- Two Indigenous Australian accountants offer an authentic look into the significance of Reconciliation Week to their communities
- They highlight the power of education and opportunity for provisional members of CA ANZ
- Future CAs have the potential to create change within communities and empower peers
In this together. That's the timely theme of Australia's 2020 National Reconciliation Week, reinforcing the role each of us plays in building relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures.
According to Briannah Pearson, Graduate Accountant at Lumina Chartered Accountants, it's more than a theme, it's a reflection of how she lives her life.
"It's important to be united. I think coming together, you have more diverse thoughts, you have greater understandings of different aspects of life, whether they be technical or cultural. I think you can definitely benefit from that," says Pearson.
Growing up as a Gamilaraay woman, Briannah saw how powerful education could be in allowing Aboriginal people to "step outside the box the greater world has created for them".
"I think generally there is a stereotype that Indigenous people don't achieve anything unless it's handed to them and I definitely disagree with that. I know for myself, I've had to work hard for everything that I've earned and what I've achieved," says Pearson.
Briannah now works full time while also undertaking the CA Program in Sydney, returning to her hometown of Goulburn whenever she can. Her outlook on the value of accounting is holistic—how people make, save and use money impacts people's choices and outcomes.
"I think by highlighting that there are opportunities if you work towards them, it will encourage others to do so or allow them to step outside of this box," she says.
It's a sentiment echoed by Sam Roberts, a proud Gunai man who is a Financial Accountant at WorkPac and recipient of the CA ANZ 2019 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scholarship. After what he describes as a 'troubled upbringing', Sam decided to change his life and return to study.
"University filled me with a whole new sense of motivation. It really solidified what I want to do in the future, which is to be an Indigenous finance leader," says Roberts.
"It only takes one person to make a change. I don't care if I change 10 people or 1,000: that change will keep on going, and then you get a base where everyone is helping everyone and there is no division at all."
According to Roberts, being 'in this together' is necessary for the nation to close the gap between health and social outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and promote participation in wealth creation for the greater indigenous community.
"To close the gap you can't have division, you can't segregate someone because of their culture, their nationality, their background. If you want to genuinely grasp the entire Australian economy it must be as a whole," says Roberts.
"It's why I chose finance, which is a well-known issue throughout the Indigenous community. I thought 'how can I make the biggest impact on the Indigenous community as a whole?' and the answer was financial support and advice while also providing motivation to not be defined by your past," he added.
For Pearson, National Reconciliation Week is a reminder of how far we've come, but how there's still work to be done in illuminating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Her advice to young people? Be brave and speak up.
"Always remember that you have a voice and it should be heard. The way that you think about things, although it might be different is definitely not wrong," says Pearson.