Gavin Tye, Relationship Manager: Indigenous Strategies

"One thousand Indigenous accountants by 2021".

In 1976, Gavin’s grade six schoolteacher told him that if “he didn't straighten up, he'd end up in jail”.

She was right, sort of. This former prison officer with 15 years’ experience in a wide range of roles is the face of a new initiative funded by Australia's three professional accounting bodies: CPA Australia, The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and the Institute of Public Accountants.

His job: to take the low number (12 at present) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the accounting profession and raise that to one thousand within a decade.

“By 2021, our goal is to improve the pathways through high school,” says Tye. “We encourage Indigenous students to remain in full-time schooling until the completion of their senior years, progress to university, and obtain a Bachelor of Business (accounting) degree, then work in the accounting profession.

“The challenges we’re addressing,” he continues, “include lower rates of Indigenous school attendance; higher than normal rates of Indigenous students leaving full-time schooling when they reach the minimum legal age; low rates of university enrolments and even lower rates of completions.”


Gavin Tye is Relationship Manager, Indigenous Strategies

Gavin Tye is Relationship Manager, Indigenous Strategies

There are also historical and cultural barriers that limit Indigenous Australians entering university, says Tye. “Historically, Indigenous communities have been controlled by non-Indigenous CFOs/CEOs and students face cultural isolation from immediate and extended family members when they are required to leave ‘traditional country’ to gain formal qualifications.

"By 2021, our goal is to improve the pathways through high school." – Gavin Tye

“We have to work more directly with our Indigenous communities, where there’s a mindset that ‘inter-generational welfare dependency’ is still okay. We clearly know it’s not.”

While financial security is a keystone of the accounting profession, Tye acknowledges that Indigenous communities can also create “knowledge wealth” by knowing and sharing information that provides opportunities for future generations. This is particularly important to Tye, given that the 2006 ABS Census reported that 38 per cent of Indigenous Australians are aged between 15 and 24. recently sat down with Tye in CPA Australia's Melbourne office to ask him eight questions about how he got to where he is today.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a chef. I also had ambitions to become a police officer. 

What was your first paying job?
The local hardware store in Longreach, Central Western Queensland. I got paid A$95 per week and thought I was the richest 17-year-old in the world.

How do you measure success in your role as Indigenous Strategies Relationship Manager?
Success is not just measured by reaching the target of one thousand Indigenous accountants. Success will also be measured by looking across the board and seeing how many more young Indigenous people stay in high school and how many more go on to get degrees, whatever their field of study.

How do you prefer to communicate – phone, email, text, social media, in person, other?
Mainly (and to be culturally appropriate with fellow Indigenous Australians), I prefer face-to-face interactions but given my national role I rely on email, phone and social media.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only one piece of technology, what would it be?
ABC Radio, mainly for the weather forecasts. No use in going to the beach if it’s gonna be a miserable day!

What’s the one app you can’t live without?
“Blackjack.” It's a card game that I continually fail at.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Twenty?
Ideally, still in my current role and celebrating the fact that there are at least 1000 Indigenous accountants in Australia. In 20 years, celebrating with colleagues across the three joint bodies and the wider Indigenous Communities that there are more than 2000 Indigenous accountants in Australia.

I would also be taking the opportunity to personally thank every single person that has been directly and indirectly involved in bringing about this change to Indigenous Australians' lives, which will improve the current circumstances in urban, rural, remote and very remote communities.

Describe your ideal retirement.
Advocating full time but working part time for continued sustainable improvement in Indigenous communities by working for the Human Rights Commission or the United Nations. Being ruthless on the issues but kind with people.

How did he get here?

  • Tye’s Indigenous ancestral links are from his mother’s side of the family, which is Woorabinda in Central Queensland, where his mother was born and still lives 
  • Graduated from Longreach State High School in 1980 and returned to full-time study as a mature-aged student after five years in the workforce

  • Graduated from Griffith University in 2007, while working full time, with a Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Leadership

  • Spent 24 years in Queensland Government in a wide range of roles: 15 years as a prison officer, eight as senior human resources adviser with the former Environmental Protection Agency, now the Department of Environment & Resource Management

  • Twelve months as coordinator of Legal Aid Queensland's Integrated Indigenous Strategy Unit

  • Justice of the Peace (Qualified) since 2002

  • Nationally accredited dispute resolution mediator

Gavin Tye is employed by the three Australian professional accounting bodies and is based at the Institute’s office in Brisbane. For further information, email [email protected]

October 2021
October 2021

Read the October 2021 issue of INTHEBLACK magazine.

Each month we select the must-reads from the current issue of INTHEBLACK. Read more now.