Some time back in the late 1950s I was working in Wodonga. My working hours were long and, after working all day, I would be back at the office again each evening – Monday to Thursday . I would work at least till 11.30 p.m., sometimes later.
As can be imagined, these long hours produced pressure and had a bad effect on my mental health. The local doctor sent me to a specialist in Wagga Wagga. He diagnosed “nervous debility”. Because of the long hours I was prepared to work , he suggested to me that I should “study accountancy and work for yourself”.
Some time later I registered as a student with the Australian Society of Accountants. At that time I wasn’t familiar with any other accounting body. I was initially very casual in my commitment to study. The Society conducted its own examinations every six months. It wasn’t until 1968 after I had worked for twelve months in Jim Smith’s accounting practice, that I commenced study in earnest. There were approximately 20 subjects to be studied and the Society was phasing exams out until 1972 when they would terminate them.
After some research, I decided that I needed to study one hundred hours per subject to be assured of a pass, and that I needed to study, and pass, four subjects per year.
So I settled into studying twenty hours per week, rising at 6 a.m. to meet these requirements.
I had earlier registered with a correspondence school to do my studies, and to keep up with its program required many hours. My memory is not clear, but I believe I abandoned its schedule early on , and pursued my own avenues of study. Wal Pfeiffer, who worked at another local Accounting office, was also studying, but he was twelve months ahead of me. I used to regularly confer with him, and we developed a friendship which exists to this day.
I took the opportunity to study two maths courses with an accounting tutorial service in Melbourne, travelling down every Monday afternoon. I did this for six months and found it very helpful, and a welcome break from studying alone. I used to tape every lesson, and replay them in the car on my way home of a night after the lessons.
Come November 1972 I had progressed to the stage that I was facing my final exam, Auditing. Over the years I had conferred with many self-educated accountants, and was advised that not one of them had passed auditing on their first attempt. So, with some trepidation, I sat my first, and Yes! I failed.
Worse still, it was the Society’s final examination. There I was – one subject to go to qualify, and I was in Limbo!
Then fortune smiled!
The Society brokered a deal with the Bendigo Institute of Technology, (now Latrobe University). I could travel to Bendigo to study Auditing and the Society would give me credit for a pass. Three study periods a week for twelve months - Monday afternoon, (stayed at Bernadette’s Aunty Hilda in Flora Hill Monday night) Tuesday morning and Friday afternoon. I purchased a new second-hand XW Falcon Sedan for travel. My auditing text-book provided a written summary to each chapter. I read and taped each summary and played them on my travels. After twelve months of this I passed and became a qualified accountant.
But wait! There’s more. To enter into partnership with my then boss I was asked to become a Chartered Accountant. In his view Chartered Accountants were “the Elite”. SHIT!
After another harrowing year of study, assisted by my regular conferences with Norm Kenny of Wangaratta (another student), the frequent study meetings in Albury and a stressful conference in Sydney, I graduated as a Chartered Accountant with an 87% pass mark.
And so, we set up the professional business of Smith and O’Shannessy in July 1975.
It hadn’t been an easy path, but in the end it was worth all the effort.