Posted on May 6, 2021

European Colonisation Taught as an Invasion

Olivia Day, Daily Mail, April 29, 2021

Proposed changes to the national curriculum will see school students taught that First Nations Australians experienced European colonisation as an invasion.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) also advised the terms Aboriginal and Indigenous be replaced with First Nations Australians or Australian First Nations Peoples.

In a report released for discussion on Thursday, ACARA said it found a lack of ‘truth telling’ about the experience of First Nations Peoples since European settlement, and raised concerns about the ‘accuracy and adequacy’ of the current curriculum.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures is a cross-curriculum priority, meaning the topic must be taught across all disciplines including maths, science and history.

The existing themes have been criticised for putting too much emphasis on the experience of First Nations people in the period before European settlements.

In a summary of the proposed changes, the review states the curriculum failed to observe that ‘the First Peoples of Australia experienced colonisation as invasion and dispossession of land, sea and sky.’

Students were not being taught their country is home to the worlds oldest continuing culture, and were not being made aware of the ‘sophisticated’ political, economic and social organisations systems of the First Nations Peoples.

The new curriculum would teach that the occupation and colonisation of Australia ‘were experienced by First Nations Australians as an invasion that denied their occupation of, and connection to, country/place’.

This would replace the current syllabus which refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities having a special connection to country and place.

A distinction will also be made between Australia’s two First Nations Peoples – the Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The biggest changes will be made to the history curriculum, with Year 4 students to learn about experiences on the First Fleet, the effects of colonisation on First Nations people and how this was perceived as an invasion.

Students in Year 9 will learn about contested terms like colonisation, settlement and invasion, as well as different historical interpretations about colonial societies.

Currently the NSW Aboriginal Studies syllabus, an HSC course, teaches the concept of invasion, while junior high school syllabus discusses how the concepts of invasion, occupation and settlement differ depending on perspectives.

Mark Rose, chair of the indigenous advisory committee at ACARA, said it was important to teach children about different viewpoints.

‘We do it not because we’re pandering to a minority and we’re politically correct’, Mr Rose told The Sydney Morning Herald.

‘We think embedded in indigenous knowledge for all kids is an ability to anchor themselves in competing world views.’

He said children who are taught different perspectives are given a ‘real advantage’ entering a society with multiple world views.

‘It’s a reality for our kids. Some people will find it controversial, but if you peel back our society, there are four faces of this nation.

‘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.’

ACARA chief executive David de Carvalho said the proposed changes would encourage students to consider new perspectives, in events like the arrival of the First Fleet.

‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ experiences and perspectives are part of Australia’s past and present reality, but they do not invalidate other perspectives and experiences,’ Mr Carvalho said in a statement.

‘Perspectives’ and ‘interpretation’ are core concepts in the study of history, used to identify the essential content students should learn.’