RBS expands rural financial counselling capacity in Mid and Upper North

Rural Business Support (RBS) has appointed two new rural financial counsellors to give the organisation greater capacity to support farming families in South Australia who are experiencing financial hardship.

Well known locals in their communities, Caroline Reichstein and Paul Erkelenz are the newest members of the RBS Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) team. They will work with drought affected farming families in the Mid North, Upper North and Pastoral regions, along with fellow local rural financial counsellor (RFC) Darren Longbottom.

The appointments take the number of RFCs supporting rural businesses in South Australia and Northern Territory to 16 compared to 12 at the same time last year. The two additional contingency roles are being funded under the Federal Government’s recently announced Drought Relief Package.

RBS CEO Brett Smith said that recent adverse events including drought, frost and hail storms had taken a heavy toll on many farming families, but talking with a rural financial counsellor could often help people to find a way through.

“Whether it’s looking at financial assistance including the Farm Household Allowance and drought payments that can tide a household over until income levels improve, exploring new loan options through the Regional Investment Corporation, or business transfer or exit plans, these are just some of the ways our team can lead farming families through making the decisions that need to be made,” Mr Smith said.

“For anyone in any type of business who’s under pressure financially and mentally, it can be tough to see their way forward. Throw in the daily demands of running a farm business and it can be a big ask for families to find what it takes to step back and ask for help.

“Our experienced RFCs can sit down with families at their kitchen tables, throw around some suggestions and perhaps provide a bit of clarity during what may otherwise seem a pretty uncertain and overwhelming time.”

Mr Smith said that aside from “the business stuff”, it was important for those in rural communities to take stock of where they’re at with managing their health and wellbeing.

“We’d encourage farmers to look out for themselves, their family and their neighbours,” he said. “If you feel like you’re not coping, get in to see your local GP or contact the Regional Access Network – it’s a free counselling service for people living in regional SA.

“Another useful, free and farmer-specific resource is www.ifarmwell.com.au.

“There’s a range of support services available and our common denominator is that we’re all here to help.”

Supported by the Australian Government and Governments of South Australia and the Northern Territory, Rural Business Support is currently supporting more than 500 farmers and rural related businesses across SA and NT. To be connected with a rural financial counsellor call 1800 836 211 or email admin@ruralbusinesssupport.org.au.

About Caroline Reichstein

Caroline has an extensive background in agricultural consultancy and training roles. Previously she has worked as a consultant with The Lucas Group, a leading national agribusiness recruitment and consulting company, a Client Services Manager with national business transition and succession planning organisation, Next Rural and as an agronomist with Landmark.

Caroline is a familiar face in the Mid North, currently co-operating a family farming organisation. She also is a co-director of AusKnowledge Network, a national agricultural training organisation and volunteers with a number of community groups including SA Ambulance Service.

About Paul Erkelenz
It was while jackarooing on a sheep station in the North West Pastoral region of South Australia that Paul “fell in love” with the outback and its people before undertaking tertiary studies in agriculture. Since then, he has accrued more than 33 years of experience working in remote and regional SA, WA, NSW and NT in a range of advisory, consulting and project management roles, primarily focusing on farm business management and natural resources management issues in pastoral and marginal mixed farming enterprises.

Paul has extensive experience in the development of business plans and solid skills in business financial analysis. His passion throughout his career has been working with pastoral and farming family businesses, to help them succeed over the long term, through good times and bad. He sees his new role with RBS as an opportunity to continue doing this.