- There is an under representation of Indigenous people in the accounting profession.
- Indigenous CAs encourage all members to learn more about how they can better support Indigenous members in the accounting profession.
- Greater learning about Indigenous culture will lead to a more educated and empathetic workforce.
Encouraging more Indigenous people to enter the accounting and finance industry is a critical step to improving social outcomes for Indigenous communities, say Indigenous members of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ).
Speaking as part of a CA ANZ webinar on 8 July during NAIDOC week titled Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! Indigenous members shared ideas on how to attract more Indigenous students into the accounting profession and offered advice to workplaces on how they can better support Indigenous Australians.
“I certainly am a believer of the idea that ‘You can't be what you can't see’,” said host Joshua Duke CA, senior manager with Deloitte and a Dunghutti man from the North Coast of NSW.
“And I think that's a trend we need to buck in the accounting profession. We really need to target high schools to attract more people to the industry and create meaningful pathways and employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the country.”
Pictured: Joshua Duke CA, Natasha Nelson CA, Ben Eisikovich CA and Holly Johnson
More mentors in schools
Member Natasha Nelson CA, a business services accountant with the Torres Strait Island Regional Council, suggested bringing more mentors into high schools as a great way to start the conversation earlier and encourage more Indigenous students to join the accounting and finance professions.
“I'm passionate about improving education outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Nelson said. “I feel financial literacy is such an important skill in closing the gap and leading towards a positive change for the prosperity of all of our communities.”
Pictured: Natasha Nelson CA
“Financial literacy is such an important skill in closing the gap and leading towards a positive change for the prosperity of all of our communities.”
Senior finance manager at Westpac, Ben Eisikovich CA, agreed the universal language of numbers provides an opportunity to bridge cultural gaps.
“I really want to show the infinite potential that accounting and finance can have in a community, and what it can drive,” he said, adding Indigenous students tend to be well advanced in learning.
“They are multilingual, they understand English and their own community language,” said Eisikovich, a Kamilaroi man from northern NSW. “So, by opening up the eyes of those students, by saying ‘Accounting is a language and if we pick up a set of financials we can see the health of an organisation’ we can help those communities to succeed financially.”
Pictured: Ben Eisikovich CA
Increasing Indigenous representation
Reconciliation manager at Macquarie Group, Holly Johnson, said there are a number of factors leading to Indigenous underrepresentation in workplaces, including how roles are promoted to Indigenous candidates and what networks exist to support people once they enter the industry.
“When I was at university there were literally five or six of us out of the whole Indigenous cohort that were studying tech or business,” said Johnson, a Gureng Gureng woman from south-east Queensland.
“It's a similar experience when we get into workplaces: you really do notice that underrepresentation – and it can be quite isolating.”
The way to change things is to interrogate internal policies, as well as look at how your organisation is represented externally, Johnson said.
“Looking at your recruitment policies – even where you are advertising – can make a real difference in connecting with Aboriginal talent,” she said.
“Take a look at your promotions processes – are you promoting Indigenous people working at the organisation so people can look and see there's someone who is like me that is having a great career experience?”
Pictured: Holly Johnson
Implementing workplace policies
Johnson led the development and implementation of Macquarie Group's inaugural reconciliation action plan and said for workplaces struggling to know where to start – to support Indigenous employees and attract more – there are some simple steps to take.
“If everyone can get involved and learn more about Indigenous culture we will have a more educated and empathetic workforce with less awkward, embarrassing and sometimes racist conversations,” she said.
“NAIDOC Week started out as a protest movement for Aboriginal rights,” Johnson explained. “So while it is great there's all the celebrations and joy and pride, it's important to keep reminding ourselves that there's still more work to do – but that it will be achieved more quickly if we all unite.”