I vividly remember the English lesson in high school when my distorted version of Australian history first began to shift.
As I studied I began to underline the words: "I had no idea there had been massacres and punitive expeditions. I was ignorant about the protective and repressive legislation and of the ideology and practice of white racism..."
We were reading the non-fiction text, Why Weren't We Told by historian Henry Reynolds, a book which sought to challenge the predominant views of Australian history and shatter the 'peaceful' and white-washed narrative of the events which occurred during colonisation.
There's been much discussion lately around a motion put forward by Senator Pauline Hanson, leader and founder of One Nation.
The motion sought to reject critical race theory (CRT) from the national curriculum, and last week, the Australian Senate voted in support of the motion.
CRT is an academic theory and framework developed primarily by black scholars and activists to highlight the systemic and institutional nature of racism.
A draft of the proposed revised national curriculum was released at the end of April. New revisions include a more accurate reflection of the historical record of First Nations people's experience with colonisation, with a commitment to "truth telling", and a stronger emphasis on cultural diversity and inclusion. This would also mean, in part, recognising that Australia's First Nations peoples experienced the British arrival as an "invasion".
The motion comes after concerns reported in some media, such as The Australian, that the proposed draft national curriculum is "preoccupied with the oppression, discrimination and struggles of Indigenous Australians". One article claimsthe draft curriculum will push radical racial theory.
It discusses a poll conducted for the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), a conservative think tank, which showed parents overwhelmingly reject the move to bring CRT into Australian schools.
IPA director Bella d'Abrera criticised the entire premise of CRT as "wrong", and pointed out that all Australians "already enjoy full legal equality".
IPA shared a video about why it believes critical race theory should be banned in all schools, claiming it to be "dangerous and discriminatory", and that "it tells children to hate themselves, it is tyranny of the mind."
I wonder what is so radical about telling the accurate version of history? What is wrong about listening to the First Nations voices and hearing their stories; to step back and empathise with their experiences; and to educate our students without withholding information?
The Productivity Commission released new data last week revealing Australia is not closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage, and Aboriginal youth suicide rate is four times higher than other young people nationwide.
The number of Indigenous people imprisoned has increased 100 per cent in the past three decades.
Three per cent of the population comprise nearly 30 per cent of those behind bars, and in the Northern Territory, more than 80 per cent of prisoners are Indigenous.
Even more alarmingly, half of all children in detention nationally are Indigenous, with more than 90 per cent of all juveniles detained in the NT being Indigenous.
An Australian National University study found Indigenous Australians who have experienced racism develop poor health. Racism was linked to pain, poor life satisfaction, psychological distress, anxiety, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
It is clear that those most vocal against CRT have not had their lives impacted by racism. Instead it is time to allow Indigenous Australians to speak; to illuminate their voices and not silence them further.
For example, a survivor of the stolen generation has described what it was like to be ripped from her family as part of a confronting exhibition at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Wiradjuri woman Fay Moseley is one of the elders showcased in Unsettled, which the museum describes as its "most important" exhibition in its 194-year history.
"This exhibition is about the truth: the massacres, the deaths in custodies, the stolen generations, everything that was denied came out in the exhibition and it made people really feel unsettled," Aunty Fay said.
In Victoria's south, a primary school student Henrietta Barker, 11, 'moved crowds to tears' with a powerful song for the Stolen Generations. Henrietta was inspired to write the song during Reconciliation Week last year.
"I felt very deeply about what I discovered and my song reflects those emotions," she said.
We are stepping backwards; critical race theory will not radicalise our students.
Australia was built upon racial injustice, whether we accept it or not. The only way to overcome Australia's ingrained racial attitudes is through education, awareness and human stories.
When I had the opportunity to read texts which challenged the traditional understanding of Australian history in school such as Why Weren't We Told, I was not radicalised. Rather, I became more empathetic and aware of the injustices and challenges our First Nations people have gone through and continue to go through.
In the final chapter of Why Weren't We Told, Reynolds states, "I'm not aware of any historian who has consciously set out to undermine social cohesion, damage the nation or corrupt youth... Much critical, revisionist history springs from a belief that Australia should do better and is capable of doing so."
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