Australia’s Christian heritage has been erased from a proposed new national school curriculum that promotes Indigenous history, culture and perspectives and teaches children that British colonisation was an “invasion.” Secondary school students will no longer be taught that Australia is a secular nation and a multi-faith society with a “Christian heritage”, according to the revised curriculum documents released by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACRA). Instead, they will learn the nation is a “culturally diverse, multi-faith, secular and pluralistic society with diverse communities, such as the distinct communities of First Nations Australians”. Experts, including Australian Catholic University research fellow Kevin Donnelly expressed alarm at the proposed direction for school education, which includes a significant cut to humanities content across both primary and secondary years.
“The entire curriculum is awash with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture and spirituality to the detriment of teaching students about Australia as a Western liberal democracy with a Christian heritage,” Dr Donnelly said. “It smacks of cultural relativism.” While some broad history topics such as Investigating the Ancient Past, which encompasses events across Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, Rome, India, China and the Maya, have been removed, others have been rewritten with a specific Indigenous focus. Previously, under the curriculum, the theme Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures has been listed as a “cross-curriculum priority”, meaning it should be taught as part of all subjects, ranging from English to history.
However, following feedback from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Advisory Group, it now has elevated importance and has been incorporated directly into several subjects. ACU Senior Research Fellow Dr Kevin Donnelly says all top-performing academic countries “get rid of all the faddish rubbish” and focus on what is essential, as sweeping changes are proposed to the national curriculum. Among the proposed changes, primary school students will no longer study internationally significant commemorations such as Bastille Day in France, Independence Day in the US or Chinese New Year. Instead, they will focus on the importance of Australia Day, Anzac Day and National Sorry Day and will examine British colonisation through the perspective of First Nations people.
From Year 4, students will learn about the “arrival of the First Fleet and how this was perceived by the First Nations Australians as an invasion”. And while students in Year 4 have previously been required to study at least one world navigator, that topic has been replaced by an exploration of the significance of trade to First Nations People of Australia. The influence of the Indigenous perspective is also visible in the proposed new civic and citizenship curriculum. Where Year 8 students previously studied “values and beliefs of religions practised in contemporary Australia, including Christianity”, they will now learn about Australia as a “culturally diverse, multi-faith, secular and pluralistic society with diverse communities”.
New content under the topic Laws and Citizens will teach students about the effectiveness of the justice system “in achieving equality of access, equity of outcomes, procedural fairness, the right to appeal, and remedies for injustices, particularly for First Nations Australians”. Curriculum documents will also no longer reference the terms Aboriginal and Indigenous, which will be replaced by First Nations Australians or Australian First Nations Peoples, after the advisory group raised concerns about the “accuracy and adequacy” of the overarching themes of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority. Other feedback from the advisory group included that the current national curriculum did not include enough “truth telling” about the experience of First Nations Australians since the arrival of Europeans.
The current curriculum also failed to recognise that the First Peoples of Australia experienced colonisation “as invasion and dispossession of land, sea and sky”; lacked mention of the Native Title Act 1993 as a law passed by the Australian parliament that recognises the rights and interests of First Nations Peoples of Australia in land and waters according to their traditional laws and customs; and failed to showcase the sophisticated political, economic and social organisation systems of the First Peoples. Sky News host Andrew Bolt says “race propaganda” is coming to a classroom near you “very soon” with the new proposed changes to Australia’s national curriculum. The changes have been recommended by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.
“We keep spending billions more on education, yet keep seeing standards fall,” Mr Bolt said. “Looking at these proposed changes, spare us. Why is it that radicals seem in charge of deciding what gets taught? “The deeper you look into these changes the worse it gets.” In the subject of English, texts from Aboriginal authors “will be promoted” and it’s recommended the terms ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘Indigenous’ should be replaced with ‘First Nations Australians’ or Australian First Nation Peoples’. “Our classrooms are just being prepped here for race politics,” Mr Bolt said. “I’m not jumping at shadows here.” The director of the Institute of Public Affairs’ western civilisation program, Bella d’Abrera, criticised the removal of references to Christianity, Ancient Greece and many of the institutions and values of Western culture under the guise of “decluttering” the curriculum.
D’abrera said “This is not clutter; this is knowledge that every Australian child should learn,” she said. “This is giving licence for children to unlearn the freedoms of our democracy and brainwash them into becoming political activists.” Historian Geoffrey Blainey said: “By all means teach Indigenous history, but not at the expense of classical and Western civilisations. Ancient Rome surely did at least as much as Uluru to shape the modern Australian way of thinking and living.” Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation chief executive Simon Haines said although he had yet to examine the curriculum changes in detail, he would be concerned about students losing a world view of history. “It would be a pity if a significant increase in Indigenous history, while a subject of great importance, were to be at the cost of meaningful education in the major historical events of the wider world,” Professor Haines said.
Haines went on “Australia is an island. We need to know our own history, of course, while at the same time not being too insular.” History Teachers Association of Australia president Catherine Baron said the inclusion in the Year 7 history curriculum of First Nations culture was welcome. “They will be looking at two ancient cultures, and instead of that being two cultures from around the world, one will be a First Nations culture. It’s a good thing for kids to learn about their own nation’s cultural history,” she said. ACARA chief executive David de Carvalho said: “The proposed revisions in the curriculum give students the opportunity to discuss and understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, for example, how the arrival of the First Fleet was perceived and interpreted.”
This is a controversial and complicated issue and Christians are represented on all ‘sides’ of this debate. Ignoring Aboriginal culture and the implications of European settlement for the original occupants of this great land is not appropriate and there may well be a need to add some information into the school curriculum to tell a fuller story. However, removing or minimising the Judeo-Christian foundations and strong Christian heritage of the nation we now know as Australia is preposterous and will only leave a different critical imbalance in our national story – something which many ‘left-leaning’ anti-Christian political leaders would be delighted to see.
This is a matter for serious prayer. However, we also need to be praying for families and Churches – both of whom have the primary responsibility for educating our children and telling them the whole story.