Purpose: This study explores citizen activism in the articulation of a politicised counter-account of Aboriginal rights. It aims to uncover the enabling factors for a successful challenge to established political norms and the obstacles to the fullest expression of a radical imagining. Design/methodology/approach: Laclau and Mouffe's theory of hegemony and discourse is used to frame the movement's success in challenging the prevailing system of urbanised healthcare delivery. Empirical materials were collected through extensive ethnographic fieldwork. Findings: The findings from this longitudinal study identify the factors that predominantly influence the transformational success of an Yaṉangu social movement, such as the institutionalisation of group identity, articulation of a discourse connected to Aboriginal rights to self-determination, demonstration of an alternative imaginary and creation of strong external alliances. Originality/value: This study offers a rich empirical analysis of counter-accounting in action, drawing on Aboriginal governance traditions of non-confrontational discourse and collective accountability to conceptualise agonistic engagement. These findings contribute to the practical and theoretical construction of democratic accounting and successful citizen activism.