As a tool for justice, cloud accounting software like Receipt Bank may not be the first choice.

Yet, for the Aboriginal community of Balgo in Western Australia, it proved highly useful during their fight to evict the operators of Balgo’s only general store, the Wirrimanu Community Supermarket. 

This unlikely collaboration between modern accounting and an isolated community resulted in a victory for the Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) which represents Balgo residents. 

A little background 

Numerous indigenous communities in remote Australia use a Commonwealth-owned company to develop and run their supermarkets, which provide food, white goods and clothing. The organisation is then required to return all net profits to the community they serve. 

The residents of Balgo had a different experience when they were forced to issue a Show Cause Notice to the overseeing organisation. According to ABC News, directors at WAC discovered that information regarding the distribution of net profits was allegedly withheld.

The community had no idea how much they were earning and/or losing and the needed transparency was not there. In response, the company claimed the money “was funds held in a term deposit.”

With evidence on their side, the WAC launched a forensic financial investigation earlier last year in a bid for more access to the financial goings-on. They eventually launched a takeover of the Wirrimanu store and began to transform its operations. 

Learning by the numbers 

John Birse, Director of The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and founder of Jim’s Bookkeeping Franchise became involved when he saw a remote community business struggling with compliance and clarity. A change officer at heart, John is passionate about introducing transformative technology into the bookkeeping industry. Wirrimanu presented an opportunity to offer a high tech solution to this lack of financial transparency. 

When he approached the Wirrimanu Community Supermarket, his first task was to take over the backend and transform their legacy systems. While rolling out new processes, John also began educating staff and community locals on the best ways to manage funds.

He developed webinar sessions to break down everything from cash flow, Centrelink and purchase orders to forecasting and basic principles.

Receipt Bank Down Under

At the outset, John needed to implement software that would help with the management of documents for the new store employees and stakeholders. Since the overall goal was to streamline document processing from beginning to end, he saw cloud accounting technology as the only fit for them. He needed to provide transparency and consultancy all the way from his base in Victoria. 

While John wasn’t well-versed in Receipt Bank, he knew that it could help Wirrimanu’s Community Supermarket go paperless and revolutionise their existing systems. Receipt Bank came on board, bringing along a system that would only cost the Balgo community the equivalent of a few coffees. 

“Just as automatic transmissions make it easier to drive a car without having to change gears and use a clutch pedal – Receipt Bank automatically picked up key elements of my supplier rules and entered the data into my general ledger seamlessly,” said John. 

Receipt Bank’s Australian Partner Success team worked closely with both John and Balgo stakeholders over the first few months of implementation, coaching all involved through the workflow changes and new ways of gaining information. 

Moving away from paper-based, single user, single device, manual legacy accounting systems to cloud-based programs such as QuickBooks and ReceiptBank has meant Aboriginal Directors from remote communities are financially informed.

John Birse

Moving forward

If mediations between WAC, the Balgo community and the company in question prove unsuccessful, then the search is on for new operators of the Wirrimanu supermarket. 

“We look forward to inviting them back to the table if they are prepared to modify their management contract and levels of financial transparency,” WAC told ABC News. 

Until then, their updated systems will consistently keep them ahead of the curve. For John, he feels that the WAC and Balgo community are more than ready for what’s next. 

“They now feel empowered to access financial information, approve payments on their mobile phones, view financial dashboards and drill down to see supplier bills on any device at any time.”

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