This article is supported by Monarch Institute, Education for the Real World.

When COVID-19 hit and Australia was forced into lockdown, many of us (perhaps most) put any plans for upskilling to the side. Pressures of maintaining a functioning family life, home-schooling as well as setting up an office at the kitchen sink in our pyjamas was all we could really muster.

But for Khristle Barr, a 34-year-old mum of four, the pandemic served as an unlikely catalyst for career growth. Determined to pursue her certification in bookkeeping, she contacted  Monarch Institute and soon set the wheels in motion.

Her motivation was simple, she says: “Never let anyone tell you, you can’t achieve what you set your mind to”. A few minutes into our conversation and it’s clear this line isn’t a case of hollow words but rather a deep-seated and seriously inspiring mindset.

Khristle, who has a fourteen-year-old daughter, and three boys aged twelve, four and one, hasn’t had a life free from life-altering challenges and heartbreak. When she fell pregnant at twenty, she was excited but apprehensive. Pulling out of a recently accepted law degree she focused her mind on motherhood.

But a few short years later, when the relationship turned sour and her then partner turned violent, Khristle was forced to leave with the responsibility squarely on her shoulders to raise two small children.

The experience triggered a fierce resolve in her to prove (fundamentally to her kids), that no matter what setbacks come your way, you can emerge on the other side a stronger, more resilient person.

“My children were my main priority during this time in my life,” she shares. “I felt I had a responsibility to break the cycle of domestic violence by being brave enough to acknowledge the truth behind our closed doors.”

“My children are my greatest motivation. I have always wanted to show them that you can try anything you set your mind to and with determination and hard work, you can achieve any goals you set in life.”

Khristle worked tirelessly to build her career, pursuing successful roles in the travel industry, financial services and education. But when she met her next partner (now husband) Peter, an opportunity arose for her to help manage her mother and father in law’s respective business accounts. It was this responsibility that ignited a new motivation in the young mum to become a qualified bookkeeper. “When I find a passion, I run with it,” she tells me.

“I needed to be qualified but I knew I needed special support from my course to be as flexible as my “mum life” style was,” she says. “Navigating after school activities, managing my existing home-based businesses, maintaining my fitness and a FIFO husband working away 10 weeks at a time, I knew making time to study was going to be a challenge.”

Khristle Barr with her family

Fortunately, Khristle’s experience with Monarch Institute was seamless. Praising the excellent guidance she received the whole way through her course, she notes that her trainers seemed determined to “share the entire journey” with her and her family. “I needed to do this with people who’d support me, and they did from day one,” she says.

She found a way to study at times that suited her lifestyle, including at night, in between toddler naps and feeds, and even when her older children did their own homework. The isolation of COVID-19 was strangely the perfect springboard.

“I loved how my course brought my children all together,” she says. “My children became my study pals, with the older kids completing their homework and my young boys colouring in or doing puzzles on the dining room table while I was studying with them.”

“Monarch offered support at every available platform. I could call through to administration during the day, email the trainers for guidance at any time, speak with other students on Facebook and access Zoom classes during the week.”

Perhaps serendipitously, the wake of the COVID-19 crisis will likely breed new opportunities for accountants and bookkeepers too, as the economy attempts to reboot, and businesses look for help securing stimulus package offerings. Khristle already has her sights firmly set on an extension course to bolster the qualification she’s just received and sees this career path as an exciting new chapter.

“I’m planning on continuing my journey with Monarch to complete a Diploma of Accounting shortly,” she says. “I would love to add ‘Registered Tax Agent’ to my existing Registered BAS Agent title and one day operate my very own accounting business.”

As well as continue in her new career, Khristle hopes to be a voice for women like herself. Women who have been through the trauma of domestic and family violence and now need significant support to regain their lives and livelihoods. The emotion catches in her throat when she tells me of the many women and men who stood beside her through it all; especially noting her husband Peter, her close family and friendship circles especially her friendship with her best friend Jasmin which spans over 30 years.

“Even with everything I’ve been through, I’ve never felt alone”, she says. “Their belief in me propelled me to keep going and strive for the very best.”

You can access information on available courses with Monarch Institute, here.