The severe underrepresentation of Indigenous Australians was brought to the forefront at the Deakin Business School’s inaugural Indigenous Accounting and Business conference.
Dr Luisa Lombardi, senior lecturer at Deakin Business School, highlighted the imbalance of Indigenous Australians within the accounting profession.
“There are currently less than 30 qualified Indigenous Australian accountants from a pool of approximately 180,000 accountants in Australia. This number needs to grow significantly,” said Ms Lombardi.
She stressed that accounting and business skills in the hands of Indigenous peoples are a tool of empowerment, and “arguably crucial for Indigenous success”.
Accounting and finance skills have been traditionally provided for Indigenous Australians by non-Indigenous peoples, a system that has historically been unfavourable for Indigenous Australians, according to Dr Lombardi.
“Accounting skills can be very positive and an empowering influence when delivered ‘by’ Indigenous peoples as opposed to being delivered ‘for’ Indigenous peoples,” she added.
Addressing the conference, Russell Taylor, CEO at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), noted the importance of delivering accounting and financial skills in a culturally competent manner.
“In dealing with Indigenous peoples, professional competence is of absolute paramount importance,” Mr Taylor said.
“However, I would issue a challenge to the accounting profession and it is this: from an Indigenous perspective, cultural competence is just as important as professional competence."
Ms Lombardi praised the added awareness and consciousness raised regarding Indigenous participation, drawing particular attention to Indigenous Accountants Australia, a joint initiative of CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, which aims to attracts more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the accounting profession.
“Accountants hold a powerful position in society and have influence over decisions that impact on communities. We need more Indigenous Australian accountants and business leaders so that they can hold a seat on boards and other tables when decisions are being made,” Ms Lombardi concluded.