Socially accountable

As a child in Vanuatu, Pala Molisa was dragged along by his parents to protests about gender justice or conferences on Pacific development.

That early exposure to social issues has left a lasting impression on the Victoria lecturer.

Victoria lecturer, Pala Molisa

Pala, who teaches in the School of Accounting and Commercial Law at Victoria Business School, is focusing his research on the little-known area of social and critical accounting.

“It’s about trying to come up with alternative reporting systems, so you’re looking at things like social or environmental impacts, instead of just financial figures. It’s about questioning the status quo.”

Pala graduated last year with a PhD hat looked at the role accounting plays in producing social inequality and ecological unsustainability. “A lot of people think of accounting as this technical, valuefree and pretty neutral discipline—just numbers. But the whole point of critical accounting scholarship is to say those numbers have important social and political functions, and very important social and ecological consequences.”

He says his most important influences were his parents, especially his mother. “Mum and Dad were both part of the independence movement in Vanuatu against British and French colonialism—Vanuatu became independent in 1980. Mum was also a feminist and women’s rights activist, and she was a poet too. So I grew up in a very politicised environment, which has stayed with me, and I consider myself very lucky for that exposure.”

It’s not just education that Pala values—he’s a successful sportsman too, having represented Vanuatu in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games.

“I think it’s important to have that balance in life, and to have a sense of obligation to the communities that helped you to become who you are: for me that’s my family, the Pasifika and Māori communities and the academic community, in particular.”

His postdoctoral research will expand on his PhD work, focusing on gender justice in the sex industry, the impact of prison growth on social inequality and how accounting intersects with wider systems of power such as neo-liberal capitalism.