This article is set within the context of concerns about Indigenous workforce participation disadvantage. It discusses conflicting life-worlds relating to work of both Aboriginal and non- Indigenous residents in Ngukurr, a remote community in South East Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory. It contrasts an Indigenous social culture of kinship and relatedness to a Western one where employment is central to identity and its formal rules shape behaviour. We investigate how these different social ideologies affect cross-cultural relationships and shape the formal employment domain in Ngukurr. Given that governments have moved to more assimilationist policies in recent years, there are important policy implications following from this mutual cultural incomprehension.