- Elizabeth Brown is the inaugural winner of the CSU’s Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand Prize.
- The new Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand Prize recognises the graduating student with the highest GPA in the Master of Professional Accounting program for that year.
- Brown also received the Postgraduate University Medal and is preparing to study for her CA.
When Elizabeth Brown returned to study accounting as a mature-age student, she was understandably nervous.
While eminently qualified for the challenge — Brown had already completed a Bachelor of Business degree — the 44-year-old mother of three had the usual adult responsibilities to consider: her three boys, her part-time work as a bookkeeper, and the cost of returning to study.
“I went through the process of wondering whether it would be a waste of time,” says Brown. “But I have 20-plus years of work life before me and my husband was also on board, so I went for it.”
That was in 2018. Four years later and Brown has not only graduated from her Master of Professional Accounting at Charles Sturt University (CSU), but passed with flying colours.
She was awarded the inaugural Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand Prize for most outstanding postgraduate accounting student, as well as the CSU Postgraduate University Medal for outstanding academic achievement — the highest honour a student can receive.
Picture: Elizabeth Brown.
Prize winning numbers
The new Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand Prize recognises the graduating student with the highest grade point average (GPA) in the Master of Professional Accounting program for that year.
The prize is overseen by the CSU’s School of Business prizes committee and is open to all graduating students across CSU’s main regional campuses.
While Brown didn’t set out to win the awards, she felt compelled to do well in her studies. “The fact that so much was on the line was actually a great source of inspiration,” she says.
“I got through my first degree but didn’t try as hard, however the second time around there was more riding on it because we have the mortgage and the family, so I needed to take it seriously.”
Last July, Brown began working as an accountant at Boyce Chartered Accountants in her hometown of Wagga Wagga, NSW, and is due to start the CA program in March.
“I am working a 30-hour week at the moment, which is great for flexibility,” she says. “Once the children are a little bit older, I plan to work full-time.”
Brown’s accounting career has been anything but intentional. She worked as a legal secretary until she and her husband had children, and then she took a role as a part-time bookkeeper with a financial advice firm because it offered flexibility. She soon realised she wanted to take her career further.
“I found that the numbers came pretty easily, and I enjoyed it,” she says.
“As a bookkeeper you look after the client for the whole financial year and then you pass the file onto the accountants, so when I was talking to them about what they did I realised, ‘there is more to this, I can take this further’.”
The CA program, she notes, will add another feather to her bow.
“It offers an extra layer of knowledge,” says Brown.
“The client knows that when they’re getting their work done by a CA they have gone through that stringent further study.”
Finding the balance
Despite her success, it hasn’t always been easy to study, work part-time and co-parent.
“The house sometimes looks like a bomb hit it and I definitely have pulled a few late nights here and there,” says Brown.
Her family, however, has been a crucial source of support.
“My husband has been really great, and I think there is always someone behind you that steps up when you do these sorts of things,” says Brown.
“I would say to the boys, ‘I’ve just got to have an hour to do this work’ and they were old enough to understand.”
Brown encourages others to take the leap and study to be a CA — no matter what their age.
“It doesn’t really matter how old we are,” she says. “We often get stuck in this thinking of ‘I’m older and I can't do it’, but it’s not true.”
“We often get stuck in this thinking of ‘I’m older and I can’t do it’, but it’s not true.”
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