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


Flood recovery grants final claim date extended.

The claim date for applicants who successfully applied for a Primary Producer Flood Recovery grant for the October 2022 floods and storms has been extended from 13 January 2024 to 31 May 2024.

This date extension applies to successful applicants of the:

  • Primary Producer Flood Recovery Grant
  • Rural Landholder Grant
  • Transport Support Program
  • This extension provides primary producers and rural landholders additional time to undertake their recovery activities and finalise their claims for Tier 2 payments.

    While an extension has been provided, grant recipients are encouraged to make their re-imbursement claims as soon as possible.

    If you need more information or some assistance in claiming further payments, give RFCS a call or head to the Agriculture Victoria website.

    9 November 2023

    Extension to Flood Recovery Grant Claims

    A flooded vineyard in the Mildura region of Victoria


    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

    In a time when mental health issues in the farming community are at an all-time high, the Wellbeing team at Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) Victoria West have developed Talk the Talk, a workshop specifically designed for rural suppliers and service providers to make it easier to talk to farmers about their mental health.

    Designed by Wellbeing Counsellor Ann-Marie Byrne, and Community Liaison Jo Beard, the workshop teaches participants about awareness, observation skills and strategies, while providing easy to use techniques. As an experienced counsellor in regional and rural Victoria, Ann-Marie is sensitive to the isolated nature of the industry and how best to speak to farmers. Choosing the right environment and knowing how to start a conversation are two key factors. Knowing what you can do to support somebody and being aware of other professional providers that can help is just part of a comprehensive approach taken in Talk the Talk.

    The second of these workshops is scheduled for the Cobden Recreation Reserve on Friday 11 August.

    Invitations are going out to a broad cross section of the farm sector supply chain including vets, ag suppliers, medical providers, contractors, and tanker drivers. Individuals or businesses with an investment in their rural community are encouraged to participate.

    For more information about upcoming workshops or to express an interest in attending/hosting this free, 3-hour workshop, please contact Jo Beard via email: Jo.Beard@wswrcs.com.au.

    9 August 2023

    Talk the Talk set for Cobden

    News, Wellbeing

    The impact of the ongoing flood crisis throughout Victoria will be felt by many communities well after the waters recede.

    Financial burden, feelings of stress, anxiety and loss can be overwhelming during times of crisis.  We know how difficult it can be to know when or how to reach out for help but we are always here looking out for people just like you. And it’s as easy as a making a phone call.

    Our Rural Financial Counsellors (RFCs) and Wellbeing Counsellors (WBCs) are on the ground, working in local communities alongside farmers and small business owners. They live in the area and understand local conditions. Most importantly, they care for rural communities.

    We can arrange to meet with you on the farm, at your business or another convenient location.

    Contact us on 1300 735 578 or request a call for an initial chat with one of team.



    Government Flood Grants are now closed for flood events that occurred from October 2022 to January 2023. We know that repurcussions from the floods are still being felt, however, and we are still available to help those affected by the disaster. Our financial counsellors can help you identify options, negotiate with insurers and much more to help you get back on your feet.

    Find out more about Rural Financial Support here.

    Find out more about Small Business Support here.



    Times of crisis can be overwhelming.  The impact can be felt immediately and for months after the event has passed.  Everyone is affected differently.

    Planning and decision-making can be difficult, especially when life has a number of distractions and disruptions. Focusing on your wellbeing is just as important as finding solutions to practical and financial problems. It will assist in a holistic recovery and make you stronger than you ever thought possible.

    Our wellbeing team work alongside our rural and small business financial counsellors to ensure that your state of mind receives as much attention as your bank balance. The wellbeing team has been established specifically for small business owners, farmers and their families.

    Support is Free and Confidential. Find out more about our Wellbeing service here.

    25 July 2023

    Flood Recovery


    Applications for the Federal Government Flood Assistance Grant close on the 13th July 2023.

    The Rural Financial Counselling Service is available to help primary producers affected by floods from
    November 2022 in completing an application for the grant.

    Simply call the RFCS on 1300 735 578 to organise a free and confidential appointment. But hurry, time
    is running out.

    22 June 2023

    Last chance for Flood Assistance Grant


    RURAL Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) Victoria West values its association with the Victorian Government and Business Victoria’s Small Business Bus, with more than 20 additional events scheduled over the coming months.

    Financial Counsellors will be available for rural and regional small business owners for 45-minute support sessions; all free and confidential.

    The Bus will travel around the State with other services supporting people to develop business ideas and capabilities.

    The Small Business Bus currently offers information through various Government organisations, business assistance from expert advisers, and financial business counselling through RFCS.

    RFCS Victoria West Executive Officer David Stafford said the Small Business Bus is a practical solution for the busy lifestyles of rural and regional business owners.

    “The Small Business Bus is a fantastic initiative, and we are proud to continue to support the program that travels across our vast region,” he said.

    “We understand that sometimes people are busy and would prefer to stay in their own towns or try and duck out when its quiet to have a quick discussion to see what support is, or may be, available.

    “Our involvement in the program also allows us to stay in touch with local business owners and make sure we are across all issues being faced in our local communities.

    “We are a free and confidential service, and we are only a call away. If you can’t book onto the Small Business Bus, you can call us on 1300 735 578.”

    To book a session with a Financial Counsellor please visit https://bit.ly/businessbusbooking or contact us on 1300 735 578.

    20 April 2023

    Small Business Bus to visit more than 20 towns by June

    A man standing in front of a purple bus, posing, with an image of a man in a red shirt to the right. The sky is cloudy.


    Rural Financial Counselling Services (RFCS) across Victoria and Tasmania have come together to expand on ways to help farm and small business owners in rural and regional communities as the cost of living continues to rise.

    More than 50 financial counsellors and wellbeing counsellors from RFCS Victoria West, RFCS Gippsland, RFCS Victoria North East, Rural Business Tasmania and representatives from Agriculture Victoria attended the Social Connection Training Conference in Melbourne recently.

    It was a poignant conference based around how each not-for-profit service could better support their communities as the ripple effects of fire, flood, drought, inflation and COVID continues to impact.

    A group of people gather around.

    The attendees at the 2023 Social Connection conference.

    A range of topics were covered including windfall tax, succession planning, negotiation skills, insurance claims and advanced techniques for wellbeing counsellors in dealing with clients.

    RFCS Victoria West Executive Officer David Stafford, the host of the conference for 2023, said the past few years have highlighted the importance of social connection and quality service delivery.

    “Our clients rely on us to provide the most up to date and relevant services in an ever-changing environment,” he said.

    “Conferences like this provide opportunities for us to build on our experience and knowledge base and to feed a passion that is unique to not-for-profit organisations offering free service and support like ours.

    “In the same week as the lights went out at the Gabba during an AFL match, many Victorian primary producers and rural small businesses are struggling to keep their own lights on. A succession of extreme weather events, COVID repercussions, fuel price hikes and interest rate rises has created financial and mental health concerns across the State, and it’s our job to help consider and present options to ease the pain for our clients.”

    11 April 2023

    Succession Planning, Windfall Tax and more

    A group of people sit in the audience of a conference in Melbourne,


    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

    For many of us around here, this time of year means the return of our rural and regional agricultural shows – and not forgetting the Melbourne Royal Show opening this week.

    This year we might be looking forward to the return of the shows with a little more anticipation than usual, with so many postponed or cancelled over the last couple of years – but back with a bang, especially the ones with fireworks planned.

    In our region (Victoria’s regional west), the show calendar kicks off at Horsham this weekend. And while we might call it ‘the show’, it’s officially The Grand Annual 144th Horsham Agricultural Show. We think that’s pretty special and worth a trip to Horsham from wherever you might be. But we do love an agricultural show.

    At Horsham you can catch whipcracking, a miniature goat show, a shearing competition, a wool handling competition, yard dog trials and heaps more.

    According to the website, this year’s show will be held this Saturday 24 (twilight to 9pm) and Sunday 25 (10am-10pm). Kids 15 and under are free and there’ll be fireworks on Sunday night at 8.30pm.

    Website: horshamshow.com.au/horsham-show

    Facebook: facebook.com/horshamshow

    You can line up Murtoa Show and Swan Hill show for the following weekend, so pace yourself, if you can!

    Murtoa’s show is on Friday 30, a part of Murtoa’s Big Weekend, which looks amazing. The Stick Shed will be open all weekend with an art show and there’s a market by the lake. Friday’s show even includes a biggest weed competition. Fireworks are scheduled to wrap up the GrainCorp Lake Party.

    Murtoa Show and Big Weekend flyer

    Website: murtoabigweekend.com.au

    Facebook: facebook.com/MurtoaBigWeekend

    By the way, it’s only 2hrs and 12 minutes from Murtoa to Swan Hill. Swan Hill’s show runs Friday September 30-Saturday October 1, with a fireworks display Friday 9pm. 

    Swan Hill Show flyer

    Website: www.swanhillshow.com.au

    Facebook: facebook.com/swanhill.show

    If you live a little closer to the SA or NSW border, you might have some shows lined up to attend or participate in across the border. The Melbourne Royal Show starts tomorrow, Thursday 22 Sep-Sunday 2 October. Vic ag shows can be found on this handy online calendar from Victorian Agricultural Shows: vicagshows.com.au/show-calendar .

    In 2022, we can pencil in Goroke, St Arnaud, Kerang, Elmore & District Machinery Field Days, Donald, Kaniva, Sunbury, Camperdown, Boort, Rainbow, Mildura, Geelong, Nhill, Barham Koondrook, Dimboola, Charlton, Maldon, Jeparit*, Bendigo, Stawell, Ararat, Castlemaine, Warrnambool and Dookie – and that’s only October, in our Vic west region.

    In November we can look forward to Colac, Coleraine, Port Fairy, Ballarat, Casterton, Koroit, Kyneton, Clunes, Edenhope, Noorat, Beaufort and Daylesford.

    Have we missed any?

    *Correction: Jeparit’s show won’t be going ahead for 2022 but planning has begun for their 125th show in 2023.

    21 September 2022

    It’s showtime!

    Events, News

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