Accounting as a tool for Aboriginal dispossession: then and now
While the physical dispossession of Aboriginal Australians since European settlement has been well documented, a more insidious role, which has been played stealthily and with little publicity, is that played by accounting practices. Through their contribution to the displacement of social values by economic imperatives, measured by yardsticks such as profitability and financial accountability, these practices have acted to continue the dispossession process. Accounting concepts are examined in the light of a hunter-gatherer social economy and the unsuitability of modern accounting to provide for a social accountability is highlighted. Examples show that the meaning of today's accounting concepts is in many instances directly opposed to the understanding of those concepts in traditional Aboriginal societies. More important, perhaps, are the effects of currently popular beliefs that dispossession and injustice are historical, and have been remedied by government and social initiatives. Contrary to this perception, it will be shown that in many cases attitudes remain that hold Aboriginal organisations to a higher level of accountability than other government-funded bodies. These accountability hurdles, that effectively restrict access to resources, are simply a less overt continuation of the processes of dispossession.