The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has released its proposed changes to the national school curriculum, which will see European ‘colonisation’ of Australia described as ‘invasion’.
ACARA has suggested students be taught that some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consider ‘Australia Day’ to be ‘Invasion Day’ and that the colonisation of Australia is “perceived by the First Nations Australians as an invasion”.
The proposed revisions have been criticised by Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge, who told Sky News he was “concerned” about the proposed changes.
“I don’t want students to be turned into activists,” he said.
“I think we should honour our Indigenous history and teach that well but equally that should not come at the expense of dishonouring our western heritage which has made us the liberal democracy that we are today.”
Associate Professor Catherine Burgess, a highly experienced educator in Aboriginal education and curriculum from the University of Sydney, responded to Minister Tudge’s comments saying that students are already taught from a western perspective.
“The Indigenous perspective is almost non-existent,” she said.
“Even the teaching of Aboriginal history that we do still fits within western framing.”
Associate Professor Burgess also said that while the proposed changes are welcome, they are not new.
“Invasion has been taught in the NSW school curriculum since around the late 1980s/early 1990s — in the History and Aboriginal Studies syllabuses,” she said.
“Over and over again, governments have tried to water down or exclude the word ‘invasion’, but ongoing pressure from the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group has, to some extent, prevented this.”
The Associate Professor also said the issue with the word ‘invasion’ is that it has always been debated from an emotional stance rather than a factual one, and that to understand the issues Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face today, the true history had to be taught even if it’s uncomfortable.
“Without intellectual discussion about the terminology, the true history of the country will continue to be whitewashed, facts will be ignored in favour of populist slogans such as the ‘history wars’, ‘cancel culture’ and ‘political correctness’,” she said.
“The Australian curriculum is often interpreted as the ‘warm and fuzzy’ dots and didgeridoos approach that avoids uncomfortable conversations about our history.
“They’ve taken the critical thinking out of history — because knowledge is power, but it depends on what education you get.”
The proposals from ACARA are only in the draft stage and are now open to feedback from the public until July 8. The proposals will then be subject to consideration and approval by Minister Tudge and State and Territory Education Ministers.
By Madison Howarth