Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure


Faculty of Business and Public Management

First Supervisor

Professor Russell Belk

Second Supervisor

Professor Geoffrey Soutar

Third Supervisor

Professor Geoffrey Kiel


Over the two centuries since the arrival of European settlers in Australia, the material culture and lifestyle of the indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia has undergone dramatic change. Based on qualitative fieldwork in three remote Aboriginal communities in north-western Australia, this study examines the emergence of unique consumer cultures that appear to differ significantly from mainstream Australia and indeed from other societies. The study finds that the impact of non-indigenous goods and external cultural values upon these communities has been significant. However, although anthropologists feared some fifty years ago that Aboriginal cultural values and traditions had been destroyed, this study concludes that they are still powerful moderating forces in each of the communities studied. The most powerful are non-possessiveness, immediacy in consumption, and a strong sharing ethos. Unlike findings in the so-called Second and Third Worlds, these Fourth World consumer cultures have not developed an unquenchable desire for manufactured consumer goods. Instead, non-traditional consumption practices have been modified by tradition oriented practices. The consumer cultures that have emerged through a synthesis of global and local values and practices have involved Aboriginal adoption, adaption and resistance practices. This process has resulted in both positive and negative impacts on the Aboriginal people of these communities. Ways of dealing with the negative effects have been suggested, while the positive effects have been highlighted as examples of what can possibly be learned from Aboriginal culture. The study also finds differences between the emerging consumer cultures of each community, concluding that this can be attributed to historical and cultural differences. The main conclusion is that the development of a global consumer culture is by no means inevitable.

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