From the political struggles of Colombia to the joys of working in a Melbourne toy library, Luisa Diaz-Zeledon ASA has seen a lot in the past decade. Now, with a part-time role at Anglicare Victoria, she has enrolled in the CPA Program.
By Katie Langmore
Eight years ago, Luisa Diaz-Zeledon ASA and her husband decided to move to Australia from Colombia. She was pregnant and the couple were keen to leave the political and social struggles of their country and give their children a better life. It was a decision that introduced Diaz-Zeledon to the not-for-profit sector and now she couldn’t imagine working in any other.
When Diaz-Zeledon first arrived in Australia, as a new mother with little English, she wasn’t ready to find work. A few years later, however, when an opportunity arose to volunteer as treasurer for the Frankston Toy Library in Melbourne where she was a member, she jumped in.
“My English was still terrible but everyone was so lovely – and luckily numbers are universal,” she laughs.
As treasurer, Diaz-Zeledon tapped into the skills she’d gained during post-graduate study in finance in Colombia and prepared a new chart of accounts for the library, helped manage stock renewals and participated in relocation to a new site and multiple fundraising events. Most importantly, she realised how great it was to work for a not-for-profit.
“Before moving to Australia, I worked in Colombia and Venezuela in banking, investments and risk analysis,” she says. “I hadn’t considered the not-for-profit sector at all. It’s not as strong as it is in Australia, so professional people are much more drawn to the private sector.
“Now, it feels very important to me to do work like this. I want to give back to the community and the country that has done so much for my family and me, and I am very grateful.”
After 14 months at the toy library, Diaz-Zeledon felt ready to find paid work and landed a job as a regional finance officer for Life Without Barriers (LWB), a social purpose organisation which provides support for families and individuals in need, including those with a disability or mental illness.
She worked at LWB for five years, costing new services, assisting in preparation of budgets, allocating government funding and administering and monitoring three programs, including one for out-of-home care.
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“It was very emotional and special for me, getting to know clients and their stories,” she recalls. “Even though I wasn’t working with them directly, it was quite a small office and I met people as they came in. Knowing I was part of such positive things happening in the community meant so much to me.”
Last year, Diaz-Zeledon moved on to Anglicare Victoria, as a regional accountant. The organisation supports vulnerable families through innovative services for children and young people.
“It’s been huge,” she says of the move. “Such a big jump in my career and I’m learning so much. Being a regional accountant with a big organisation is a great responsibility and challenge.”
She admires the people and culture at Anglicare and, again, loves being part of something so positive. “When I learn what we’re achieving in the organisation, I get such a strong sense of being part of something important.”
In addition to her part-time work at Anglicare, this year Diaz-Zeledon is upskilling with CPA Program studies, “refreshing financial knowledge, the principles and rules of international accounting and learning new practices”.
Her course is already inspiring her and opening her eyes to further causes.
“I’ve loved reading and learning about corporate governance and social responsibility to monitor and report on what we’re doing for the environment – so maybe I’ll explore that one day,” she says.
Before commencing, she applied for, and won, one of five Australian Scholarships Foundation’s NFP scholarships, which support the education of those working in the not-for-profit sector.
“Getting the scholarship was one of the most exciting things to happen to me in years,” she says.
With busy days ahead, there are no big volunteering plans on the horizon, though that may change when the ever-enthusiastic Diaz-Zeledon finishes her studies. “In the meantime, Anglicare Victoria has a lot of small volunteering opportunities I’d like to get involved in, like helping out on Christmas events,” she says.
About Anglicare Victoria
Anglicare Victoria provides support to 80,000 children, young people and families every year. It works towards strengthening families and communities, so hey can protect and to nurture those growing up within them. Anglicare aims to alleviate immediate hardship through services such as emergency food and crisis accommodation, and builds capacity for sustainable living through programs such as foster care, financial counselling, parent education and group work.
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