John Mcaskill, Founding Board Member


The late John Mcaskill was 10thousandgirl’s founding finance director and company secretary and over 2010-2011 assisted the grassroots organisation through the process of becoming a registered not-for-profit.

John was former finance director for Chanel and former CFO for P&O Cruises and Harlequin Mills & Boon and a treasured friend and mentor to all the team at 10thousandgirl. 10thousandgirl would not be where it is today without him and his generous efforts and we’ll remember him always.

Below is a tribute to his rich life.

SMH: Master of logic became best teacher – John McAskill, 1953-2012

Gifted teacher … John McAskill used his super-dry wit to engage his accounting students. Photo: Supplied

When asked about personal milestones or achievements, John McAskill would always grin wickedly and say, “I attended Roseville Girls’ College as a student.” He revelled in the confusion this created.

McAskill was born in January, 1953 to Ron McAskill and his wife Gene (nee Murchison) of Roseville. He did attend Roseville Girls’ College, during its brief kindergarten co-ed years, then went on to Roseville Primary School and Shore School before studying accounting and economics at Macquarie University.

He was a natural at logic, yet not necessarily at numbers, and admitted he took a little longer to graduate than some – possibly because of his love of tennis, at which he regularly represented Macquarie University. He worked for Deloittes, NCR, P&O Cruises and Mills and Boon before taking the position of finance director at Chanel Australia from 1989 to 2003. In 2000, he married Amanda Thomson.

Yet it isn’t as an accountant that McAskill is remembered. As a stand-in lecturer at Sydney’s APM Training Institute, he turned the heads of college administrators when students raved about his ability to communicate tedious accounting concepts in a way that could be easily understood. He was offered permanent lecturing and his accounting career shifted into an education career – one he excelled at.

As the number of students undertaking business degrees multiplied, McAskill found himself in demand from universities and private colleges to teach non-specialist accounting students. For students he was a godsend. Finally there was a person who could explain credit, debit and cash flow without using a textbook the weight of a house brick. Using his super-dry wit and healthy scepticism of business weasel-words, McAskill produced accounting lectures students actually turned up to.

In 2005, McAskill started ”Accounting for Growth”, a business that supplied accounting advice and business analysis to small businesses or not-for-profit organisations. He embraced the 10thousandgirl project, aimed at educating women on financial matters. While not-for-profit organisations paid nothing for his work, others paid far less than he was worth. He gave his time willingly to those who needed it, and freely to those in dire need.

In 2007 he spoke out strongly against ”hidden commissions” paid to financial planners. He established the Commission Control website to educate people about these commissions and help them to obtain refunds. This was clearly not a popular move among planners or accountants generally, yet one he believed in fully.

Perhaps McAskill’s biggest accomplishment came when motor neurone disease had taken his ability to walk and talk – a time when many MND patients give in to the struggle. After beginning his MBA through Edinburgh University in 2007, he was determined to complete. As his disease progressed, he became even more determined but refused to ask for assignment extensions or special provisions. In December last year, he completed his last exam from his wheelchair using his ”good right hand” without any special consideration or third-party help. He was awarded the MBA in a family ceremony a month before his death.

As MND took his ability to sleep, McAskill found great pleasure in using his iPad to understand the world a little better, and utilised ”text-to-speech” technology to communicate the interesting things he’d found during his sleepless nights. New versions of an opera classic found on YouTube, profound lines from a 1970s film or simply ridiculous jokes that tickled his unusual sense of humour were communicated by a digital voice he found increasingly humorous.

John McAskill is survived by Amanda and her daughter Caela, brother Allan, sister Sandy, a wide family and an army of friends. He is also remembered by those hundreds of students who without him wouldn’t know one side of a ledger from the other.
Phil Dye

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10thousandgirl programs are generously subsidised by corporate sponsorship, government funding and industry support.

A social enterprise supporting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals