide immediate financial assistance to eligible farming households who are facing hardship due to drought, as well as provide much needed stimulus to local businesses.
You can find out which organisation is providing assistance in your local government area here.
For more information go to The Salvation Army or St Vincent de Paul Society.

 

Anyone who would like to discuss their individual situation and to find out more about the support the Rural Financial Counselling Service can provide is urged to contact our Head Office on 07 4622 5500 or one of our counsellors detailed on our website www.rfcssq.org.au.

The RFCSSQ Small Business team (pictured above from left to right, Jo Tardent, Brian Wippell, Michelle Gordon and Lauren Schmidt) are keeping busy with an ever increasing number of small businesses in drought affected regions seeking assistance.

 

ASSISTANCE FOR RURAL BUSH FIRE VICTIMS

Primary producers in the bush fire affected Livingstone, Scenic Rim and Southern Downs Regional Council areas are encouraged to investigate disaster recovery measures including immediate financial assistance, freight subsidies and low interest loans.
Assistance is being provided through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding arrangements.
The Rural Financial Counselling Service Southern Queensland can assist with the applications.

In Livingstone, Scenic Rim and Southern Downs shires, Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) include personal hardship assistance as well as Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) freight subsidies and Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) disaster assistance loans.

Personal Hardship
  • The personal hardship assistance of $180 per person to a maximum of $900 for a family of five or more is designed for an emergency helping hand.
  • For more information click here.

Freight Subsidies
  • Available to transport fodder, building and/or fencing material, equipment and machinery and livestock
  • For more information click here.
Disaster Assistance Loans

Concessional loans of up to $250,000 are available to help primary producers repair or replace fire damaged building, plant and equipment or livestock.
Concessional loans are provided to assist you to re-establish the normal operations of your primary production enterprise by covering costs such as:

  • repairing or replacing damaged plant and equipment
  • repairing or replacing farm buildings
  • purchasing livestock to replace those lost in the disaster event
  • meeting carry-on requirements including:
    • re-planting, restoring or re-establishing areas affected by the disaster event
    • sustenance
    • essential property operations
    • paying rent and rates
  • For more information click here.
For assistance from the Rural Financial Counselling Service, please contact 07 46 22 5500 to access your local RFCSSQ counsellor.

RFCSSQ ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

The 2019 Rural Financial Counselling Service Southern Queensland board is congratulated by RFCSSQ CEO, Jenny Whip (on right). The board are (L to R) James Stinson, Joy Denton, Scott Patterson, Chair, Karen Tully and Avon Hamilton.
(Absent are Andrew Schmidt and Megan Devlin)
AGM REPORT
Roma - November 20, 2019

The Rural Financial Counselling Service Southern Queensland (RFCSSQ) Annual General Meeting was held at the White Bull Tavern function room on Wednesday the 20th of November.
In attendance were the RFCSSQ board, CEO, RFCSSQ counsellors from across Southern Queensland and admin staff.


GUEST SPEAKER
Special invited guest, Sammy Meurant, founder of weekly podcast, 'The Rural Compass', self-described artist and educator and Cunnamulla local spoke about forming connections and building communities.
The Rural Compass is a weekly podcast featuring rural and remote women who are living and working in rural areas of Australia.
Living in rural Queensland, the value of online networking and maximising limited face-to-face interactions was the focus of the AGM presentation.


BOARD TRAINING
The RFCSSQ board undertook Australian Institute of Company Directors governance training while they were in Roma.


Chair, Karen Tully thanked Peter Emery, Facilitator for the Australian Institute of Company Directors for his assistance.

The board directors of the Rural Financial Counselling Service Southern Queensland pride themselves on providing a high level of governance oversight for the organisation. 
They recently came together to gain further understanding of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Not-for-Profit Governance Principles. 
The recently revised principles will assist board members in  guiding their decision making.
Board Chair Karen Tully commented that “maintaining and extending ones knowledge in the areas of risk management, accountability and compliance in the ever changing governance landscape is essential to ensuring  there is a positive and transparent culture that supports our organisations strategy and purpose. 
By attending this workshop, directors have ‘sharpened their governance sword’ and will ensure these skills are put to good use in future planning and decision making”.
IN CONJUNCTION

WHILE YOU'RE IN TOWN
Maximising the opportunity while the board and RFCSSQ staff were in town, there were a series of meetings scheduled around the board's Annual General Meeting.

GENERAL MEETING
The November General meeting was held on Tuesday the 19th of November at the AgForce board room in Wyndham Street, Roma.

QRIDA UPDATE
New staff attended a special meeting with QRIDA staff to explain productivity loans including the first start and sustainability products as well as Category B Disaster Grants and loans.
Daniel Elder also attended and presented to the group on the Farm Debt Restructure office and farm debt mediation.



MEDIA TRAINING

Newly appointed Outreach Communications Officer, Sharon Purcell explained the media strategy of the RFCSSQ including the types of media and their use.
The presentation included taking quality images and recording interviews.
Staff enjoyed a practical session where they practised interviews and recording interviews on their phones.



PHOTOS, PHOTOS, PHOTOS

The team spent every spare minute during meal breaks, posing for updated photos for use on social media and in the newsletter.
ELECTION OF OFFICE BEARERS
November 2019

Election of Office Bearers

Rural Solutions Queensland Inc

Chair
: Karen Tully
Secretary: James Stinson
Treasurer: Megan Devlin
Vice Chair: James Stinson

Management Committee:
Karen Tully
James Stinson
Joy Denton
Scott Patterson
Avon Hamilton
Andrew Schmidt
Megan Devlin

RFCSSQ Program Committee:
Karen Tully
James Stinson
Joy Denton
Scott Patterson
Avon Hamilton
Andrew Schmidt
Megan Devlin

KEEPING UPDATED

FUTURE DROUGHT FUND CONSULTATION

Future Drought Fund consultation committee chair, Brent Finlay (on right), with (L to R) Sharon Purcell, RFCSSQ Outreach Communications Officer, Vicki Beitz, RFCSSQ counsellor, Jenny Whip, RFCSSQ CEO and Future Drought Fund consultation committee member, Dr Kate Andrews.

FUTURE DROUGHT FUND CONSULTATION
Report by Sharon Purcell

The second of fifteen Future Drought Fund consultations was held in Roma on Wednesday the 6th of November. Rural Financial Counselling Service was represented by CEO, Jenny Whip, Counsellor, Vicki Beitz and Outreach Communications Officer, Sharon Purcell.
 
In attendance were; Chair of consultative committee, Brent Finlay and committee member, Dr Kate Andrews, Maranoa Regional Council representatives, stakeholder groups, Member for Warrego, Anne Leahy and a small number of producers.
 
The discussion was focused on understanding the plan and gathering ideas to prepare for an agricultural future with resilience. The broad plan focuses on three key themes; Communities, Landscapes and Agricultural Business.
 
Attendees were urged to encourage member of our own networks to provide feedback via submissions.
The room heard from all in attendance and overall the discussion was centred on a proactive direction for the fund.
 
Some key themes for focus included water, fodder, livestock nutrition, pasture monitoring and property management.
 
Suggestions for funded programs to encourage drought preparation included:
  • improving fodder (molasses, cotton seed and hay) storage infrastructure
  • including producers as contractors for the current dam desilting rebate
  • setting business plans on an individual property basis
  • finding incentives to consider practice changes
  • improving services in regional centres that have declined
  • reducing paperwork and invasive requirements in application forms for assistance
  • ensuring Future Drought Fund dollars are maintained within the fund
  • encourage a longer term plan
  • must be consultation with producers in the next phase when the programs are being discussed
  • fund allocation should include succession planning
  • consider desilting community dams (eg Beardmore)
  • an early trigger should be put in place for funds distribution
  • DAF extensions officers would be beneficial
  • include a charity component in the fund allocations
  • access to an agronomist and/or animal nutritionist
  • no replication of existing programs
  • keep the paperwork simple
  • ensure asset management and protection
  • any assistance should allow/take into consideration off-farm income streams
  • land tenure incentives (eg extend lease)
  • acknowledge knowledge and skill set of producers and not tell them what to do with programs
  • encourage and incentivise education
  • mentor programs
 It was strongly agreed that any program needed local involvement in the planning, delivery and implementation.

TEAM SPOTLIGHT

 
COUNSELLOR'S CORNER

John Lacey is our highly respected Central Queensland Rural Financial Counsellor.
Based in north Rockhampton, John looks after the Rockhampton region including Marlborough, south to Miriam Vale, out to Westwood and east to Yeppoon.

My job:
My role as a Rural Financial Counsellor is a very fulfilling one though with many challenges particularly now in the current dry seasonal/drought conditions.
The role allows me to be involved with people who are often at their lowest and work with them to address their challenges and support them to prepare for a more productive future.
The rate of change occurring in people’s lives seems to be increasing and this in itself brings additional challenges which must be met before positive forward progress can be made. 

 
What’s going on in your area?

Bush fires and drought!

The recent bush fires in the Cobraball, Adelaide Park, Bungundarra, Lake Mary and Maryvale locales have wrought significant loss of housing, property sheds, other infrastructure and machinery with no loss of life thankfully.
For Primary Producers, the main issues are lack of fodder and availability of stock water as over 12,000ha were burnt out with much of the water and power infrastructure destroyed.
Enquiry from affected people is expected once the initial rapid and necessary repairs have been conducted and the more long-term strategies needing to be researched and actions are being considered. 

 
The drought continues to wreak havoc on people’s lives and livelihoods.
This has meant that many formerly profitable primary producers are now being brought to the point where assistance must be sought for material and financial support.
This has resulted in a large increase in enquiry for the FHA payment, RIC Drought Loan support and other government support programs for which all recipients are most appreciative of as they allow them to transition to better times ahead. 
The long-term weather forecast is not overly positive for drought breaking rain soon however farmers are a resilient & determined lot; I expect that they will address the conditions with vigour and determination as they have always done.   


Outside work:
"Having grown up on a pineapple farm, I enjoy gardening and I spend a lot of time helping my retired father  on his fruit farm where he grows bananas, tropical fruit trees.
I also enjoy catching a feed of fish when the weather allows, reading and taking in the sea breezes of a week-end.
Family plays a large and significant role for me and provides the lift needed during times of additional load.  Grand-children are a blessing and the number seems to be ever increasing."

 
You can contact John on 0429 894 474
Our new Charleville Small Business counsellor, Michelle Gordon grew up in Augathella.
Married to Peter, the couple have three adult children; Cameron is a mechanic in Toowoomba, Emma is a dietitian in Cairns and Elsie is a vet nurse in Darwin.
Michelle and Peter own and operate a smash repair business in Charleville.
With an extensive background in accounting, Michelle has a Bachelor of Business (Accounting) from USQ.
A keen horsewoman and dressage competitor, she is a Pony club instructor, pony club show jumping judge and course building, Michelle has always been one of those supportive Mum's, getting involved in organisations that reflected her children's interests.
"I'm looking forward to being of assistance to small businesses in our rural communities in these tricky times."
Recently appointed Rural Financial Counsellor, Nicole Gamack is based at Goondiwindi.
Nicole grew up mainly in Toowoomba where she completed school and her university degree.
Raised with a rural background, Nicole's extended family were beef producers in South West Queensland.
Nicole is a former financial advisor who was working for an accountant and financial planning firm in Toowoomba prior to joining the RFCSSQ.
Nicole holds a Bachelor of Commerce, Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning and is a Commissioner for Declarations.
"I'm really looking forward to helping people in this tough time and into the future."
CEO'S MESSAGE
Jenny Whip

Welcome to our first edition of Rural Finances.
November has been a busy month with our 13th Annual General Meeting held in Roma.

The annual report for the 2018-2019 year outlined a particularly challenging time for those in agriculture and the challenges and struggles our farmers continue to face battling the ongoing drought and climatic events.

During the year the Australian and Queensland Government has continued to support RFCS-Southern Queensland with additional funding to increase rural financial counselling support on the ground. 
Additionally both governments funded approximately another 8 rural financial counsellors to assist with increasing need of farmers seeking assistance or information on available government support measures.

Recently, the Federal Government announced new support measures including a change to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) and Category B assistance for bush fire affected regions which provides freight subsidies and low interest loans for recovery.


During the 2018/2019 year over 800 farmers have been assisted by our rural financial counsellors and at least 90% of our service region is currently in drought, farmers and small business owners are seeking assistance.
The team of rural financial counsellors provide an array of assistance for their clients including; cash flow and budgets, negotiations with lenders, refinancing debt and government assistance applications and information. 

Our thoughts continue to be with those doing it tough; including those impacted with the continual drought and dry conditions and the devastating bush fires.    
Hopefully some much needed rain will soon be on the horizon for Southern Queensland.

Our financial counsellors are here to support farmers and small businesses through these challenging times and can provide you with the latest information on government assistance programs that may be of benefit to you.  

It is vital that farmers do not self-assess and contact the service to find out the assistance that is available. 

I hope you find items of interest in this edition and please let us know how we can assist you further.
Best wishes, 
Jenny





"Thinking of those doing it tough..."


 
CHAIR'S MESSAGE
Karen Tully

The board of Rural Financial Counselling Service held their Annual General Meeting last week,  where all positions were declared vacant. 
Executive members for the 2019 – 2020 year are Karen Tully as Chair, James Stinson as Vice Chair and Secretary and Megan Devlin as Treasurer. 
The executive will be ably supported by Committee Members Joy Denton, Scott Patterson, Avon Hamilton and Andrew Schmidt. 
Board members also undertook some professional development training by spending time carefully examining the AICD Not-for-Profit Governance Principles in relation to their governance role and decision-making processes.

In the ever-changing governance landscape, it is vital that directors fully understand and provide a positive and transparent culture that focuses on risk management, accountability and compliance.
The board notes that workloads within the operational team continues to remain high, with clients from the beef cattle, mixed grain, fruit and nut business sectors forming the majority of client assistance hours. 

With recent announcements of the availability of interest free loans for eligible primary producers by the Regional Investment Corporation, we have seen continued requests for client assistance. 
The board also welcomes the recent announcement by the Australian Government that the Farm Household Allowance Income Support will now be available to primary producers for a total of four years in every 10-year period. 
The passing of this legislation will enable those farmers whose time on the Farm Household Allowance payment expired this financial year, to receive a one-ff payment of up to $13 000 for a couple or $7500 for a single person. 
If any primary producers are interested in knowing more about these support measures, please contact the RFCS – SQ on 46225500, to request a confidential and free appointment with a rural financial counsellor.

On behalf of the team, I would like to wish all in our communities a Christmas and New Year season that focuses on hope and joy for the coming year, along with some gently falling rain across the regions. 

Remember, if you are searching for presents in the coming weeks, please consider purchasing your gifts from rural Australia to show your support for small businesses facing drought, and to assist in spreading Christmas cheer. 
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Karen Tully




"..ever-changing governance landscape.."


 
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