The new Australian history curriculum will teach not only students but parents about indigenous history. Associate Professor Sarah Maddison said she feels “we all need to participate in constructive conversation”.
“We’re just not having those difficult conversations that we need to be having in order to fully understand our history and think more creatively and productively about how we might make amends for historical injustice.”
Macy, 10, is in grade four at a Victorian primary school and can’t recall studying indigenous history, a fact that has “astounded” her mother, Catherine.
Macy said she believes countries learn from their mistakes. “I don’t think of them as bad, it’s just that they made a mistake, but they’re not going to do it again.”
The Non-indigenous Co-Chair of the National Sorry Day Committee, Sally Fitzpatrick, said she feels there is a “dichotomy” between the older and younger generations.
“There’s a cultural dissonance, where young adults coming through don’t see the older generation as reflecting the values they’ve been taught to hold.
“What are our national narratives? Australians aren’t comfortable retelling this country’s story. History happened in Australia, but the recorders for many years have been non-indigenous – which has left out a whole chunk of the story.
“There’s no way of having an authentic truth without taking on board all the different points of view.” Ms Fitzpatrick said she feels the success of any curriculum depends on its implementation.
Ms Maddison said that “there are teachers and parents who would prefer that their children were taught a more conservative or celebratory version of Australian history”.
She said learning the “troubling aspects of our history” brings a range of emotional responses that people don’t know how to deal with.
“But we can’t ignore that responsibility. Aboriginal people don’t have that option. They live with that history, they struggle with the legacies”
Ms Fitzpatrick recalled hearing stories from members of the Stolen Generation, “[They] have had children say to them, ‘If it happened we would have been taught about it’. These are formative moments in people growing distrustful or sceptical of our own history.”
Catherine doesn’t feel qualified to teach her children indigenous history, “When I was in school [in the 1970s] we watched slides and films of indigenous people – they were 20 years out of date and I doubt they were very accurate.”