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2010 graduation ceremony address – Dr Don Humphreys

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Good evening Chancellor, Vice Chancellor distinguished guests, graduands, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great honour to be invited to present the Occasional Address at this evening’s graduation ceremony and I would like to express my appreciation to the University for giving me this opportunity.

In my previous role as a member of the University Council I attended a number of these ceremonies as acting Chancellor and could not help but be impressed by the level of enthusiasm and expectation that accompanied each ceremony.,

I am sure that for all of you present, tonight’s ceremony and festivities will be no different.

Today a University degree is regarded as a stepping stone, allowing you to move from the University to the commercial world.  It is a required qualification that enables you to be considered for your chosen profession or career.

This has not always been the case.

I grew up in an environment where you left school at age 16 and went into the work force.  Attending university was not an option for people like myself or my contemporaries, although I am happy to say that I have 5 grandchildren who are either attending or have recently graduated from Curtin University.

By good fortune I joined a firm of Chartered Accountants where I worked by day and studied at night by correspondence in order to sit the institutes’ examinations.  It was a long hard road.

The firm I joined was very small by today’s standards.  There were no big four or national or international firms as we understand them today.

By succession mergers the firm I joined eventually became part of Ernst & Young, one of the big four account firms in the world.  I was a partner for over 30 years and managing Partner of the Perth office and Western Region for 11 years.

It is interesting to note, that the firm I originally joined, which comprised 20 -25 people became part of a firm which today numbers 500 plus people in its Perth office and approximately 120,000 people globally.

You can imagine the impact this change and upheaval had on the early members of the firms involved and how the choices they made at the affected their subsequent career paths.

We are all aware of the level of change the world has experienced over the past 50 years and the tremendous strides that have taken place in the fields of medicine, science and engineering and the impact it has had on our day to day lives.

However, change is not just been confined to these areas.  Unprecedented change, both large and small has also been experienced at all levels in the commercial world.

In my working lifetime change has progressed from adding columns of figures in your head and completing mathematical calculations long hand to slide rules, mechanical calculators, bookkeeping ledger machines, electronic typewriters, telex machines pocket calculators, fax machines, the punch card computer and the sophisticated computer systems, personal computers, smart phones and internet of today,.

Added to these we have had the introduction of national and international Accounting Standards and increasing sophistication of those standards, the growth and complexity of income tax legislation, the introduction of a national Corporations and Securities legislation and a plethora of other legislation and regulatory bodies, the emphasis now placed on business and corporate governance, and the growth in corporate mergers and acquisitions resulting in an significant increase in business size, complexity, sophistication and globalisation.

We have all experienced the effects of the recent global financial crisis and witnessed the effect that has had on business and finance at all level s and the significant steps many organisations were forced to adopt or accept in order survive.

My reason in drawing this to your attention is to emphasise some of the changes that have impacted both the professional accounting firms and the business world generally.  I can’t predict what is likely to occur in the future but based on my experience and increased business globalisation, business practice, technology, finance and legislation will continue to evolve and impact all of you.

A number of you will no doubt be seeking or already have obtained employment in the accounting profession.  Others will be moving into the commercial positions.

Your university education and degree allows you to obtain a footing on the ladder you are attempting to climb to establish your careers.

How fast you climb the ladder will depend on many factors, including amongst other things your work ethic, knowledge and contribution to your organisation.

However, this will be to no avail unless you embrace and adapt to change as it occurs and add it to your knowledge and skill base.  If you do not do this you will be left behind and your ability to add value to your organisation will suffer.

Change and upheaval can and will be daunting, however it is also a challenge and presents a window of opportunity that allows you, if you seize it to enhance your career path and set you apart from your peers.

I am confident that the experience and time that have spent at Curtin will stand you in good stead and has prepared you well for the path you take.

I congratulate all of you on your achievements and wish you luck and good fortune in the journey ahead.

Thank you

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