Experts are exploring the long lasting value that accounting can bring to Indigenous communities.

“Of the approximately 200,000 qualified accountants in Australia, only 27 are self-identified Indigenous Australians,” says Dr Luisa Lombardi, a Deakin University Business School senior lecturer.

She says the industry must show that accounting is just as valuable to Indigenous communities as law, teaching, medicine and nursing.

It has been a central theme of the Indigenous Accounting and Business Conference this week, which brings together business owners and leaders, finance professionals, researchers and policy makers to address the impact of financial skills and its role in Indigenous success.

“Historically, accounting in the context of Indigenous peoples world-wide has been portrayed as a tool of disempowerment because accounting has traditionally been delivered by non-Indigenous people,” Dr Lombardi explained.

“Whilst accounting in the hands of non-Indigenous peoples has arguably acted as a tool of disempowerment, it is possible to move to a place where accounting in the hands of Indigenous peoples for Indigenous peoples can be a tool of empowerment.

“The knowledge and language of business can build capacity and empower Indigenous peoples to enter fields, such as accounting, that have been traditionally shut to them,” she said.

One of the speakers at the conference was Christian Lugnan, from the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations Regional Manager (Coffs Harbour PM & C)

“I have witnessed all over the country great success in community and for profit organisations where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have accounting and business skills,” Mr Lugnan said.

“They tend to get it right as they are able to balance the cultural, social and economic priorities of community. These skills enable greater influence in decision making and governance practices.”

More Indigenous university students are enrolling in medicine, law, education and nursing, the challenge is to help Indigenous students see that accounting is just as valuable a career.

“Greater take up of accounting studies by Indigenous peoples means re-empowering individuals and entire communities to regain control of their own money,” Dr Lombardi said.

“Accounting by Aboriginal people, for Aboriginal people.”