Culture Counts: A choice modelling approach to quantifying cultural values for First Nations people

  • Michaela Gay Woods

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    In response to the research question ‘What methods are feasible, reliable and appropriate for quantifying cultural values for First Nations people?’, this thesis demonstrates how choice modelling can elucidate and measure the value that
    Indigenous people place on aspects of their culture by privileging their viewpoints. Measuring and incorporating these intangible values in policy and legal frameworks is essential to effectively and substantially give voice to First Nations peoples.

    The idea behind this research developed while travelling with a Nyikina elder who spoke of the tension between income from employment establishing a livelihood in the western way and the cultural activity essential for maintaining cultural connection, identity and wellbeing. Using those tensions and trade-offs in choice modelling enables measurement of intangible values of culture.

    Choice modelling, which includes discrete choice experiments and best-worst scaling, has strong theoretical bases in economics and psychology, supported with rigorous mathematical architecture. It has been shown to accurately predict actual behaviour, with fewer behavioural biases than contingent valuation. Limited application of choice
    modelling with First Nations people has occurred in cultural heritage, environmental and resource management contexts.

    Multiphase fieldwork in several west Kimberley locations, with Nyikina and Mangala people, started with qualitative research to build trust and inform the selection of attributes and levels for the choice model. In order to yield maximum information about preferences, with minimum cognitive load, a Best-Worst Scaling Profile Case model with a supplementary question about profile acceptability, a discrete choice experiment, was developed and incorporated into a survey.

    The relative preferences identified in responses yield dollar valuations for the cultural attributes. Overall, access to traditional Country had the strongest responses to lowest and highest levels yielding marginal values of up to $0.44 million per person per annum.

    As well as informing methodological development, this research has significant implications and potential applications in policy and legal contexts. The need for Indigenous viewpoints to be central in policy development is generally accepted, and viii Woods choice modelling could support valuation in this context. Failures to protect cultural heritage have highlighted the need to quantify and incorporate cultural values in decision making, rather than dismissing them as immeasurable. Application of choice modelling in native title compensation cases could overcome the current limitation of determinations being reliant on judicial intuition and market proxies.
    Date of Award6 May 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsAustralian National University
    SupervisorRolf Gerritsen (Supervisor)

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