Small businesses affected by drought to benefit from new program

Rural Business Support (RBS) is broadening its support across South Australia and the Northern Territory with a new Small Business Financial Counselling program to assist eligible small businesses that continue to be impacted by drought.

The program is modelled on the successful Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS), which has been supporting farmers and rural-related businesses for more than 30 years. One of 12 service providers nationally, RBS delivers the RFCS in SA and NT. The service is free, independent and confidential for eligible clients.

To facilitate the delivery of the new program to drought affected small businesses, RBS has welcomed three specialist Small Business Financial Counsellors. They are: Julie Wynne (Eyre Peninsula), Erica McAvaney (Mallee, Mid North & Upper North) and Peter Cottle (NT – based in Darwin).

The SBFC program is the result of additional funding received from the Australian Government to extend the RFCS model of support to small businesses beyond the farm gate.

RBS CEO Brett Smith said that talking with a Small Business Financial Counsellor could help operators to navigate the daily demands of running their business and find a way forward.

“Whether it’s looking at financial assistance options until income levels improve, exploring the new AgBiz Drought Loan through the Regional Investment Corporation, or business transfer or exit plans, these are just some of the ways our team can help small business operators through the decision-making process,” Mr Smith said.

“It can be challenging to ask for help, but this is where our experienced team can throw around some suggestions and perhaps provide a bit of clarity during what may otherwise seem a pretty overwhelming time.

“With COVID-19 now causing additional uncertainty, RBS wants to assure rural communities still feeling the pain of drought that we haven’t forgotten them and are still here to help.”

RBS financial counsellors can support eligible small business operators to:

  • Consider different options to manage financial issues
  • Develop budgets and cash flows
  • Negotiate with creditors
  • Access dispute resolution services
  • Connect with broader professional advice and support
  • Apply for government and community grants, programs or schemes

To be eligible for the Small Business Financial Counselling program a small business needs to:

  • Employ 19 or fewer people
  • Be experiencing financial hardship, or at imminent risk of financial hardship
  • Be located in a drought-affected area

Supported by the Australian Government and Governments of South Australia and the Northern Territory, Rural Business Support is currently supporting more than 550 farmers and rural related businesses across SA and NT. To be connected with one of the RBS team call 1800 836 211.

About Erica McAvaney
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Erica joined Rural Business Support in March 2020 as the organisation’s first Small Business Financial Counsellors (SBFCs), based out of the RBS Murray Bridge office.

She has a banking background, spanning 22 years across a range of industries with NAB, Bendigo Bank and Bank SA.

Erica lives in the Adelaide Hills town of Birdwood with her family on acreage. In her spare time she enjoys spending it with her young family, playing sport and getting involved in the local community.

Quote from Erica: “I’m really looking forward to utilising my extensive financial skills to help business people to reach their goals.”

About Julie Wynne
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After more than 30 years with the Commonwealth Bank, Julie is supporting small businesses impacted by drought across the Eyre Peninsula.

She grew up in Port Lincoln and has spent the past nine years living there with her husband and two boys. In between, Julie worked for the CBA in Katherine in the Northern Territory for two years (just in time for the floods in 1998) and spent nine years in the bank’s Mid North SA branches.

Quote from Julie: “I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge to support small businesses in local communities. I can provide a fresh look, as someone who is not involved or emotionally attached and can help business owners think about ‘Where to, from here? After more than 30 years of finance industry experience, I might be able to offer a new perspective.”