Be your best: Helping those in need

21 January 2020

Jayson Forrest

Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.

Louise Wegner-Parker AFP® is the inaugural winner of the FPA Community Service Award presented by the Future2 Grants Committee, for her tireless work with formerly homeless people.

You could have knocked Louise Wegner-Parker AFP® over wih a feather, because the last thing she was expecting was to take out the FPA Community Service Award presented by the Future2 Grants Committee for 2019. Why? Because she didn’t even nominate herself for the award.

But Louise’s community involvement, particularly with providing financial counselling services to formerly homeless people living in the inner-city suburbs of Brisbane, hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The FPA Community Service Award presented by the Future2 Grants Committee is a new category in the FPA Awards. The award recognises the ‘unsung heroes’, who quietly go about making a difference to the lives of disadvantaged Australians.

FPA practitioner members are unable to nominate themselves, or others, for this award. Instead, the finalists are selected by the Future2 Grants Committee based on a member’s community involvement and work with charitable organisations, as part of the Future2 Make the Difference! Grants endorsement process.

As for Louise, well, for the past six years, she has been providing a financial counselling service for formerly homeless people in Brisbane, under the umbrella of Micah Projects – a charitable organisation dedicated to providing services and opportunities for communities in need.

Louise conducts afternoon drop-in sessions, once a week, where she helps people with their basic financial needs, like budgeting and negotiating their debts.

“It’s the type of everyday skills that we tend to take for granted,” Louise says. “However, these people struggle with their ongoing expenses, whether they’re homeless or have come off the street into subsidised housing.”

Louise’s journey working with Brisbane’s homeless began six years ago. She could no longer ignore the poverty and the circumstances in which many people found themselves in, having to sleep rough.

“I would pass people sleeping under the bridge in South Brisbane. I knew I couldn’t keep walking past these inner-city homeless people at West End and South Brisbane and not try and help them. So, I approached Micah Projects that runs services for people in need. Instead of just donating money, I knew that as a financial planner, I had the skills to help these disadvantaged people through financial counselling,” she says.

“So, I talked to Micah Projects about my idea of a financial counselling program for the homeless. Six years on, the demand for this voluntary program hasn’t waned.”

Be Your Best

Through her involvement with Micah Projects, Louise also endorsed the charitable organisation’s 2019 Future2 grant application, which was successful in receiving a $10,000 grant.

Micah Projects’ ‘Young Mothers for Young Women’ initiative provides a range of support services to young, pregnant and parenting women aged 25 and under, along with their children and families. The ‘Be Your Best’ program aims to equip these young mothers with the confidence, connections and skills to re-engage with employment or education. The Future2 grant will help fund the recruitment of 12 past participants of the program to assist new mothers with the program.

And while the Future2 Grants Committee was impressed with Louise’s endorsement of Micah Projects’ Future2 grant application, it was equally as impressed with her voluntary financial counselling program for formerly homeless people. So impressed, that it awarded her the 2019 FPA Community Service Award presented by the Future2 Grants Committee for her selfless contribution.

“I had no idea that I was even nominated or a finalist for this award, so to win it is very humbling,” Louise says.

She adds that with the additional $2,500 in prize money she has received with the award from the FPA, her employer – Morgans – will match that amount, allowing Louise to donate a further $5,000 to Micah Projects.

In fact, Morgans has had a long involvement with Micah Projects, but true to her unassuming nature, Louise undertakes her volunteering separately to Morgans, which she is keen to maintain.

“The Future2 grant and this additional award money is truly wonderful. It will allow Mica Projects to provide additional services and much-needed funding for its programs,” Louise says.

Changing people’s lives

You don’t need to spend much time talking to Louise about the importance of being involved in social giving to realise you’re talking to a true advocate. She even apologises for sounding a “little emotional”. But there is no disguising the depth and integrity of her empathy.

“There’s no denying that the last couple of years have been fairly tough for financial services, and I know a lot of people in our profession have complained about how hard things are with constant regulatory changes. But on the whole, we still have it pretty good. Any issues that our profession has are completely insignificant in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of people who are homeless and in need of our help,” Louise says.

“So, as a profession, the small things we can do for these people in our communities is absolutely massive. It changes people’s lives almost immediately. There are so many people who can’t afford our help, but who so desperately need it. Our help means so much to them, and by helping, we can make a genuine difference.”

Get off the fence

With six years under her belt as a volunteer financial counsellor to disadvantaged people in Brisbane’s inner-city, Louise has some sound advice for other practitioners ready to roll up their sleeves and become involved in social giving.

“Firstly, you need to be pro-active and get involved in a cause or an organisation that you really believe in and care about.

“Secondly, social giving is not about providing advice at ‘no cost’ to somebody because they can’t afford it. Instead, it’s about providing significantly disadvantaged people with the skills to help them get out of their difficulty themselves, whether that’s social, educational or financial. It’s about empowerment,” Louise says.

“In our profession, every planner has incredible skills and experience. So, it’s not difficult to share some basic financial skills, like budgeting, with those who are in need. It’s something anybody in our profession can do and it’s also the right thing to do.”



Name: Louise Wegner-Parker AFP®

Age: 47

Position: National Manager – Specialist Advice

Practice: Morgans Financial

Licensee: Morgans Financial

Years as a financial planner: 23 years