EnergyAustralia scholarship program reaps the rewards

Johanna Barnard becomes the first graduate of the EnergyAustralia Diploma of Financial Counselling Scholarship Program.

Johanna Barnard works with the Centacare Reunification Service in South Australia and was a recipient of one of the ICAN Learn/ EnergyAustralia [EA] scholarships in 2018. She is the first graduate of the EA scholarship program which provided opportunities for people across South Australia, Queensland, NSW and Victoria to become financial counsellors and really make a difference to vulnerable consumers. 

Bernadette Pasco, Executive Officer at ICAN Learn, caught up with Johanna to congratulate her and get some background about the program’s benefits and outcomes. 

Johanna, tell us a bit about why you wanted to undertake financial counselling.

“I wanted to undertake the Diploma of Financial Counselling because we identified financial difficulty as a primary need in our client group. Financial stress can influence the choices clients make and prevent them from focusing on other challenges in their lives.’’ 

Centacare’s Reunification Service works with families referred by the Department for Child Protection after the children have been removed and placed in care and aim to build parenting capacity so that the family can live together again.

We’d really like to know more about how this makes a difference to consumers on the ground. 

“Often, we identify financial hardship as a critical issue early on when we start working with clients. This may be due to decreased parents’ Centrelink payments when their children are no longer in their primary care. This reduction in income is a significant barrier for parents since it prevents them from maintaining suitable housing requirements to be reunified with their children. 

What’s the best part of combining your social work career with financial counselling? 

The best part about being a social worker and a financial counsellor is that I now really understand the role of financial advocacy in altering the life course of vulnerable families. I can use these skills in addition to my role as a social worker, to provide holistic support to clients in a non-judgmental way. I can empower them to understand their finances, their rights, and enable them to take control of changing their situation. Working as both a social worker and financial counsellor means that the client only needs to tell their story once, which makes a real difference.”

It’s clear from Johanna’s experience that the link between social work and financial counselling is really beneficial. 

“Working as a financial counsellor and a social worker assists clients to set achievable goals. I can help them understand their relationship with money and make certain choices due to personal experiences. Understanding this link can empower them to make a change in other areas of their life, including decision making; and enable them to take back control.” 

If you could say one thing about your development as a financial counsellor, what would it be? 

“The financial counselling development and education I have experienced through ICAN Learn have equipped me with the skills, knowledge and tools to enhance the support I provide clients. I’m going to utilise the ongoing training, supervision and mentorship provided through the financial counselling sector to continue to build my skills and achieve positive outcomes for clients.” 

ICAN Learn congratulates Johanna on her achievement. It’s no mean feat to work, study and achieve the goal of a new qualification! Thanks, Johanna, for your hard work and dedication to your clients and sharing your knowledge with other students in the EnergyAustralia/ICAN Learn scholarship program. Well done! 

‘Social workers add a great deal of value to the financial counselling sector,’’ says Bernadette Pasco, “their skills and knowledge are aligned with financial counselling approaches, and the Diploma of Financial Counselling puts the icing on the cake for better client outcomes.” 

If you’d like to find out more about the Diploma of Financial Counselling, please visit our register training organisation website at