What began as a conversation has evolved into a real-world pilot initiative to help close the Indigenous education and employment gap.
The University of Tasmania, in partnership with CPA Australia (Tasmanian Division), proudly launched The First Nations Accounting Mentoring Program on Wednesday, 28 April.
The unique opportunity will connect First Nations business students with industry professionals to support and enhance their higher education experience.
Open to undergraduate and postgraduate scholars, participants will be paired with CPA Australia members across the State who will guide their learning journey, while providing career advice and helping them prepare for a transition into the workforce.
The program has been driven by Dr Terese Fiedler, Lecturer in Accounting, with the support of Gina Gunn, General Manager of CPA Australia (Tasmania Division) and palawa Bachelor of Business graduate Bradley Saggers.
It followed a timely discussion between Terese and Gina about the need for such an opportunity at the launch event of CPA Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan.
Bradley was then recruited in his final semester to help with researching and developing the program.
Dr Fiedler said the program had been designed to address the disparity between First Nations and non-Aboriginal accounting students and professionals.
“This is another step towards helping close the gap while also building a pipeline of First Nations professionals who can lead meaningful and positive change, not just in our local communities but across Australia and the world,” Dr Fiedler said.
The most recent figures from 2018 show that out of 200,000 accredited accountants in Australia, only 38 (0.02% per cent) identified as First Nations.
“Accounting and business disciplines more broadly can play an important role in promoting financial literacy and economic development, especially within First Nations communities,” Dr Fiedler said.
The program will be piloted in Tasmania from Semester 2, 2021, and if successful, has the potential for nation-wide adoption.
Local mentors have already been identified, comprising both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal CPA accounting professionals.
“So far, we’ve invited seven First Nations undergraduate and postgraduate accounting students studying across our campuses and by distance to take up this opportunity,” Dr Fiedler said.
“It is also worth noting this program is mutually beneficial, with the experience for mentors just as valuable as it will be for the students involved.”
Ms Gunn said it was wonderful to see the vision come to fruition.
“Supporting and preparing the next generation of accountants through creating meaningful connections with experienced CPA members is critical in our collective preparation for the future,” Ms Gunn said.
“This, together with our commitment to CPA Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan, inspired the Tasmanian Division of CPA to partner with the University to deliver on our goal to support and promote career opportunities for First Nations business students.”
Since graduating, Bradley Saggers has secured an internship with ANZ, and hopes the mentoring program will support others in furthering their career ambition.
“The program is designed for our First Nations students to feel supported and develop knowledge that isn’t necessarily learnt at university which can give them a real competitive edge, and hopefully greater access to the professional world of accounting,” Mr Saggers said.
“As a student who helped develop the material for the program I can honestly say that this is a fantastic opportunity to get behind and try out. You can get a massive head start just by building a strong relationship with your mentor.”
The First Nations Accounting Mentoring Program was also guided by Associate Professor Clair Andersen, University Aboriginal Higher Education Advisor, and Caroline Spotswood, Riawunna Head of Service.
The program has been supported by an Indigenous Student Success Program grant.
Pictured from left: Dr Terese Fiedler, Gina Gunn and Bradley Saggers.