The Rural Financial Counselling Service began nationally in 1986 after a meeting of rural community groups. The decision was made to support the development of local financial counselling groups within regions that were deemed to be in difficulty through drought, depressed commodity prices and increasing interest rates with Rural Financial Counsellors appointed throughout South Australia.
In 2006 a new state wide service, the Rural Financial Counselling Service SA, commenced and replaced the 12 existing regional based Rural Financial Counsellors that were managed by volunteer committees.
At the peak of the drought in 2007, the 12 Rural Financial Counsellors increased to 21.
In 2011 Rural Business Support was formed, expanding its services to the whole agribusiness sector across SA. We also expanded our offering to Northern Territory.
In 2020 Rural Business Support again expanded our program offering to include the Small Business Financial Counselling Program across regional SA and the Northern Territory, a government funded pilot program recognising the need to provide additional support to main street businesses at risk due to the ongoing drought, bushfires and the challenges and uncertainty created by the covid pandemic.
In addition, we welcomed the opportunity to pilot the Landowner Information Service, a new program aimed at providing easy-to-understand information to any individual or business affected by resources exploration and mining activities in South Australia.
At the height of the introduction of these two programs, Rural Business Support staffing levels increased to 50, with 12 regional offices across SA and NT.
In mid-2021 the ongoing challenges of the covid pandemic, drought and bushfire recovery following the black summer of 2019/20 saw the Small Business Financial Counselling pilot extended to December 2022. At the same time, we were delighted to see the Landowner Information Service extended beyond the pilot as a fully funded program until July 2025. RBS welcomed a second Landowner Information Service Officer to the team.
Rural Business Support’s work has always been, and always will be focussed on helping rural people and their families, and we have been on a constant journey to find ways to do more to make a difference in the lives of our clients, their families, and their communities.
As a not-for-profit with full DGR1 status, in July 2022 Rural Business Support launched our Relief Fund aiming to provide practical and immediate relief to primary producers, foresters, fishers and small related agricultural enterprises in distress and at risk of poverty, financial distress, or emotional hardship due to adverse events or natural disasters beyond their control.