In recent years in Australia, accounting regulations have been developed that require the adoption of commercial accounting and reporting practices by public-sector organisations, including the recognition of cultural, heritage and scientific collections as assets by non-profit cultural organisations. The regulations inappropriately apply traditional accounting concepts of accountability and performance, notwithstanding that the primary objectives of many of the organisations affected are not financial. This study examines how this was able to occur within the ideas outlined in Douglas’s (1986) How Institutions Think. The study provides evidence to demonstrate that the development; promotion, and defense of the detailed accounting regulations were each constrained by institutional thinking and, as a result, only certain questions were asked and many problems and issues associated with the regulations were not addressed. Thus, it seeks to further our understanding of the nature and limits of change in accounting and the role of institutions in promoting and defending changes to accounting practice.
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