Ches Baragwanath AO


Chesleigh Antony Baragwanath (Ches) qualified for membership of the Australian Society of Accountants in 1964, studying with the Hemingway Robertson Institute. He started his working life in the audit field with the Australian Audit Office (now the Australian National Audit Office) in 1952 and subsequently moved to the State Electricity Commission of Victoria as Internal Audit Manager before transferring back to the Australian Audit Office as Assistant Auditor-General. Ches Baragwanath was appointed the 23rd Victorian Auditor-General in 1988.  During his 11-year tenure, Ches Baragwanath redefined public accountability in Victoria. In doing so, he set new standards for the work of Parliament of Victoria’s key watchdogs and established benchmarks for upholding the right of the community to be fully informed on how elected officials managed their taxes.  A key characteristic of the work of Ches Baragwanath was the resolve he displayed in preserving the public interest in several complex and challenging encounters with governments. His searching reports to Parliament encompassed a range of topics across the breadth of the public sector. Many of these reports attracted wide and high-profile community support involving audits with a high degree of complexity often accentuated by controversial status. Ches was fearless in his commitment to reinforcing the community’s “right to know” and always ensured his reports were based on unassailable audit evidence. Ches Baragwanath displayed a tenacity to withstand the pressures placed on him and his tireless commitment to servicing the Parliament and, through Parliament, the Victorian community. He did this with great dignity and fairness. His various audit recommendations became the impetus for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the operations of government entities. As Auditor-General of Victoria, Ches Baragwanath was the driving force behind constitutional provisions introduced by the Victorian Parliament in 1999 which assigned the strongest possible level of independence to the position. Further constitutional provisions enacted in 2003 ensured this independence was permanently protected from external influence. Through these amendments the Victorian Auditor-General today operates with total independence, essentially distanced from the direct influence of Executive Government. Ches Baragwanath served the Australian accounting profession in a number of areas. He was a Fellow of CPA Australia, Victorian State President and inaugural Chair of the Audit Centre of Excellence. He was a member of the Commonwealth Electoral Redistribution Committee and, for some years, Honorary Treasurer of the Australian Red Cross. In 2010, he was appointed for a period as a sessional Commissioner of the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation. In June 2003 Ches Baragwanath was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for service to the community in the area of public accountability and financial management and in the development of standards through initiatives such as privatisation and advances in information technology.

The Australian Accounting Hall of Fame honours Chesleigh Baragwanath as accountant, auditor and public servant.