Bush accountant travels wide

WITHOUT the ability to go into farming, Ambrose Depiazzi found accounting as his best opportunity to have a career and stay in the bush.

Now, thirty-six years after joining Bird Cameron, Mr Depiazzi oversees the company’s Australia-wide operations as the firm’s national chairman.

“I lost the use of my left arm at the age of five through a car accident,” he said.

“As I was going through high school I realised farming was not the go but by joining Bird Cameron I could stay in the bush.”

Mr Depiazzi’s family owned a farm near Dardanup in the south west.

Bird Cameron is a WA-based accounting firm with operations throughout the eastern states, started by Cyril Bird in 1922.

“It’s one of the few companies that has gone from the west to the east,” Mr Depiazzi said.

The firm has kept its strong regional focus but has been forced to concentrate on its city activities in the past ten to fifteen years.

“That’s largely due to natural causes. There are diminishing holdings in the bush,” Mr Depiazzi said.

“As a family leaves the land, a neighbour usually absorbs the property rather than a new owner taking it over.”

Mr Depiazzi said the firm began its march east during the Whitlam Government years.

“The Labor Government was buying a lot of stations for Aborigines in South and central Australia,” he said.

“We were involved in a lot of bookkeeping and accountancy work for stations.

“Due to our expertise, we were asked to look after some of the South Australian and central Australian stations.

“We had to set up an office in Adelaide as a base for that work.”

In 1981, the firm moved on to Parramatta in New South Wales and then into Canberra in 1984.

Now, Mr Depiazzi’s tours to “keep an eye on the firm’s offices” take him all the way to Brisbane.

Mr Depiazzi said the accounting world was facing rapid change with the approaching implementation of the GST.

“That’s only part of the tax package. We have the Ralph changes still to come.”

It is expected the GST will bring a lot of work to accountants before 1 July. There have, however, been warnings that companies should get in early to ensure they are as well prepared for the new tax system as possible.

Part of the Ralph changes to taxes on trusts could hit home hard in Bird Cameron’s heartland, the country.

Mr Depiazzi said he believed his clients would be reasonably well educated by the GST activation date of 1 July.

“We have been involved in a major education campaign for our clients and the public,” he said.

“We’ve set up a specialist GST technical group to help with the GST transition.

“That group’s been fairly well utilised by our clients and other business people.”

Mr Depiazzi believed the man on the land would be at least educated about the GST before it came in.

“There are about 11,000 primary producers in WA and 7,000 of those have already booked in for training courses.”

Mr Depiazzi said there hadn’t been a major move by WA accountants towards becoming multi-disciplinary firms.

“Some have approached legal firms and added that arm to their service,” he said.

“We haven’t gone into the legal side. I’m not sure the demand for legal services is strong enough to warrant us making it an in-house service.

“However, we do have Bird Cameron Financial Services which provides advice in investment and retirement areas,” he said.

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