The number of total insolvent debtors recorded in Wyndham hit 350 in the past financial year.
According to the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA), an executive agency in the Attorney-General’s portfolio, this is the highest number of insolvent debtors reported in Wyndham during the past five years.
During that time, the number of insolvent debtors in Wyndham included 289 in the 2013-14 financial year and 331 during the 2016-17 financial year.
Of the 350 total insolvent debtors recorded in Wyndham in the past financial year, 193 were debt agreement debtors (compared to 158 in the previous 12 months).
Debt agreements are contracts between debtors and creditors in which a debtor will pay debts by installments.
But many debt agreements involve high administration fees, charged by professional debt agreement administrators and the AFSA, and result in some debtors paying back more than what they owed in the first place.
WEstjustice chief executive Denis Nelthorpe expressed concern at the “significant rise” in debt agreements.
He said that while debt agreements might be helpful for people who owned a small business or their own home, the agreements were “particularly unhelpful” for people on Centrelink allowances.
He said that free legal centres and financial counsellors might sometimes recommend a person enter into bankruptcy, but would “rarely – if ever” recommend a debt agreement.
“In most cases we don’t believe they are particularly helpful,” he said.
“The debt agreements can last for multiple years and people can often struggle to meet the payments long-term.”
Mr Nelthorpe said debt agreements could last for up to 10 years.
He said that some people did not realise businesses that advertised they could help people enter debt agreements actually had a financial interest in doing so.
He advised anyone considering entering a commercial debt agreement to seek free, independent legal advice from a community legal centre or financial counsellor.