Taela Edwards ANAO Graduate

Taela Edwards

Queensland University of Technology
Performance Auditor - Performance Audit Services Group
Taela studied Bachelor of Fine Arts (creative and professional writing) and Business (economics) at Queensland University of Technology

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in a small town north of Toowoomba, QLD and moved to Brisbane for university at the age of 17. I changed universities once and degrees twice. I had a small personal crisis when I realised that to pursue economics outside of a bank or major private sector firm I needed to move to Canberra. This nearly resulted in a third change of degrees. I decided to give Canberra a test run with a three month internship at one of the major government departments, and I discovered that Canberra is an amazing city to live in.

My final year of university snuck up on me ­— I was totally oblivious to the graduate application process. This resulted in an accidental gap year which I spent working in retail, writing copious job applications, and attending Assessment Centres in Canberra.

How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?

I was lucky to be among a few grads from the ANAO’s 2018 graduate cohort to start early in October 2017, so I’ve recently completed my graduate year and am now working as a Performance Auditor in the environment branch of the Performance Audit Services Group at the ANAO.

How did you choose your specialisation?

I didn’t finish university with a specific career goal. I knew that I wanted to do something that would give me a sense of achievement and contribute to something other than a company’s profits. The assessment centre for the ANAO really sold it to me. I loved how the ANAO was all about improving public sector administration and holding the executive to account.

What was your interview process like? 

I don’t remember the interview, but the Assessment Centre was relaxed and welcoming. 

Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?

Performance Auditors can come from all academic fields. Strong writing and research skills are the key things you need to develop.  

What does your employer do?

The Auditor-General is responsible for conducting performance audits and financial statements audits of Australian Government entities in order to provide assurance the Parliament over the activities of those entities. The ANAO assists him to conduct these audits. Through the performance audits, the Auditor-General provides assurance over specific areas of public administration, such as the efficiency, effectiveness, or economy of the administration of a particular government program, making recommendations when there is scope for improvement.

What are your areas of responsibility? 

As a Performance Auditor, I work in a small team of 2–4 people to produce a 50 page report over 6–12 months. Each stage of the audit process looks quite different.

For the initial fieldwork stage, we spend a lot of time at the audit entity’s office conducting interviews and extracting documents. Sometimes we get to travel to exciting places as part of our fieldwork to observe program implementation, and interview entity staff and external stakeholders at the ‘coal face’. Sometimes this will be as close as a neighbouring Canberra office, or as far as another state or city. I recently had the privilege of traveling to Booderee National Park and Kakadu National Park as part of the field work for the Management of Commonwealth National Parks audit.

After the fieldwork stage, we are based in the ANAO office analysing all the information we have collected, attending meetings and writing our report, which is tabled in the Australian Parliament and published on the ANAO website when it’s finalised.

What sort of person succeeds in your career?

Someone who is systematic and curious, with a healthy dose of scepticism.

What are the career prospects with your job? 

In performance audit, you delve into a wide range of public administration areas, so anywhere really!

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely. Performance auditors come from all sorts of backgrounds.

What do you love the most about your job? 

I love the satisfaction of contributing to a more efficient and effective public service.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? 

It can be disheartening to see the recommendations from an audit not agreed to or not implemented.

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

  • Graduate program applications take a lot more time than you think, so be prepared to put in the time on each one.
  • Apply for more than one graduate position.
  • If you don’t get a position in the office or department you were hoping for, it might turn out better than you think.