Championed by Deakin Business School, the inaugural Indigenous Accounting and Business Conference took place between 2-3 September at Melbourne's RACV City Club.
Covering a range of sessions, such as overseas Indigenous accounting associations, government policy and more, the conference also included keynote speeches by Professor Marcia Langton, foundation chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne and Mr Russell Taylor, Principal of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).
During the address, both keynote speakers echoed that making sense of how managing money can make a big difference to survival and prosperity, is a driving force in their endeavours.
‘Financial literacy starts with demystifying the money story,’ said Mr Taylor. ‘Nothing occurs in a cultural vacuum and that includes money matters.’
‘Entering the accounting profession has been historically challenging for Indigenous communities due to cultural and geographic barriers, but now there are great opportunities for Indigenous men and women to empower themselves and their communities,’ he said.
Professor Langton also argued that there is a need for the disciplines of accounting and finance to address generations of economic underdevelopment in Indigenous communities.
‘The fear that we will lose our culture if we become equal is unfounded,’ she said.
The consensus is that there’s a need for increased efforts by the Indigenous community, the education sector and the accounting profession to encourage more young Indigenous people to consider a degree in accounting.
Mr Taylor said, ‘We're making progress, but more needs to be done to address the current under-representation of Indigenous Australians within the accounting profession. By working together we can use our collective networks to get more Indigenous students into the accounting classroom.’
Professor Langton also added that Aboriginal culture cannot survive without an economy to support it.
‘Indigenous people want to take responsibilities, which public policy should not restrict and we should set a condition for success by removing current barriers,’ she said.
It is a fact that accountants perform a vital role in business, in communities and in the everyday lives of so many and the time more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island graduates join the profession is well overdue according to all conference presenters.
Important financial decisions are made every day that shape how Indigenous people and communities live and thrive. What better approach is there than to have more Indigenous accountants who can help empower their own communities asked Mr Taylor?
‘From an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective it's about greater ownership of financial decisions that shape their future.’
And according to Professor Langton there is also a need for new attitudes of operating.
‘We need to overcome the lack of transparency in the management of Indigenous assets. Indigenous people must own the challenge of maximising their assets.
‘Jobs help us to maintain our culture,’ she explains.
‘Being an accountant gives you financial independence and creates the type of lifestyle you want. But it can also allow you to play a key role in bringing economic change to your community and the know-how to help others build their own financial success,’ Mr Taylor concluded.
The conference also explored how other countries - particularly Canada, the USA and New Zealand - have been able to boost Indigenous take-up of accounting studies and had the strong backing of Indigenous Accountants Australia, CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.
Future conference updates and details will be published on our newsroom as they become available.