Culture, control and accountability in community enterprises among the Tiwi

  • John Stanley Cook

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    This study reviews factors which have been found to affect the operation of Aboriginal enterprises in Australia and discuss these in relation to three empirical case studies of Aboriginal community enterprises located at Nguiu, Bathurst Island.

    In order to provide a framework within which questions concerning Aboriginal management can be made, what is generally known regarding the management and organisational development of Aboriginal enterprises is first discussed. Factors to do with historical and contemporary operations, Aboriginal attributes and the high degree of non-Aboriginal control over Aboriginal organisations are seen to be of major importance in understanding the problems for Aboriginal management and organisational development. Importantly, the integrated social and economic life in communities appears to have a major impact on the success or failure of enterprise operations.

    Of particular interest is the impact on organisational behaviour of values associated with collectivist societies. For, in many Third World countries particularistic practises arising from social relationships provide for considerable role conflict at work and constitute a major problem to development. Possibilities for cultural change to alleviate such conflicts are seen to require an understanding of indigenous management and knowledge systems, as well as the basic requirements for effective organisations. In the case of Aboriginal people, these possibilities for development are further complicated by their encapsulated position within the nation state of Australia. Encapsulation, by nation states, is the common situation faced by indigenous people who are politically considered as the Fourth World.

    The comparable plight of other indigenous people leads into a discussion of the general nature of tribal cultures as they exist in remote communities of Australia, which is referred to as traditionally orientated Aboriginal culture. The nature of these collective hunter gatherer societies was shown to be very different from South East Asian cultures.

    Aspects to do with resource control, land and the sharing nature of these gift societies, impose unusual strains on management control. The Aboriginal world view is based very much on interactional relationships, as distinct from transactional relationships which are essential to western societies and imperative in economic enterprises.

    Having provided this general picture the discussion then focused on Tiwi culture. While the Tiwi culture is unique, it has in common with other Aboriginal cultures certain cognitive aspects, values and a similar world view. Having regard to the initial objectives of this research the research questions encompassed factors to do with historical and contemporary operations, Tiwi attributes and non-Tiwi control. Accepting the theoretical basis of Aboriginal culture and given the methodological problems associated with carrying out research in Aboriginal communities, the three case histories of Nguiu enterprises namely, Nguiu Ullinginni Association, Tiwi Designs and Bima Wear provide a degree of insight into the problems facing Tiwi development.

    It was found that these problems were essentially the same as in other remote communities. However, they have not been addressed at Nguiu, as in many other communities, because what is offered for development is training in western skills of management. The specific and integrated nature of these communities needs to be addressed by human resource development strategies which are known to work in similar environments elsewhere. What is ironic in Australia today is that insufficient use is made in the development of our own indigenous people of knowledge gained in other parts of the world concerning similar problems of development.
    Date of Award1994
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPeter Blunt (Supervisor)

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