John Kenley’s contribution to accounting came mainly through technical posts held initially as Technical Officer with the Australian Society of Accountants and subsequently as Director of the Australian Accounting Research Foundation. John’s involvement with the Foundation, which dated from its establishment, meant he was arguably Australia’s first accounting standard setter. As such he was a pioneer and the first of a long and distinguished list of individuals who have made a sustained contribution to standard setting both in Australia and internationally. Work in standard setting and a period of public service that preceded it were founded on strong academic credentials from The University of Melbourne earned in the aftermath of war-time service in far north Queensland. He later added a PhD from a North American university, a strategy adopted by many of his contemporaries. During his time at the Foundation John Kenley sought, through his writings and dissemination of ideas, to advance the interests of the profession following the disastrous corporate failures of the early to mid-1960s which had not only implicated accounting and auditing in the failures but also had highlighted deficiencies regarding the state of accounting principles in Australia. In 1968 he authored Accounting Research Study No 1: A Statement of Australian Accounting Principles (1970). Adapted from an earlier US work to reflect Australia’s institutional framework and existing financial-reporting recommendations, it was much lauded and became an important reference for the development of a conceptual framework underlying future Australian accounting standards. Another critical part of Dr Kenley’s work for the Foundation involved detailed research into existing Australian and overseas auditing practice. This resulted in a number of comprehensive submissions concerning the then proposed joint issue by the accounting bodies of a codified statement on auditing standards. Such was the influence of his work within the audit discipline that it led to the joint publication of a comprehensively revised Statement of Auditing Standards (AUS1) which was the precursor to the present-day Auditing Standards. John Kenley’s pioneering work at the Foundation was followed by a move to KMG Hungerfords (now KPMG) where he was ultimately National Technical Partner. In this role he remained involved with the Foundation and was instrumental in establishing the Auditing Standards Board, serving a term on the board. He also became a recognised authority on the administrative, accounting and auditing provisions of the new Commonwealth corporations legislation and was keenly sought as a presenter at many ASA and ICAA Congresses and seminars. Throughout his varied working life John Kenley continued to write and publish in the professional literature demonstrating his deep understanding of complex technical matters associated with accounting standards. He was the recipient of a Churchill Fellowship and received an Award for Meritorious Service from the NSW Division of the ASA.
The Australian Accounting Hall of Fame recognises John Kenley as an accounting standard setting pioneer acutely attuned to the standard setting process and possessed of a unique ability to interpret and explain complex technical matters associated with them.
Dr John Kenley was an accounting standards pioneer in the truest sense of the words. As one of Australia's first standard setters he was a proactive, guiding figure in building Australia's reputation in the accounting standard-setting worldwide. John Kenley excelled through his commitment to the development and dissemination of accounting principles and practices which underpinned the development, application and review of accounting standards in Australia.
Born in 1924, John Kenley matriculated from Coburg High School and joined the Australian Public Service in early 1941 as a Clerk in the Department of Supply and Development. Enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942, he was posted to remote Exmouth Gulf as a Radar Operator, a task he blamed for the eyesight problems he suffered later in life. At Exmouth his duties also included operating the kerosene-fuelled lighthouse. Under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme he completed, in 1948, a Bachelor of Commerce at The University of Melbourne. This was followed by a Master of Commerce in 1954 with a thesis that examined the effects of World War 2 on secondary industry in Australia. His PhD from the California Western University, awarded in 1978, was earned with a thesis on the objectives of financial statements. While in the Public Service he transferred to the Department of Shipping and Transport in 1951 as Senior Research Officer and was involved in Commonwealth-State relations in relation to road funding and motor-vehicle charges, work that stood him in good stead when he moved to the Commonwealth Grants Commission in 1960 as Senior Finance Officer.
In 1962 he left the Public Service to join the Australian Society of Accountants (ASA) (now CPA Australia) as its first Technical Officer, later Technical Director. This appointment proved to be ground breaking for the ASA as it became increasingly involved in the formulation of accounting principles and later accounting standards. One of his early tasks in this role was authoring the Society's own history: History of the Australian Society of Accountants and its Antecedent Bodies, 1887 to 1962. Another task involved the preparation and the subsequent publication in 1966 by the then General Council of the Society of the Report Accounting Principles and Practices Discussed in Reports on Company Failures. This report was reprinted for a number of years and was included in its entirety in the ASA Members Handbook.
When the ASA and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA) set up a separate Accountancy Research Foundation in 1966, Dr Kenley was invited to spend one third of his time on work for the Foundation. As such he was the first person to work for the interests of the combined accounting profession in Australia. Established in the aftermath of highly-publicised company failures in the early 1960s, the Foundation was seen as a vehicle for countering criticisms of deficient financial-reporting practices. Dr Kenley sought, through his writings and dissemination of ideas, to advance the interests of the profession following the disastrous corporate failures of the early to mid-1960s which had not only implicated accounting and auditing but also had highlighted deficiencies regarding the state of accounting principles in Australia. In July 1968 he became the first full-time employee of the Foundation (renamed as the Australian Accounting Research Foundation (AARF)) which was the antecedent of the Australian Accounting Standards Board and Auditing and Assurance Standards Board.
In 1968 Kenley authored Accounting Research Study No 1: A Statement of Australian Accounting Principles, (1970). Adapted from an earlier US work to reflect Australia's institutional framework and existing financial-reporting recommendations, it was much lauded and became an important reference for the development of a conceptual framework underlying future Australian accounting standards.
In a lengthy review Allan Robinson observed "this book is a landmark in Australian accounting literature. Every thinking accountant in Australia must read this book, no doubt extracts from it will find their way quickly into the audit manuals of professional accounting firms throughout Australia." A later review in 1992 by Peter Eddy stated that "the strength of this book is that it is written by John Kenley who is widely regarded as an expert on the interpretation of Australian accounting standards. His depth of knowledge comes through in the text and this provides insights into the nature, purpose and meaning of what otherwise would seem to be a rather dry set of rules. As a guide book it should have a place in the library of every practicing accountant who is involved in the interpretation and application of Australian accountant standards to financial reporting". Kenley collaborated with visiting US academic, George Staubus in 1971 to produce Accounting Research Study No 3: Objectives and Concepts of Financial Statements (1973) which was controversial at the time for its advocacy of cash-flow reporting. Today it is seen as prescient. A subsequent collaboration with New Zealander, Professor Tom Cowan, resulted in Case Studies in Financial Accounting which was widely used for many years in tertiary accounting courses in Australasia. Dr Kenley's last major work for the Foundation involved detailed research into existing Australian and overseas auditing practice. This resulted in a number of comprehensive submissions concerning the then proposed joint issue by the ASA and the ICAA of Statements on Auditing Standards. Such was the influence of Dr Kenley's work within the audit discipline that it led to the publication by both professional bodies of a comprehensively revised Statement of Auditing Standards (AUS1). At the 1977 ICAA Congress the President of the ICAA, P.J. Davidson, stated that without Dr Kenley's work the new Statement would not have been issued when it was. Dr Kenley's work within the audit discipline is also evidenced in the publication by the ICAA in its June 1971 journal of a comprehensive eleven page article Legal Decisions Affecting Auditors, Pacific Acceptance Corporation V. Forsyth & Others. It was further demonstrated by the award to Dr Kenley by the United Kingdom publication The Accountant of first prize in a worldwide competition for a leading article to be featured in its centenary issue in October 1974. Dr Kenley's winning article later re-produced in Australia in the ICAA's journal was entitled Auditing Standards. Are They Necessary?
John Kenley's pioneering work at AARF ended in 1977 when he joined the large accounting firm KMG Hungerfords (now KPMG). He subsequently rose to be National Technical Partner in the firm bringing vast experience of technical matters. While at Hungerfords he was instrumental, with others in the Foundation, in establishing an Auditing Standards Board in 1981. John Kenley was one of the original members of board. In his capacity as National Technical Director and later as the National Technical Partner he soon became a recognised authority on the administrative, accounting and auditing provisions of the new Commonwealth corporations legislation. In this capacity he was keenly sought as a presenter at many ASA and ICAA Congresses and seminars as well as commercial training organisations.
The standing and recognition by the profession of his work in the area of corporate financial reporting following the introduction of new National Companies Legislation from 1 July 1982 was recognised by the joint publication by the ASA and ICAA of his comprehensive dissertation and review of the administrative, accounting and auditing changes brought about by the new legislation. The importance of this work for the profession as a whole was evidenced by the foreword to this publication written jointly by the then National Presidents of the ASA and ICAA.
He left KMG Hungerfords in 1987 to work as part-time Technical Consultant for CCH Australia. For CCH his publications included the Guidebook to Australian Accounting Standards, 1990-1992, Franchising in Australia – the Accounting Implications and Accountants in the Raw – a Guide to Entering Public Practice as a Chartered Accountant. He retired from active consulting and writing activities in 1993.
John Kenley had links with a number of tertiary education institutions throughout his long career including The University of Melbourne, Monash University, Macquarie University, RMIT, Footscray IT, Mitchell CAE, MacArthur Institute, NSW Institute of Technology, Darling Downs IAE and Kuring-gai CAE. After he re-located to Sydney, Dr Kenley continued contributions to the work of the ASA by lecturing in its Professional Development Program on professional ethics, chairing the NSW Divisions' Professional Advisory Committee and as chairperson of the Library Committee, maintaining an active interest in developing its excellent reference facilities. This work was formally recognised by the ASA in 1986 when Dr Kenley received the ASA Award for Meritorious Service from the NSW Division. This was the most prestigious award offered by the ASA. In 1970 whilst at the AARF, Dr Kenley applied successfully for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship to examine overseas methods of professional accounting leading to the promotion of research into unresolved problems in business accounting – U.S.A., Canada, U.K. and South Africa.
John Kenley's fist article was written when he was a student at The University of Melbourne. Titled The Future of Accountancy, it was published by The University of Melbourne Commerce Society in its 1948 issue of The Margin. This was the precursor to a lifetime of writing almost exclusively in the professional literature. His iconic publication with Ken Middleton Accounting for Leases published by the ASA is one item in a list that contains ninety-six items in the Australian Accountant, fifty-one in the Chartered Accountant in Australia and fifty-thee in the Canadian Chartered Accountant. At least twenty additional publications complete the list. On any measure John Kenley would rank amongst the most prolific writers on matters to do with accounting.
John Kenley's 'no-frills' personality and appearance – which may have caused him to be underestimated by some in the accounting profession – was also reflected in his considerable body of written work that although characterised by a simple, direct prose style was underpinned by a deep understanding of the complex technical matters it covered. He was passionate about his profession and proud of his achievements over a lifetime of service.