Updating Results

Australian National Audit Office (ANAO)

  • 100 - 500 employees

Cherie Atchison

Through my experience in previous finance and client facing roles, I came to realise that I really enjoyed and had an affiliation for the consultant/auditing field.

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Townsville and Brisbane, completing high school at Clairvaux McKillop College in Brisbane. I then went on to complete my Bachelor of Business at the Queensland University of Technology.

After completing my Bachelors degree, I relocated to Melbourne I found myself wanting to pursue a Master’s degree and completed a Master of Professional Accounting via distance education with the University of Southern Queensland. Before joining the ANAO’s Graduate Program, I had a varied career working in industries including jewellery, fashion and even the caravan manufacturing industry.

How did you get to your current job position? 

Upon completing my Master’s degree, I saw the graduate program advertised and applied because it sounded like a highly interesting role. I was then invited to attend an interview in Canberra. I was accepted into the ANAO’s Graduate Program’s 2018 cohort and commenced in February 2018.

How did you choose your specialisation?

Through my experience in previous finance and client facing roles, I came to realise that I really enjoyed and had an affiliation for the consultant/auditing field. I had also reviewed my transcript from both degrees and took note of the subjects I had done well in. While I had considered other areas of accounting, this was the area that I felt drawn to.

What was your interview process like? 

The interview was a panel consisting of three managers. We were given 15 minutes before the interview to individually prepare an answer to a question. For me, this question was around providing a specific example of a time I had to deal with an ethical issue in a work or study environment. After answering this question, follow-up questions consisted of my interest in the role and providing responses in relation to teamwork and working with different types of people. The interview flowed very well and was more of a professional conversation on a round table as opposed to a strict formal three on one style panel.

Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? 

Whilst an accounting degree seems the obvious piece of advice, there are many degrees, for example, IT or a generalist business degree that are largely relevant to auditing and the direction it is heading towards in the future.

I would advise learning to talk to people and taking a genuine interest in processes. Learn to be curious, to be observant and always be willing to learn. While work experience is not essential, when you work in an area like auditing, it is always useful to see how different government entities work and how this can be vastly different from one another. The amazing thing about being an auditor is you get a breadth and depth of experience from the one job!

What does your employer do?

The ANAO improves public sector performance and supports accountability and transparency in the Australian Government through independent reporting to the Parliament, the Executive and the public via issuing public report

What are your areas of responsibility?

As an auditor in the Assurance Audit Services Group, I am required to obtain evidence to provide reasonable assurance that the financial statements of a Government department are free from material misstatement, whether that be due to fraud or error.   

This requires frequent meetings and building relationships with personnel from the department being audited at the time. It also requires learning a lot about the department; documenting and testing what you have learnt. Team members such as myself produce multiple work papers with commentary and results that are provided to the audit managers which then forms the basis audit adjustments and letters that are sent to the entity at various points over the year.

Can you describe a typical work day

Life as an auditor generally means that no two days are the same. A typical day is a mix of being in the office and out at the government department you are auditing. This includes meetings, collecting financial data then analysing and testing this data.

This year I have been covering the Department of Defence portfolio which has also entailed various field work trips to observe how the department carries out stocktakes on their inventory and assets around Australia. I have gone on three interstate field trips to date. These field trips help draw a link between the data we analyse back in the office and the real life asset. Having this perspective can be crucial when understanding and analysing the useful life or impairment of helicopters, tanks and other Defence assets. Furthermore, these trips were often a very good chance to form stronger relationships between team members and get to know each other on a different level that you may have otherwise been able to within the office.

What sort of person succeeds in your career?

A person best succeeds in this type of role when they are comfortable with adapting quickly to change as your work location is always changing and you are often working on multiple audits of different departments. They also need to be resilient or have the ability to learn to be resilient, as there are often trying times when you will be stressed and so will your counterparts within the entity you’re auditing.

It also helps to be able to have good interpersonal skills as you’ll be dealing with various people within each department, as well as your own team and organisation. Having a genuine curiosity and interest in learning about how different government entities implement processes and function does also help.

What are the career prospects with your job? 

Future prospects of my role include working up to a leadership role, including as a Senior Auditor within the ANAO, as well as transferring to other government departments or even the private sector in a more financial accounting based role. Auditors, due to their vast and varied experience, are able to transfer their knowledge easily into assisting a department or company to improve their processes and ensure they are following the accounting standards and regulations properly.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

While working in the Assurance Audit Services Group does require an accounting or finance background, the ANAO’s Performance Audit Services Group employs a range of people from  a variety of different backgrounds, many of whom never thought that they would be doing auditing for a living.

What do you love the most about your job? 

What I love most is the variety! Each day is rarely the same as the previous and each portfolio you audit is different from the last.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? 

The biggest limitation of being an auditor is that the work you do will take as long as it needs to take. You cannot take short cuts and must ensure you do your work properly.

As a graduate auditor I have my own responsibilities for parts of the financial statements I need to focus on but I am provided with a lot of support from other team members and my manager. As you gain higher positions in the office, your responsibilities increase. While I have had to work weekends during our busy audit period (July through to September), we are compensated for this extra work and outside of this time, weekend work tends not to happen.

While the busy period can be stressful, it is important to have good communication with your team and manager so you can talk to someone if you are feeling overwhelmed. Stress is a part of life in any job and it is important to learn coping mechanisms to deal with it.

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

Something with a lot of variety and lots of challenges

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? 

  • Follow what you are interested in; read and research all you can about it and talk to people already working in your area of interest.
  • Keep an open mind about your path; your career path may not go how you envisage it will. Sometimes there will be sideways and even backwards steps. This is okay because more often than not, you will end up somewhere you never dreamt of or did not know was possible and love it.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and work. Own your work even if it’s not correct.  Making a mistake is not the end of the world!  In fact, the best thing you can do when you make a mistake is be accountable for it, own it and let someone know as soon as possible. Show people you are taking responsibility and initiative.