Help for farmers and regional small business in Western Victoria

The Rural Financial Counselling Service has been a trusted community partner in business support since 1986.

Confidential, Independent and Local

Services Overview...

Wellbeing Support

Our wellbeing team was established to work alongside our financial counsellors.

We help clients deal with their wellbeing because we are aware that the stresses of financial challenges can take their toll. 

Small Business Support provides a range of services for small business owners operating through challenging times.

We can help you formulate a business plan, identify solutions for cash flow, and consolidate loans.  

go to wellbeing page >

Small Business Support

go to farm page >

We help you assess your financial position, identify opportunities and weigh up options.

We can help with succession planning, negotiate with banks, apply for grants and much more. 

Financial Counselling

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Latest News

Pyrenees Council and Agriculture Victoria provide strategies for recovery and long term farm planning.

After the brutal and terrifying results of bushfire has left it’s indelible mark on buildings, farmland and stock, it can be difficult to know where to turn for support. No doubt there are farmers in Western Victoria concerned about their financial position and weighing up their future on the land after this summer’s fiery gift. It’s a stressful, uncertain time for any victim of bushfire disaster but there are supports out there and not just from RFCS Victoria West. Local and State Governments have sprung into action to provide practical assistance and planning strategies to help now and into the future.

Pyrenees Shire Fire Recovery Outreach Sessions – Raglan and Amphitheatre

Outreach sessions will be held every Tuesday and Thursday in Raglan and Amphitheatre up until April 4. Council officers will attend these sessions to help fire-impacted residents access the support they need. Drop in any time during the session, no appointment needed.

  • Raglan Hall – from 12pm to 1.30pm every Tuesday and Thursday until April 4
  • Amphitheatre Hall – 2pm to 3.30pm every Tuesday and Thursday until April 4

Planning your Recovery

A whole farm planning course for Beaufort district farmers

RFCS VicWest are proud to promote this fantastic free series of workshops by Agriculture Victoria.

Farmers affected by the recent Bayindeen – Rocky Road bushfire are invited to attend a 4 to 6 week whole farm planning course at Beaufort beginning Thursday 11 April.

Making farms more productive, efficient and sustainable while at the same time protecting natural assets like soil, water and the natural environment.

Workshop topics include:

  • farm design and layout
  • soils and land classing
  • pasture and grazing/feed management
  • farm water supply
  • farm business planning
  • adapting to a changing climate

“I did the FarmPlan 21 course following the Moyston fire. It helped me redesign paddocks and importantly got me off the farm and sharing with others for a few hours each week.”

David Coad, Moyston
Event Details:

Start Date: Thursday 11 April then every Thursday from 4 – 6 weeks

Time: 10am – 3am

Where: Beeripno Development Centre
1 Lawrence Street, Beauort

Cost: Free, lunch provided

PIC needed: Please update your PIC before registering for this workshop

For more information or to register, go to the Agriculture Victoria Website here.

To register directly click here.

For free and confidential assistance with financial problems on the farm, contact RFCS Victoria West here.

25 March 2024

Fire Recovery Workshops and Outreach Sessions


Payments announced for fire impacted Victorians

Residents in the Pomonal area who have been significantly impacted by recent fires are now able to apply for the Australian Government’s Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP).

Available for people who suffered serious damage or injury as a result of the bushfires, eligible residents can receive $1,000 per eligible adult and $400 per eligible child to help with the immediate costs of recovery.

Minister for Government Services, the Hon Bill Shorten said that
“The AGDRP supports those who have experienced the worst this event has to offer get through tough times by helping to replace some essential items that were lost.”

Residents will be able to check their eligibility on the Services Australia Website The quickest way to claim a payment will be online through myGov

If people need help to claim, they can call the Australian Government Emergency information line on 180 22 66 between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. If they want to speak to someone in their language, they can also call the Centrelink multilingual phone service on 131 202

The federal payment builds on disaster assistance measures jointly funded with the Victorian Government, which are already available in areas impacted by the fires and February 13 storms including:

• Personal hardship payments of $640 per adult and $320 per child up to a maximum of $2,240 per eligible family to help cover the costs of essentials like food, clothing, medication and accommodation.

• Emergency re-establishment grants of up to $49,300 for people who are uninsured and their primary place of residence has been destroyed or is uninhabitable.

• Prolonged Power Outages Payments of up to $1,920 per week for households and up to $2,927 per week for up to three weeks for affected small businesses.

The Emergency Recovery Hotline has been activated to process calls from anyone affected by fires or storms. To access recovery support, affected residents can call the Hotline on 1800 560 760.

RFCS Victoria West has people on the ground to help primary producers and small business owners affected by fires and other natural disasters. If you need help in understanding the eligibility criteria, completing applications or negotiating with insurers, give us a call or send a message here. Our wait times are short and our services are free.

29 February 2024

Disaster Recovery Payment

Orange smoke in the distance on a regional Victorian road


Strategies and Support at the Four Posts Hotel

It’s never easy to ask for help, especially from a counsellor. There’s an unrealistic expectation that farmers should deal with every obstacle that appears on their farm with the dexterity of a kelpie in a sheep pen. It seems ridiculous that they blame themselves for not easily recovering from extreme weather events or economic downturns, or for somehow adjusting to lower stock or grain prices, or for a million other things that disrupt their income. And it seems puzzling that they would not seek help from a counsellor when financial hardship is threatening their farm, business, family or mental health. But that is exactly what happens in many cases, and the RFCS (Rural Financial Counselling Service) is determined to bury the stigma associated with counselling.

Enter Heidi Chrislett and Adrian Polkinghorne from The Four Posts Hotel in Jarklin. Here’s a couple of community minded entrepreneurs who are taking positive steps to connect the services of the RFCS Vic West to their local clientele. The publicans have welcomed financial and wellbeing counsellors from the Service to use their facilities as a meeting space each Thursday.

“Farming is a tough gig” says Heidi, “we know that from firsthand experience – Adrian still very much a farmer at heart regardless of the fact that he is spending all his time renovating the Four Posts right now.                                                                                                                                

We see our role at the pub as offering a reprieve from the hard work and the constant pressure associated with life on the farm (and I’m talking about our customers, not Adrian). We normally do that by offering food, drink, and entertainment in comfortable surroundings, but it makes sense to extend that to real, practical help. If RFCS can provide that to our local farmers and business owners it helps make a better, stronger community and it’s good for business – theirs, ours, everybody’s.”

The relationship between The Four Posts and RFCS began soon after the 2022-23 floods that swept through farmlands and townships across much of Western Victoria. One of the RFCS financial counsellors grew up on a farm not far from the Hotel and often returned (with his dog) to catch up with family and old friends. He was helping his brother-in-law out on the farm during the floods when he mentioned his day job to Heidi one night. Applications for flood assistance grants were taking up most of his time at that stage but face to face appointments at client’s properties were proving to be a challenge under the circumstances. “Well why don’t you hold your appointments here?” suggested Heidi. And just like that, The Four Posts became a hub for locals wanting help with flood assistance grants.

RFCS VicWest CEO David Stafford is delighted by the arrangement: “Our Vision is to promote strong communities, and this is exactly the sort of activity we want to be involved with” he said. “This is community working from the ground up and not being afraid to be proactive. It’s a great opportunity and it’s up to us now to prove our worth, to get to a point where farmers will call us as readily as they would their accountant, veterinarian or stock agent.”

Torrential rain on Christmas day undoubtedly sent anxiety levels soaring for those impacted by flood less than 12 months earlier, and recent heavy rain is again posing a serious threat to some communities. Repercussions from the 22-23 floods are still having an effect on the region and are the instigator for appointments with financial and wellbeing counsellors. Many are still repairing their houses or waiting for tradespeople to do so. Others are negotiating with insurers, refinancing properties and facing creditors. And while most financial counsellors aren’t that great with a nail gun, they do excel with unravelling red tape, form filling and negotiating with insurers, banks and creditors.

RFCS counsellors live and work in rural and regional areas across Western Victoria and know the landscape. Primary producers or business owners in the Jarklin region can book an appointment by calling 1300 735 578 and meet face to face in a quiet spot at the pub to seek the assistance they need. Those outside the area or wishing to meet in the privacy of their own home can call for an appointment at a time and place of their choosing. RFCS services are confidential and free.

For more information on our financial counselling services, follow these links: farm | small business | wellbeing

15 January 2024

A Schooner Full of Strategies

Bendigo-Swan Hill, News

What to do now and down the sodden track

Twelve months after the Campaspe River burst its banks in Rochester, residents and business owners must feel like it’s Groundhog Day. The rural township is just one of the dozen or so Victorian towns dealing with flood water following two days of torrential rain in the Lake Eppalock catchment area.

A broad band of rain swept most of the State on Christmas Day with falls of up to 100mm in some areas. Two weeks later, a low pressure system once again made its way from the North West with Heathcote topping the State with a massive 141mm in 24 hours. It was only a matter of time before the river systems started offloading it’s excess water into low lying land downstream.

If your farm property or business has been, or is likely to be affected by flooding, you have probably thrown a short-term plan into place. If you’re still facing the Vic Emergency offers some fantastic tips on what you should and shouldn’t be doing in this type of scenario.

For urgent animal welfare issues call the Vic Emergency Hotline: 1800 226 226

For flood impact on farms including stored grain, feed, silage, property damage etc. go to the Ag Vic website and fill in the Income Assessment form.

For insurance claims or possible future flood grants take photos and/or videos (when safe to do so) of flood waters and associated damage.

For urgent mental health/wellbeing issues go to our contacts page for a variety of emergency support providers.

If you’re wondering about the long-term consequences of flood damage and the viability of your business (farm or non-farm) moving forward, the RFCS can help you assess your options. Head to our Farm or Small Business pages to see more information on our services or call us on 1300 735 578.

11 January 2024

Flood Recovery

Aerial shot of severe flooding in a regional Victorian town.


The festive season, while joyous for many, can be a challenging time for some residents in rural and regional Victoria. The isolation that characterizes these areas is often exacerbated during Christmas, contributing to mental health issues.

In our close-knit communities, the pressure to conform to the traditional festive cheer can intensify feelings of loneliness and isolation for those who may not have close family ties or a robust support system. The absence of bustling city activities leaves some feeling disconnected and excluded.

Cost of living and other economic hardships may also amplify stress during the holidays. Financial strains can lead to heightened anxiety, as families grapple with the pressure to provide a memorable Christmas despite tight budgets.

Furthermore, the stigma surrounding mental health in smaller communities may deter individuals from seeking help. Limited access to mental health services compounds this issue, and many feel they have little or no support.

If you struggle through this period, here are 5 tips to help you get through Christmas:

  1. Community Connection: Engage with local community events and support networks. Attend Christmas gatherings or volunteer for festive activities to foster connections and combat feelings of isolation. Local community centers or online platforms may provide information on events and opportunities.
  2. Financial Planning: Farmers and small business owners can seek assistance from the financial and wellbeing counsellors at RFCS (1300 735 578). Individuals may seek assistance from local financial counseling services and organizations like the National Debt Helpline (1800 007 007) can offer advice to individuals and help them make informed decisions.
  3. Reach Out for Support: Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or local mental health services for support. Initiatives like Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) and Lifeline (13 11 14) provide confidential counseling and resources, ensuring individuals don’t face their challenges alone. See more support services below.
  4. Embrace Technology: Leverage technology to bridge distances. Connect with loved ones through video calls or social media to maintain a sense of closeness, especially if physical travel is challenging. Online support groups may also provide a virtual community for those facing similar experiences.
  5. Self-Care Practices: Prioritize self-care by incorporating simple daily routines that promote mental well-being. This could include regular exercise, mindfulness exercises, or engaging in hobbies. Resources like Head to Health ( offer information on mental health and well-being strategies.

It’s important to note that these tips are general suggestions, and individuals should tailor their approach based on their unique circumstances. Seeking professional advice and support is encouraged for those facing significant challenges during the Christmas period.

Lifeline13 11 14
Lifeline Text0477 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back1300 659 467
Kids Helpline1800 551 800
Mensline Australia1300 789 978
Carer Support1800 242 636
13 Yarn13 92 76
The Imperfects Podcast
Make me Feel Good (ABC)Podcast
Mindfully (ABC)Podcast
Good Humans Podcast (Apple)Podcast (Spotify)
Just SleepPodcast

11 December 2023

The Silent Struggle

News, Wellbeing

RFCS Victoria West is heading to Torquay this week to embark on its annual training conference. 

The conference is a rare opportunity for stakeholders to catch up face to face. Delegates will participate in team building exercises and learn more about current challenges facing farmers and small business owners. Off the back of a global pandemic and with severe weather events occuring more often, people in rural areas are feeling the pinch, both financially and mentally. The role of RFCS counsellors is to help clients navigate the pitfalls of running farms or small businesses through trying times. Engaging with stakeholders and training is a critical ingredient in ensuring the skills of RFCS staff are as good as they can be, and help ensure that they offer the best guidance possible.

This year, a range of highly experienced speakers will enlighten the team on various aspects of farm business and challenges for mental health. Rural Bank representatives will outline their thoughts on the Economic Outlook for the Ag Industry. Cam Nicholson from Nicon Rural Services will speak on Decision Making and Farm Carbon Credits.  A panel of community engagement workers from Meli, CAFS, and Anglicare will discuss Gambling Behaviour – how it is affecting rural communities, what we can do to address addiction, and how we can minimise the fallout?

Besides guest speakers, sessions will be held using case studies with open discussions on particular challenges and approaches for best outcomes. Formal training concludes with a discussion about what the organisation has learned in 2023 and what we expect to face in the coming year.

For an organisation that covers half of Victoria with staff based in several rural and regional towns, it is vitally important for opportunities like annual conferences to help unite people and share experiences. While RFCS pride themselves on face to face visits with clients, their staff most commonly communicate with each other via online services like video calls or emails. But while technology provides efficiencies in this area, there’s nothing quite like meeting somebody in the flesh to form a strong working relationship and Torquay is especially anticipated for new staff members who will be putting faces to names.

RFCS Victorial West would like to thank event sponsors Melbourne Convention Bureau and Business Events Victoria with their assistance in holding this important event.

Download Official Training Day Program here.

13 November 2023

Annual Training Conference

Photo of conference venue: The Sands Hotel in Torquay, Victoria



In farming we all have different stress levels of what we’re doing. If you want to know where you’re going with things, and there’s lots of aspects to it, it’s not just budgeting, there’s succession planning, there’s approaching banks, there’s lots of arms in what they (RFCS) do and they’re very good at all those things.

.Our stress levels have reduced a heck of a lot and mentally we (well I) feel a lot better because I know exactly what direction we’re going in.

Our Service Area

Our team covers the entire Western Victoria region. Unlike other services in the sector, the vast majority of our client consultations are face to face, so get the kettle on and save your petrol tickets, we’re on our way to you.

Working within these West Victoria shires

Great South Coast - Barwon

Hamilton - Central Highlands

Bendigo - Swan Hill

Wimmera - Southern Mallee

Sunraysia - Millewa