The issue of Australian indigenous world-views and accounting

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Abstract:

Traditionally, mainstream cross-cultural accounting research has applied a societal norms and values measure to the examination of differences in culture. This approach is limited, however, because it effectively disfranchises the culture of minority groups such as indigenous peoples within nations. Our paper provides evidence of cultural differences between indigenous Australian values and the Western capitalist values implicit in the language of accounting and accountability. Utilising an alternative yin/yang framework developed for accounting by Hines, we argue that the core indigenous yin values of sharing, relatedness and kinship obligations inherent in indigenous conceptions of work and land, are incompatible with the yang values of quantification, objectivity, efficiency, productivity, reason and logic imposed by accounting and accountability systems. This conflict of values then brings into question the impact of accounting and accountability systems on the indigenous peoples of Australia whose beliefs, norms and values are organised differently. The need to address such a conflict is critical for all of the world's indigenous peoples. Perhaps even more so for the Australian indigenous peoples because of the insistence by governments, at both the state and federal levels, that the extreme social and economic disadvantages experienced by the Australian indigenous peoples can be dissipated by the imposition of strict financial accountability measures for all indigenous organisations and representative bodies. We argue that the demonstrated conflict of values is a significant reason for the inability of accounting and accountability systems to deliver such social and economic outcomes. The research findings of non-indigenous researchers are largely drawn on in this paper. The two authors of this paper are not indigenous people and therefore we are speaking "of" indigenous culture and not "speaking for" them.

Keywords: Australia; Ethnic Groups; National Cultures; Race; Social Accounting

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513570010334793

Publication date: March 1, 2000

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