Founder and director of ClarityNT in Alice Springs, Claire Young CPA has developed remote working for staff and clients across the Norther Territory, but says face-to-face meetings are still important.
Not too many accountants have taken the brave decision to work in the remotest parts of Australia, but for Claire Young CPA it seems to have been the norm rather than the exception. Her work has taken her to Uluru, Alice Springs, Darwin and Perth and to remote Indigenous communities in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
She’s worked with Big Four firms such as Deloitte, “second-tier” firms and for small family practices.
Young, 40, is originally from Launceston in Tasmania, but the remote, drier regions of Australia have become her stomping ground over the past decade and a half. “The places really have grown on me,” she says.
Wherever she went, she always seemed to find her feet. This, despite describing herself as a slightly lost teenager, unsure of her path but with a keen interest in emulating her father, who had been involved in property businesses among the Launceston farming community. She would follow in his footsteps in 2010, setting up her current business, ClarityNT in Alice Springs, at the age of 31.
She got her first break in 1997 as a trainee for an accounting firm on the Gold Coast and admits she was as green as they come. “I was the source of great amusement,” she says. “I would put my hand up and ask for permission to go to the bathroom.”
She used to type up the tax figures from one of the partners, which all looked like gobbledegook. By then she was determined to make sense of the numbers and returned to Tasmania to do a bachelor of commerce (accounting) degree.
When the numbers started making sense, they told stories. “You can look at a client’s financial statement and you can put a whole picture together about the kind of people you are dealing with. It’s incredible,” she says.
As so often happens, when Young established the business, fate intervened and she fell pregnant. To make matters even tougher, she was in the midst of studying the CPA Program.
“I spent many days during this first year studying in my spare time and often waking up with my head in my CPA folder,” she laughs.
The firm has now grown to 11 people and Young takes pride in the fact that she handles the books for several not-for-profits and for some Indigenous communities. She admits that some of the clients have lacked accounting skills. “With these clients we do a lot of talking, but we also do a lot of graphical reporting,” she explains. “We find different ways to convey information.”
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She is particularly proud of her firm’s work at Kalkaringi, the place where Gough Whitlam famously poured desert soil through the hands of Gurindji stockman Vincent Lingiari to signify the return of ancestral land.
While her clients are remote, and she has staff based across the Northern Territory, the firm has made excellent use of the cloud. “It was a challenge at first, but we’re now far more adept with software,” she says. “We’ve found ways to do things efficiently.”
There are clients several hundred kilometres away in Tennant Creek and others in remote parts of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, but she stresses there must be face-to-face meetings. Her staff will fly out to see remote clients.
“You can’t always do this remotely,” she says. “They need you to be physically there at board meetings.”
One piece of advice
Enjoyment has to be at the heart of work. “You have to have a passion for numbers, but equally a passion for dealing with people. Life’s too short to not enjoy it. Always retain your sense of humour.”
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