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Being treasurer is more than a numbers game

By Kerryn Burgess, editor, Our Community

Award-winning not-for-profit treasurer Suzana Vlahovic says that although numbers and spreadsheets are important in her role with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), they're not the full story.

"My role is to work in teams to challenge, problem-solve, and help create positive outcomes for our clients, communities and people."

Ms Vlahovic is one of four community treasurers awarded $5000 each for their organisations in last year's 2018 Commonwealth Bank Not-for-profit Treasurers' Awards.

The other winners included:

  • Mr Tony McCartney, Ilbijerri Theatre Company, VIC.
    • Mr McCartney has worked in Aboriginal Affairs for over 35 years, holding senior roles in local and national Aboriginal organisations.
  • Mr Mark Thompson, Balmain Rowing Club, NSW.
    • Mr Thompson's work saw the Balmain Rowing Club reach record membership, growth and participation.
  • Ms Jane Reilly, YWCA NSW, NSW.
    • Ms Reilly is a senior audit partner at PwC, Treasurer of the Board of YWCA NSW and Chair of Finance Committee, overseeing the NFP program delivery and hotel/hospitality businesses.

Ms Vlahovic was nominated for her big-picture thinking in creating a "roadmap" of the finance function of the Melbourne-based ASRC.

"The roadmap will essentially lay the foundations to support building the maturity of the finance function, the capability and capacity of the finance team and finance committee, and the strengthening of financial governance," she said.

Ms Vlahovic described her role as treasurer and board member as an opportunity to "give back" to Australia.

"My parents were migrants to Australia from the former Yugoslavia in the early 1970s, and my husband was granted asylum in Australia after fleeing war-torn Bosnia in the early 1990s. Through the support of the Melbourne community and organisations like the ASRC, my family have been extremely fortunate to begin a new life in Australia, which has provided my sister and myself with incredible opportunities."

An audit partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ms Vlahovic says "keeping up" with the ASRC's fast-paced growth is one of the biggest challenges of her task as treasurer.

"The ASRC has grown significantly from its inception as a grass roots organisation to today the largest independent human rights organisation for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia."

And her advice to other community treasurers? Play to your strengths.

"Bring your skillset and use it to its maximum to ensure the organisation is compliant, sustainable and able to grow successfully. I have been able to share my skills as a chartered accountant and finance professional to assist and guide the ASRC from a finance perspective, as the organisation continues on its strong growth trajectory."


Damn Good Advice for Treasurers: a free guide packed with practical advice for treasurers of not-for-profit organisations.

Damn Good Advice for Board Members: a similar guide but aimed at board members.

NFP Treasurers awards: Learn more about past winners.

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