Building Capacity to be Ethical: A Critical Enquiry Based in the South Australian Public Sector

Author: Natalie Lewis

Lewis, Natalie, 2018 Building Capacity to be Ethical: A Critical Enquiry Based in the South Australian Public Sector, Flinders University, College of Business, Government and Law

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


This primary empirical research study is, based on the thoughts and attitude of the public employee participants, and ethical praxis in the public sector, Adelaide, South Australia. This was their story. This was their contribution to the public sector, and their thoughts and feelings. Despite governance in place delineating acceptable actions although not limited to behaviour, the perception of reality is at times somewhat erroneous. My research outcomes suggest that there are some historical aspects of the public sector that are so entrenched that they are evident despite the contemporary construct of governance, and a change in models of administration. As individuals and as a collective society, this research signifies the social importance of pushing out the boundaries of moral and ethical reasoning. Subsequently, to increase individual and collective ethical praxis in the public interest respectively. This research study falls within the paradigms of ethical ontology, and the field of established social science theory. The hypothesis (H1) for this research study was that the social practice of a witnessed oath through the lived experience builds memory and asserts a propensity of inspiration and desire within an individual to hold themselves true to the words of the taken oath. This research study demonstrates the potential of ‘mixed methods’ research.

To the best of my knowledge the ritual and power of oath taking has, never been researched for its effect on attitude and individual morality. This study was original research. Best explained by a witnessed sense of occasion, oath taking has been a significant part of human history and played a social importance in the construct of its time. This research of enquiry will concentrate on the need to develop capacity through increased knowledge and awareness, and memory building to develop foresight and therefore ethical praxis. The capacity for increased awareness and knowledge was conceptualised as a hypothetical oath specifically designed and developed by the researcher – me for this primary study. The hypothetical oath is aptly, named the Lewisēthikόs Oath 2010©Natalie Lewis.

Because of the qualitative findings and quantitative results of this research, the Lewis Oath Theory was, developed that forms a focus on the social practice of the witnessed occasion. This thesis argues for the social importance of research that will contribute to the understanding of, and respect for ethical praxis through encouraging capacity typified by education and awareness, and its increasing importance in the decision-making process. Without denying the contemporary concerns of the public sector, we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to push out the boundaries and explore moral and ethical attitude without dismissing complexity and uncertainty to co-create new possibilities and solutions. Subsequently, to motivate the individual to increase ethical praxis – practice that is distinguished from theory.

This thesis incorporates secondary research undertaken in a dissertation for my Degree of Master of Public Administration, titled Building Capacity for Increased Awareness in Ethical Praxis: A secondary research review and critique.

Keywords: Ethics, Ritual, Capacity, Oaths, Public Administration

Subject: Sociology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Business, Government and Law
Supervisor: Dr Craig Matheson