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Assistant Ombudsman James McDonald and Assistant Ombudsman Belinda Taneski

The TIO took to the Top End for Financial Counselling Australia’s annual conference

At the end of May, TIO’s Outreach Team travelled to the Top End to attend Financial Counselling Australia’s (FCA) national conference in Darwin. The TIO hosted a stall, and two of our Assistant Ombudsmen, Belinda Taneski and James McDonald, participated in an External Dispute Resolution (EDR) forum.

The EDR forum included representatives from the TIO, AFCA, Energy and Water Ombudsman of Queensland, NSW and Victoria, the Australian Energy Regulator as well as the ACCC, ACMA and ASIC.

Belinda spoke to the EDR forum on fairness in the context of our systemic investigations work, and how patterns of ‘unfair’ practices can be identified and remedied when the TIO works with providers. Belinda discussed our recently released systemic report about helping consumers sign up to the right phone and internet products, as well as previous investigations and case studies to show the type of problems the systemics team worked on.

James spoke about the TIO’s response to natural disasters, using the example of how the TIO responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. James also used this opportunity to launch the TIO’s new partnerships phone line. This phone line allows financial counsellors to receive a quicker response to their client’s complaint, as well as sending through information when they identify a systemic issue.

James said he found the opportunity to speak at the EDR forum incredibly valuable, but the opportunity to listen even more so.

“Beyond how ridiculously beautiful Darwin is, my key takeaway from this event was the importance of a yarn. It is so important to stop and truly listen to the story someone is telling you. As an ombudsman service, this means listening to every individual complaint, and taking it as an opportunity to learn.

“When you listen, you can understand. And you can give yourself the time to think and decide on the best next step – which might actually be something new and unique.”

The FCA’s national conference is an annual event that brings together financial counsellors and financial counselling students across Australia to discuss financial hardship issues and celebrate the achievements of prospective and practising financial counsellors.