Australia would make lessons about the history of European invasion on First Nations People compulsory for all school students under proposed curriculum changes, the nation’s independent Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) revealed.
The draft revisions will use much stronger language by explicitly teaching that Australia’s First Nations Peoples experienced British colonisation as an “invasion and dispossession” that denied their history, language and connection to land, sea and sky.
The more widely accepted terms “First Nations Australians” and “Australian First Nations Peoples” will also replace the phrase “Aboriginal” and “Indigenous” under the draft changes.
ACARA similarly wants pupils to be taught that many “First Nations Australians regard Australia Day as Invasion Day.”
The changes were spurred by a review of the current curriculum, which concluded too much weight was placed on teaching First Nations history before European settlement, which subsequently conveyed First Nations Peoples “as artefacts of the past.”
Ultimately, the review expressed concern that the framework for the current curriculum was “outdated.”
Mark Rose, chair of the ACARA Indigenous advisory committee, said he expects some criticism around the proposed changes.
He was intent, however, that teaching children differing views gives them a real-world advantage.
"Some people will find it may be controversial, but if you peel back our society, there are four faces of this nation,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “We have a colonial past, which is significant and should be in the curriculum. We are part of Asia. We are one of the world’s most multicultural nations. And we house the world’s longest-living continuous culture. If those four faces are not represented, we are doing our kids a disservice.”
Have your say now on the #AustralianCurriculumReview. Giving your feedback is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Visit the public consultation website for more https://t.co/6nbzPTSOeE#AusCurric#aussieEDpic.twitter.com/EyEGN6i5Dt— ACARA (@ACARAeduau) April 29, 2021
Haley McQuire, the coordinator at the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition, has welcomed the changes.
'We're ecstatic that this is happening," she told NITV News. "[It goes] beyond just reconciliation, this is really about justice — telling the truth about history and really grounding young people in the foundations of this country is essential to our future."
McQuire added: "We need them to really know how our systems and structures came to be and be honest about the experiences that First Nations people had during colonisation and how that shapes the experiences of all Australians today."
Australia’s Education Minister Alan Tudge, however, said he was concerned the proposal doesn’t appropriately strike a “balance” between “honouring our Indigenous history” and ensuring it does “not come at the expense of dishonouring our western heritage.”
“We have an opportunity to enrich the history curriculum with more emphasis on Indigenous history and Indigenous perspectives. This would be a positive development,” he said in a media release. “But as our greatest historian, Geoffrey Blainey, has said, it should not come at the expense of the teaching of classical and western civilisations and how Australia came to be a free, liberal democracy.”
“I don’t want students to be turned into activists,” he told the Guardian.
The proposed new curriculum is now open for public debate until July 8.
After revisions are made, the curriculum will need to be approved by federal, state and territory education ministers.