Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to understand if accounting is an unAustralian activity, contrasting the notion of the bush and bushman present in popular Australian poetry and cultural myth with the notion expressed by Maltby of the link between the soul of the middle class and the practice of bookkeeping. The paper aims to explore the notion of a tension between what might be seen as indigenous values and the values of Western capitalism. Design/methodology/approach The paper presents an analysis of Australian poetry to identify in this culturally significant media how the city and the technologies of accounting are negatively contrasted with the bush and the bushman. Since many Australians migrated from European countries, we might expect bookkeeping to claim a foundational place in the Australian soul. Findings This literature shows bush dwellers as being exploited by those from the city, and city professionals such as the accountant and the lawyer as having lost their sense of self and soul. The sense of “other” reflected by the concept of the bush in Australian literature represents a tension between a structured and ordered European sense of self expressed by Maltby and an archetypical sense of self implied by the character of the bushman and connected to the Australian landscape, with its inherent but little acknowledged debt to the Aboriginal. In this landscape the absence of both accounting and the associated rhetoric of economic rationality allow other forms of rationality to emerge. Originality/value This is the first time that poetry has been examined in relation to accounting. It shows a deep insight into the place of archetype of the accountant in Australian cultural identity. In addition it argues that responses to accounting can reflect underlying rhetorics of rationality.