Community connection

22 February 2022

Money & Life team

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Giving back to the community from which he draws his livelihood is a key motivation for Peter OConnell CFP®, who is the recipient of the 2021 FPA Community Service Award, supported by the Future2 Foundation. 

Name: Peter OConnell CFP®

Position: Director Representative

Practice: PPT Financial

Licensee: PPT Financial

Years as a financial planner: 23 years

As part of the criteria to win the FPA Community Service Award, an FPA member must be able to demonstrate their strong commitment and hard work within the community through the Future2’s grant application process, by endorsing a not-for-profit to receive a grant in 2021.

Enter Peter O’Connell CFP®.

With a long track record of community involvement in Ballarat, Peter clearly relished the opportunity to demonstrate his work with charitable organisations as part of the FPA Awards process. And his community service was acknowledged, with Peter taking out the 2021 FPA Community Service Award, supported by the Future2 Foundation.

In presenting Peter – a Director Representative at PPT Financial – with his award, the FPA Awards judges applauded Peter’s community involvement and his strong support of the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation in the Ballarat and Western Victoria area.

“For the past 15 years, Peter has provided financial literacy education advice to the Indigenous community. He also supports the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation with its accounting and financial planning requirements,” the FPA Awards judges commented.

Peter O’Connell CFP®
2021 FPA Community Service Award winner

Community involvement 

But what also impressed the judges was the breadth of local community involvement Peter is actively engaged in. This includes the Lake Wendouree Football Netball Club (an Australian rules football and netball club), being included as an ambassador of the Ballarat Foundation (a not-for-profit targeting disadvantage within the community), and past involvement on the Loreto Finance Committee (Loreto Ballarat) – the school his two daughters attended.

Peter has a particularly close connection to the Lake Wendouree Football Club (the Lakers), where he was the club’s first senior coach. He maintains an active involvement with the club, assisting with fundraising, while supporting his two sons who continue to play for the club.

“It’s a great family connection,” Peter says. “From both a personal and professional perspective, I believe it’s critical that we give back to our communities. I know how important sporting clubs are for communities in bringing people together. I see first-hand how individuals and families all benefit from being involved with these types of community groups.”

Peter maintains a deep-seated belief in the importance of the profession supporting local community and not-for-profit organisations through initiatives like the Future2 Foundation because without that support, “these organisations would not survive”.

“I have been very fortunate to have been involved with a number of fantastic local community

organisations over the years,” Peter says. “By being involved in local communities, it provides a great insight into the outstanding work so many people do in the wider community. To witness the passion and energy these people put into worthy causes is very rewarding and makes you truly appreciate just how lucky we are in comparison to so many others who are in need of support.”

In accepting the FPA Community Service Award, Peter says it’s not only great recognition for both himself and PPT Financial, which has been involved with the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation for over 18 years, but also for the many other practitioners in the profession who also support the work of charitable organisations.

Aboriginal Literacy Foundation

A key component of winning the FPA Community Service Award was Peter’s work with the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation, including the successful endorsement of a Future2 grant for the Western Victoria Post COVID-19 Response Aboriginal Tutoring Program.

The Aboriginal Literacy Foundation aims to transform the lives of Indigenous children by focusing on literacy and numeracy education. Working in collaboration with local communities and partners, it develops literacy skills with Indigenous children, so they can succeed at school and beyond.

“PPT has been involved with the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation for over 18 years, after it first approached us seeking our accounting and audit services. Since then, we have formed a close relationship with this charitable organisation,” Peter says. “We were delighted to have been able to support its Future2 grant application for the Western Victoria Post COVID-19 Response Aboriginal Tutoring Program.”

He is confident the $10,000 Future2 grant will make a huge difference to the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation, by providing much needed funding to continue its work supporting disadvantaged Indigenous youth.

The program has been developed to compensate for the severe disadvantage many Indigenous students experienced during school closures and lockdowns in 2020, as a result of the pandemic. According to Peter, Aboriginal children are far more affected by school closures than their non-Aboriginal peers.

“Many Indigenous families live beyond the range of distance education, and others do not have computers or laptops suitable for remote learning. The aim of this program is to alleviate the negative affect of COVID on this most vulnerable group of young Australians,” says Peter.

“By providing students with a weekly tutorial session outside school, they have the opportunity to acquire skills at their own pace, without the stress of having to compete in a normal classroom situation. Not only are these students learning important skills that will ensure they continue their education, but hopefully, enable them to attend university or gain employment in their chosen vocation.”

Peter says it’s heartening to see Aboriginal literacy rates improving within the wider community, due primarily to the important programs being run by the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation and other not-for-profit organisations.

“The Aboriginal Literacy Foundation is making serious traction with Indigenous literacy for young Australians, but this wouldn’t be possible without the support of fundraising and charitable donations, like the Future2 grant.”

Just go for it

Although Peter praises the work of the Future2 Foundation – which since 2007, has distributed over $1.2 million in community grants – and is pleased to see the growing number of practitioners becoming involved with community organisations and not-for-profits, he still believes there is enormous capacity for the profession to do more.

“This is a great opportunity for planners to connect more closely with their local communities, while giving back to those communities from which we draw our livelihoods,” he says.

As an active supporter of his local community, Peter has some straightforward advice for other practitioners considering becoming involved in community organisations and not-for-profits.

“My advice is fairly simple, if an opportunity arises, just ‘go for it’,” he says.

He offers the following four tips for any planners considering making the plunge:

1. Choose a cause or community program that you are passionate about.

2. Do not hesitate to accept a voluntary position, especially if you are passionate about the cause. Remember, you have been asked because someone believes in your talents and skills.

3. Be enthusiastic with your involvement and seek to make a difference. If you are not making a difference, then you might need to reconsider if this type of community involvement is for you.

4. Have fun. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, then it becomes a chore.

“By getting involved in community programs and causes, I have been very fortunate to meet so many people from all walks of life. It has provided me with many great experiences and insights into the outstanding work that volunteers and charitable organisations do in our community.

“It’s something I actively encourage, and know you’ll never regret becoming involved with. So, just ‘go for it’!”

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