Oppression, Dispossession And Massacres

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10 May 2024
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In this article Dr. Bella d’Arbrera contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into the national curriculum.

All media posted onto the IPA website are directly related to the promotion and dissemination of IPA research.


When Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan appeared at the Yoorrook Justice Commission’s ‘truth telling’ inquiry last week, she sought to perpetuate the myth that schoolchildren in Victoria are being taught a false, whitewashed version of the state’s history. Allan even claimed there was a ‘systematic’ attempt to completely erase Aboriginal Australians from the history books.

This was an astonishing claim for a state premier to make given the content of the Victorian curriculum’s history syllabus. From primary school all the way up to Year 12, Victorian children are being taught a single, self-flagellating, one-sided ‘black armband’ version of this country’s history.

The demoralisation commences in Years 3 and 4, when children are introduced to the ‘importance of symbols and emblems, including Australia Day, Anzac Day, Harmony Week, National Reconciliation Week, Naidoc week and National Sorry Day’. They learn that Australia has not one, but three flags, all of which should be flown during ‘Naidoc week, National Reconciliation Week, National Sorry Day and Mabo Day’.  Lest they forget, children are also told that a significant day in the liturgical calendar is the observance of the ‘National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples (2008)’ which falls on 13 February.

When it comes to the history of the first contact, they hear about ‘Pemulwuy or the Black War, and the impact that British colonisation had on the lives of Aboriginal people such as dispossession, dislocation and the loss of lives through conflict, disease, loss of food sources and medicines’. In a unit called ‘The Australian Colonies’, Years 5 and 6 investigate the ‘consequences of frontier conflict events such as the Myall Creek Massacre and the Pinjarra Massacre’, while in ‘Australia as a Nation’, children learn all about the ‘lack of citizenship rights for Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia, illustrated by controls on movement and residence, the forcible removal of children from their families leading to the Stolen Generations, and poor pay and working conditions’.

So far so bad. In secondary school, lessons on first contact describe ‘the massacres of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; their killing of sheep; the spread of European diseases, frontier violence, and categorising these effects as either intended or unintended’. They cover ‘the forcible removal of children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century (leading to the Stolen Generations), such as the motivations for the removal of children, the practices and laws that were in place, and experiences of separation’.

The students who mysteriously choose to study Australian history as part of their VCE are offered ‘Power & Resistance (1788-1913)’. Apart from being a subject which indoctrinates them with a Marxist power-directed system of thought, it maintains that the ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples confronted the challenge of colonisation in a variety of ways, from frontier battles and conflicts that resisted the dispossession of their land, to adaptation and attempts to coexist, survive and preserve their culture’.

Among the required texts is Richard Broome’s Aboriginal Victorians; A history since 1800 which tells ‘the story of how Victoria’s First Nations people survived near decimation to become a vibrant community today’ and which has been recently updated to include the Yoorrook Justice Commission. They are also reading Ann Curthoys’ Taking Liberty: Indigenous Rights and Settler Self-government in the Australian Colonies1830–1890 which discusses the ‘tragedy of indigenous dispossession and displacement, with its frontier violence, poverty, disease and enforced regimes of mission life’. It is little wonder that over the past eight years, the number of Victorian students studying this country’s history has plummeted from 1,245 in 2014 to a miserable 478 in 2022. There is only so much oppression, dispossession, massacres and decimation one can take.

It is therefore extraordinary that the premier testified that the education system is crossing out ‘tens of thousands of years of connection to country’ and blotting ‘away the bloody stains of colonisation’. It is even more extraordinary that she claimed that the ‘crossing out’ and ‘blotting away’ was not by accident but by design. Allan’s suggestion that there is some sort of vast conspiracy between schoolteachers and historians is so out of touch with reality it beggars belief.

Her comments have nothing to do with history or truth telling, but everything to do with politicking and political expediency. Allan is playing the identity politics game. She has been presented with a list of demands from indigenous activists which include exempting them from land tax, stamp duty and council rates as well as providing them with interest-free loans to purchase homes and the creation of ‘designated seats’ on local councils. If these demands were to be met, Victorians would find themselves living in a two-tiered society.

The problem is, of course, that this is exactly what the majority of Victorians rejected in last year’s Voice to parliament referendum. In Allan’s hometown of Bendigo, 59 per cent of her constituents voted No to racial division. The fact that her government is wilfully thumbing its nose at the democratic verdict delivered by Australians by pushing forward with this divisive agenda shows the deep contempt that the elites and the political class have for ordinary Australians.

The majority of Australians are proud of their states, their nation and its history. Not so long ago, the Premier also seemed to be proud to be a citizen of this nation. In her 1999 maiden speech, she waxed lyrical about her love for Bendigo, a ‘city with a golden past – a past that includes at least three generations of my family’. In that same speech, Allan also said that her key purpose in being a member of parliament was to ‘demonstrate that the best politicians are those who see themselves as true representatives of their electorates’, and that she intended ‘to listen, to discuss and to be a voice for the people’.

Perhaps the Premier could start by listening to Victorians when they tell her that they do not want to live in a state divided by race.

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