Accounting interventions in the construction of Aboriginal citizenry

Susan Greer

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This paper offers a ‘history of the present’, which provides one account of how accounting techniques and mechanisms became embedded within the mentalities of Australian government – Aboriginal relations. It contributes to an expanding literature, which highlights the instrumentality of accounting and the consequences of its use within colonial practices of government. Cases unfolding in the United States of America and the Australian States of Queensland and New South Wales testify to the importance of understanding the roles of accounting in the structuring of these administrative fields that denied Aboriginal people access to their own money. The study investigates how one of these authorities, the Aborigines Protection Board (1883-1939), later the Aborigines Welfare Board (1940-1969) conceived of the minutiae of Aboriginal lives as a site for government, and the particular visibilities of Indigenous (in)capacities and attributes that accounting language and practices helped shape. It documents the efforts of these authorities to shape Aboriginal conduct to comply with specific outcomes of financial behaviour consistent with norms of citizenship. The analysis shows that the ability of the Boards to imagine and fulfil this objective depended on accounting knowledge and techniques, which rendered Aboriginal existence thinkable and calculable and as a problem for government. Employing concepts drawn from the literature on governmentality the study reveals a domain in which financial and accounting activities were important to the ability of the authorities to both envisage the Aboriginal people as a population for government and to constitute programmes for their management and control. In doing so, it affirms the centrality of accounting as an essential factor not only in the processes of colonial government, but also in the practices of modern governance.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2006
EventInterdisciplinary perspectives on accounting conference (8th : 2006) - Cardiff, Wales
Duration: 10 Jul 200612 Jul 2006


ConferenceInterdisciplinary perspectives on accounting conference (8th : 2006)
CityCardiff, Wales


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