Issue 9
Monday, 02 November 2020
Charles Darwin University
Accounting PhD candidate Ellie Norris
Accounting PhD candidate Ellie Norris

Research to bridge cultural disconnect

By Patrick Nelson

A Charles Darwin University student hopes to deliver a fresh approach to standard financial reporting that places greater emphasis on Indigenous cultural values.

PhD candidate Ellie Norris said her research would explore the meaning of accounting in an Indigenous not-for-profit setting, and to capture some of the reporting experiences of Indigenous organisations. 

“The purpose of financial reporting is to disclose information to meet the needs of stakeholders, however some of the standards developed to achieve consistency do not allow for cultural perspectives,” Ms Norris said.

“Indigenous cultural values don’t always align with Western accounting principles. The protection of cultural heritage and traditional knowledge is not something that is readily measured in financial terms.

“For example, ceremonial artefacts, artworks, or some other cultural asset of great value to an organisation, is not necessarily an asset that an accountant can report on the balance sheet.”

Ms Norris said that if current reporting methodology specified by accountants or regulators was deficient, it was reasonable to ask what reporting would look like if created by Indigenous organisations.

“I’ll explore whether conventional accounting standards should be adapted for Indigenous cultural values and explore stakeholders’ financial and non-financial information needs,” she said.

“I’ll also work with participants to co-design a framework for reporting that better addresses their needs. This won’t be a one-size-fits all solution, but rather a catalyst for further discussion on the matter.”

Ms Norris, who moved to Alice Springs for work about four years ago, said she had been a finance manager for the past 10 years.

“This project combines my experience with my interest. As a practicing accountant, I have seen the disconnect between financial reporting and the value created by an Indigenous organisation,” she said.

“It is also an issue that has received little attention in the accounting literature. From a business and accounting perspective, it is an under-researched area.

“Hopefully I’m in a position to do something about it.”