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

Rural Financial Counselling Service Victoria West’s (RFCS VicWest) spirits were not dampened as the team joined a wet and windy Elmore Field Days from Monday October 3 to Thursday October 5.

Members of the RFCS VicWest team took to the grounds in Elmore to talk with farmers and business owners about where they’re at and what support they may need now and into the future.

RFCS VicWest Executive Officer David Stafford said it was a brilliant event and continued to highlight the ways in which the service works directly with its community.

“’How am I going? What can I do’ is a question for many farmers in the region who we’ve recently assisted with flood recovery grants – so hitting the ground running this year at Elmore Field Days was another key milestone for our 2023,” he said.

“Elmore Field Days is a great opportunity for our team to learn about current issues affecting the farming and small business community as they happen.

“Our counsellors are passionate about their work because they live in the region, many from farming backgrounds themselves. When they visit a client at their farm, the connection is real – there’s a sincerity about helping one of their own.

“With counsellors that come to a client’s home, farm or business, and short waiting lists, our service maintains a positive and trusted reputation within rural and regional communities. We thank the Elmore Field Days committee for again welcoming us to their event.”

RFCS has been working with farmers since 1986, and as a not-for-profit business offers free and confidential support for them and small business owners across Western Victoria. The service also includes wellbeing support for clients and their families.

Storm events, droughts, floods, and bushfire are common reasons for calling the RFCS for help, but less obvious is the assistance we can provide for farmers and small business owners facing climbing interest rates and rising costs.

Aside from clarifying your financial position, our counsellors can negotiate with lenders or creditors on your behalf. They can assist with a refinancing strategy, debt mediation, and exit or succession planning if you’re ready to retire and hand over the farm or business to one or more of your children.

5 October 2023

RFCS VicWest hits the ground at Elmore Field Days

Bendigo-Swan Hill, News

Supporting Farmers & Small Businesses throughout their Flood Recovery Journey. 

The government recently announced support measures for flood impacted business. The extent of the damage across the state means many communities are eligible for support. The flood grants are available now, with some grants continuing to be available for the next six months. 

Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) Victoria West’s rural and small business financial counsellors and wellbeing counsellors are on the ground working alongside farmers and small business owners impacted by the damaging and unpredictable nature of the floods.  

“We appreciate that it can be difficult during times of crisis to know when or how to reach out for help, or even if you qualify.  First and foremost, I encourage people to avoid  self-assessing their eligibility as you may miss out on valuable assistance – there are many communities impacted by floods right across Victoria.  Our financial counsellors are available to have the conversation no matter the level of impact.  We’re here to help farmers and small business owners understand their entitlements, access grants and funding as well as link them and their family in with additional supports to ease their recovery journey,” says Mr. David Stafford, RFCS Victoria West Executive Officer. 

During times of crisis, it’s common for mental health and wellbeing issues to also become a concern.  Feelings of stress, anxiety and loss can all make the rebuilding journey that much more difficult.  At RFCS Victoria West, we have a team of qualified wellbeing counsellors available to ensure anyone eligible or currently working with a financial counsellor is fully supported.   

Our counsellors live and work in and around the communities in which we service making them highly accessible, locally relevant, and available for long-term engagement.   The service is free, confidential and we can come to you; in your home, on your farm, in your small business, wherever you feel most comfortable. 

Reach out when you’re ready, on 1300 735 578

For additional information see the Official Government Media Release.

5 December 2022

Support for Farmers and Small Businesses

Bendigo-Swan Hill, Central Highlands, Events, Farm business, Great South Coast, News, Small business, Sunraysia-Millewa, Wellbeing, Wimmera-Southern Mallee

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