Fast Tracked For Success

ICAN Prison Project team members, Elise Deemal (L); Sharon Edwards (R)

Remember Elise Deemal who was living the dream as a Yarnin’ Money Mentor last time we yarned?  Thanks to CBA’s First Nations Scholarship Program she’s now on track to graduate as a Financial Counsellor later this year and thriving in her new role with ICAN’s Prison Project. We caught up with Elise to get the scoop on her amazing journey.

Hi Elise, it’s great to yarn again!

When we caught up in September 2023 you were working as an ICAN Yarnin’ Money Mentor while completing the CHC51122 Diploma of Financial Counselling Fast Track through CBA’s First Nations Scholarship Program.  Can you tell us what you’ve been up to since then?

Hi guys, thanks for having me back 😊. Well let me tell you I have been busy to say the least, transitioning from my role as Yarnin’ Money Mentor to Financial Counselling Support Officer Trainee, my study, and family time. But I’m loving every minute of it.

Can you tell us what receiving the Fast Track Scholarship means to you?

Receiving the Scholarship not only provides me with the opportunity for higher learning, it’s given me the opportunity to build my future and to be a role model for my family and my people.  Not a lot of us in my family had the opportunity for higher education, we just go out into the workforce to earn money for our living, as opposed to working in something that you’re passionate about, and I’m really passionate about financial counselling. 

What’s your study experience with ICAN Learn been like?

It’s fantastic – and challenging at times! Not only am I’m gaining the knowledge to become a professional financial counsellor, but I’m learning how to work within frameworks, and how to conduct myself ethically both in my professional and personal life. It’s also taught me to be much more organised so I can balance work, study, and family. It’s really brought a new awareness into my life and is changing the way I view things.

I also really enjoy learning online – for me it makes the learning more personal. The ICAN Learn trainers are amazing, especially their acknowledgment of country and First Nations people.  It’s a great career path for First Nations peoples, we desperately need more in the sector.

Why did you choose a career in Financial Counselling?

After I accessed my own financial counselling in my twenties and I knew that it was what I wanted to do.  Back then I was a full-time working mum hustling for my family, with no time to study.  Now it’s my turn. Starting out as Financial Capability Trainee was a foot in the door to a career in financial counselling.  I’m at a place in my life where I feel like I can take control of my future.

You’re now part of ICAN’s Prison Project Financial Counselling team, can you tell us more about that?

It’s been an exciting time for me. Coming from a legal services background made the transition smooth.  My colleagues in the Prison Project team are awesome, and the clients I assist make it easy to come to work every day.  My manager, Sharon Edwards, is an incredible person. She is passionate, patient, and has a great wealth of knowledge. It really shows in her work and the way she helps our clients, she really listens to every word. I feel incredibly grateful to be learning from her.

What sort of issues surprised you when you started providing services to inmates?

What’s surprised me most is the level of need and the types of issues, such as ID and banking challenges, it makes life very difficult. Money is part everyday life, even in prison.  People who are incarcerated cannot self-advocate. They’re not allowed to call their financial institutions. They have time limits on their phone. So to have ICAN visit the centre is a relief for inmates.  Being able to help someone manage or set up a bank account while they’re inside is one less worry for them to deal with and helps them reintegrate into society more easily on release.  I always feel safe when I’m in and around the centre, and the staff are great. Not everyone can do this work, but I think there needs to be an understanding that inmates also have rights.  For me, it’s not about their offending, it’s about their financial life.

Why is it important to have more First Nations peoples working in the Financial Counselling sector?

There’s not a lot of familiar faces in this profession, so I think it’s important that First Nations people are in these sorts of roles to empower our people, our communities, and to let them know that they can do this work as well.  As a First Nations person, wherever I go in Australia – or in my profession – I feel like I’m in the minority. Whereas when I visit the prison, I am in the majority.  It’s a good change for First Nations inmates to have a familiar face helping them with their financial hardship, and they feel more comfortable sharing their story with me.

ICAN provides financial counselling to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. As a First Nations woman, I believe everyone had the right to achieve financial wellbeing.  Seeing our non-Indigenous clients embrace my help is very important to me, it means a lot.

What would you say to encourage other First Nations people to apply for a Scholarship with ICAN Learn?

I would say that Financial Counselling is a wonderful sector to be a part of, I love it so much. It doesn’t matter what age you are when you start studying, you can make a real impact in people’s lives that could change the course of their life.

Financial literacy for modernity is so important. Times are rapidly changing with technology, cyber scams, and the cost of living. The need for financial literacy has never been greater. It’s an important skill for us to have to continue to succeed in today’s world.  And the beauty about this learning is that no one can take it away from you.

You can read more about ICAN’s work with prisons here

Or find out more about ICAN Learn Scholarships here

Do you need help with your personal or corporate training needs? Contact ICAN Learn at:
T: 03 5471 7777