Cooper, K., Some Professionalisation Strategies Of Australian Accountancy, School of Accounting & Finance, University of Wollongong, Working Paper 2, 1995.
It is one thing for an occupational group to designate itself a profession but quite another to attain public recognition of this status. Accomplishing publicly recognised professional status was a prime task of Australian accountancy during the course of this century. This task was, perhaps, more difficult for Australian accountancy than, for example, their United Kingdom counterparts. One factor contributing to the difficulty of the task was that many of the unexpected corporate failures in the wake of the Victorian land boom of the late eighteenth century cast many members of the early Australian accountancy associations in the role of charlatan or rogue. This occurred because subsequent investigation revealed that the accounts of many of these companies were grossly misleading even though they had been prepared and audited by so-called "qualified" accountants. Despite this ignominious start, two Australian accountancy associations, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and the Australian Society of Certified Practising Accountants (formerly the Australian Society of Accountants), have achieved a dominant position in the regulation of external financial reporting through control of the setting of legally backed accounting standards. In this paper, a translation model of power will be used to explain some of the professionalisation activities of Australian accountancy associations. In particular, it will demonstrate that the accountancy associations used traditional professionalisation activities such as education, examination and training requirements to exclude the "unqualified" from membership. However, non-traditional strategies were also employed when necessary. Non-traditional professionalisation strategies included the formation of alliances and agency relationships with others interested in the activities of accounting associations, for example, the financial press, business interests, Federal and State governments and the United Kingdom government and chartered accountants. Dissidence within Australian accountancy also had to be overcome by alliance strategies. The translation model of power shows that achieving a dominant position, or for Australian accountancy, the transition from charlatan to doyen, was not so much a matter of proving claims to specialised knowledge and skill used in the public interest but an ability to form alliances and create agency relationships. In other words, an ability to win friends and influence people.