Monday, March 1, 2010

Where I get ever-so-slightly bitchy. Cos I can. Cos I'm a bitch.

Hmmm, new National Curriculum released and there's bleating of 'black armband' history already.
I've recently been referred to as a black armband historian.
Because I pointed out that not including Australian Indigenous Peoples in economic essays on Oz history or in the history of Oz education from 1788 until 1900 resulted in those publications, and authors, being unreliable.
1. It gives a false picture of the economy and education field.
2. The authors have discarded relevant information as the people involved were not European.
Silly me.

Black armband historians are charged with painting the past as worse than it 'actually' was.
Hmm, ok, to avoid this, let's look at the facts before us....
Can the majority of Indigenous Peoples speak their (long, traditional) language?
Do the majority of Indigenous Peoples know their history by traditional oral means from their elders?
Are there a large majority of Indigenous People still seeking their families and ties due to being separated?
Are Aboriginal Languages promoted as a LOTE in most schools?
Has a little bit of digging unearthed radically opposing history to that reported by historians or officials of the time?

Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far the other way, after the whitewashing of Oz history faded to reveal a dingy, dirty grey of truth.
Maybe the truth is to be found somewhere in between, who knows?
But as long as there are eye-witness accounts to a vastly different story told in the history books, as long as massacres and burial sites are denied or covered up and as long as the refusal to accept that not all Aussies (both politicians and the bloke on the street) were fair and true blue in their dealings with their fellow man, then these accusations of 'black armband' history will forever contain the odour of disrespect, contempt and denial.


  1. Good on you, Jayne.

    This is the first I'd heard of the term "black armband historians", although I see it's been around since the 1990s. Personally, I only concern myself as to whether what is said by anyone on history is correct or not. Those who can't mix the good, the bad and the ugly in an interpretation of our history (and here I widen it, of course, to Australasian history) -- are the ones at fault.

  2. Yes, interesting terminology... I heard Julia Gillard come back with a 'white blindfold' reference today. Enough with the smart-arse colourful language and on with some facts people... you are right Jayne. It'll be somewhere in the middle. If only we could find that middle sooner instead of AFTER my kids have graduated...

  3. I was thinking about this today and got clarity of thought. What is wrong with learning English history in relation to Australia? It is very relevant to me. No, no, no. While it is relevant, it is not an Englishmen abroad history. It is Australia's history and all who sail in her. I would guess many young people would not know why there are Vietnamese people here. They need to be taught that too, along with why there are Jewish people here. I could go on but best not.

  4. Thanks, Lisa. The likes of Keith Windshuttle claim numbers/death toll of Aboriginal massacres are exaggerated but if one or 100 were slaughtered it is still something to be ashamed of.

    Yep, BB, as parents we have to find the middle ground and offer evidence to our kids as a balancing act for their education.

    I haven't gone through the curriculum properly yet, Andrew, but I can't fathom why (according to reports) they've jettisoned all references to English history when that it what shaped Oz.

  5. Multi-cultural history lessons.
    That's the way to go. Let's all learn about EVERY one else,and their country, not just the good bits from the "favoured" predecessors.

  6. Don't think what you wrote is bitchy, I think it's quite balanced in fact.

    I'm with River, Multi Cultural History lessons.

    We all have predecessors who aren't as pure as the driven snow.

  7. Exactly, River and Nikki, yet commonsense doesn't loom large on political CVs.

  8. Jayne, I think that Andrew is right, we need more history that draws out the varied threads in the Austalian experience. This has always been my complaint: too much of our history as taught is one dimensional.

    The issue of favoured predecessors (Nicki) is, I think a red herring. Sorry Nicki. We have to study British history history because it is central to what we are. If this is ignored we lose, among other things, our understanding of our own system of Government. Yet we have to understand other things as well.

    If we take the Aboriginal language question, I don't think that this can be understood without some understanding of the modern language revival movement.

    The proposed history curriculum is very crowded. What we need to do, I think, is to point people to areas of further study where issues cannot be covered.

    Last year I worked with an organisation that included a lot of Aboriginal staff, many from Northern NSW. They did not know that you could now listen to Kamilaroi (Gamilaraay) on line.

    Just a small point, I know, but still ( I think) an important one.

  9. You must remember Jayne, they were included in the census with Flora and Fauna and everyone knows they don't have history.

    I remember being absolutely appalled at finding out this fact, a disgrace in fact.

    It's like the Italians, everyone thinks they came here after WW2 but they were here at the turn of the century. Not to mention the Germans who settled the Barossa Valley.

    Australian history is the story of many different people who CAME here and dislodged the rightful owners who should now be returned to our history.