Read the stories of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian’s who are enjoying a career in the accounting profession.
Ellery Blackman CA, Assistant Manager (Private Enterprises) KPMG
Sally Clark, Manager, PwC Indigenous Consulting
Damien Foley, Director/CEO, Foley Business Management
Christian Lugnan CPA, ORIC Local Officer, Coffs Harbour ICC, Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations
Trent Lynwood, Northern Zone Operations Manager, NSW Aboriginal Land Council
Sarah Richards, PwC Indigenous Consulting
Adrian Williams CPA, Head of Finance, Property, AMP Capital
Dane Zeeman CPA, Owner, Zeeman Accounting
Northern Zone Operations Manager, NSW Aboriginal Land Council
For as long as I can remember I have always been good with numbers. They just made sense to me. My Uncle and Grandfather came from an accounting background and at an early age I knew that I wanted to head down the same path. The hardest decision for anyone is to know what you want to do and then follow through with it. My best advice is to start early and don’t avoid making the big decision about what you want to do. The sooner you make a decision the sooner you can start career planning and make it a much easier journey for you along the way.
From High School, and in particular Year 11, I selected units which would put me in good stead for when I went to University. During High School I completed a TAFE Certificate III in Accounting, 3 Unit Mathematics and 3 Unit Business Studies. By the time I got to the first year of University I breezed through as most of the information was a repeat of what I had already learnt.
Prior to completing my degree in accounting I applied for an Indigenous Cadetship through the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. After several interviews I was successful in my application and was placed with a subsidiary company of Rio Tinto in Brisbane (Pacific Coal). This was the first time I had lived away from home. Luckily everything was paid for and all I had to worry about was work and looking after myself, not an easy assignment!
After my summer placement I was suppose to return to university for my final year however I approached Pacific Coal about permanent employment. They took little time in making a decision and before I knew it I was employed as a Cadet Accountant, a newly created position. After I graduated uni externally I went on to become a Graduate Accountant. After nearly two years with Pacific Coal a position came up with another subsidiary company (Comalco) which I applied for. I was successful and moved to Gladstone, QLD, as a financial accountant. The company paid for my move, gave me a moving bonus and contributed to the majority of my rent for a year.
It wasn’t long before I got the desire to move back home to Coffs Harbour. I have always had a desire to do something for my people being a proud Dunghutti/Bundjalung Aboriginal man. An opportunity came up close to home and I moved back to be an Aboriginal Strategic Economic Development Officer helping Aboriginal Organisations and Individuals with business ideas and ventures. Unfortunately funding for this program was removed after ATSIC was disbanded by the Government.
In 2004 I applied for a position at the NSW Aboriginal Land Council as a finance officer. I was successful in obtaining an interview and due to my performance at interview and experience with Rio Tinto I was offered the Senior Finance Officer position. I have since been promoted to Operations Manager and continue to work with the organisation. I work with Local Aboriginal Land Councils from Karuah to Tweed Heads and out as far west as Coonabarabran.
I love my job and I would not be where I am today had I not chosen my career path. Although what I do now is not directly related to the Accounting field the skills I have obtained as an accountant continue to benefit me in everyday working life as well as my clients. I am now married, buying and renovating my own home and have recently had a baby girl with my wife and partner of 15 years.
The biggest hesitation with many people considering a career in Accounting is that they are concerned that they will be in front of a desk all day crunching numbers. I find this to be a narrow misguided view of the accounting profession. Accounting is a versatile career that provides opportunities in many areas and in many different forms. I would only encourage anyone considering a career in accounting to do so. It is a skill that will stay with you for life whatever you choose to do.
Director, Foley Group
Why did you decide to become an accountant?
Early on at school I was a good student, especially with numbers. In high school I wanted to either do accounting or law. Growing up in a country town, not many people wore a suit and tie. Those that did stood out. They were generally important people in the business community, such as accountants. I did a business program in Year 11, the Young Achievement Australia program. I was nominated as the Finance Director. Our team mentors were accountants. I enjoyed the program so much I decided my goal was to have my own business. Becoming an accountant was the profession I would use to start my career to achieve that goal.
How long have you been an accountant?
I finished university in mid 2001 and went straight to work in an accounting firm. I am now the Director of my own business and sit on several boards of business organisations.
Describe a typical working day for you?
As a business owner I am doing all different tasks at different levels. I can be doing filing, bookkeeping and answering phone and emails one minute, then rushing to a business meeting with government ministers and managers of major companies. My key role is strategy, working out where I am taking the business.
What is the most enjoyable aspect about your job/career?
I work for myself which means I am my own boss.
What is the best part of your job?
I am always meeting new people and learning about business.
What has been your career highlight?
It is always pretty humbling to be asked to sit on boards. Your qualifications as an accountant are always recognised.
What benefits have you gained from working in your current/previous industry sector (ie. government, commerce, public practice etc.)?
Working in an accounting firm you learn all the detailed stuff of accounting such as tax compliance. Working in a company you learn how a company works and how important the role of the finance department is to its running.
Do you believe you have a good work-life balance? What are your interests outside of your career?
Owning your own business is best summed up by this saying about sales “It is the easiest low paying work, and the hardest high paying work.” So you generally work pretty long hours and weekends, especially to establish the business.
What advice do you have for people thinking about a career in your industry sector?
Accounting is a profession that opens up a number of doors and opportunities beyond just doing tax returns. Many friends in accounting have used their qualification to live and work overseas, work in government, work in companies, become financial planners, start their own or become directors of companies. Some have moved into other careers and fields where their accounting skills are valuable in the role such as project management.