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Teaching all of Australia’s history

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After years of living in Australia, my family decided to make the journey to Uluru to learn about Australian history.

I remember sitting on the aeroplane, watching in awe as the city and greenery melted away into this amazing expanse of red dust freckled with the occasional robust desert vegetation. It was at that very moment in seat 7A that I fully appreciated the grandeur of the Australian outback.

Without a doubt, one of the first questions which entered my mind was how could anyone, inhabit the land below? A land which lacks readily available water, food and experiences great varying temperature differences in one day.

And yet, Aboriginal groups were not only successful in surviving in such harsh conditions, but they were actually able to thrive there for thousands upon thousands of years.

But how?

And to be honest, I had no clue. Even after completing the compulsory history courses in high school, all I had was a faint recollection of several dates starting from colonisation and followed by the various twentieth century policy changes. And, this vague recollection was not just because I had not been paying attention. Because I had. Well, most of the time…

Nevertheless, whilst learning about events like colonisation and Gallipoli is very important in understanding the last 200 years of Australian history, these facts are useless in grasping the way Aborigines lived on this land for over forty thousand years. The culture and lifestyle that Indigenous Australians have practised over these tens of thousands of years are just as much a part of Australian history as the arrival of the First Fleet to Botany Bay.

But what can I do?

Nonetheless, students can elect ‘Aboriginal Studies’, a course which covers topics including identity and heritage. But, it seems odd that Indigenous Australian beliefs should only be incorporated into the education system as an elective study. These beliefs have been around for thousands of years and so should be part of the compulsory HSIE courses.

A recent study has shown that Australian university students associate Caucasian faces more with the Australian identity than faces of Indigenous Australians. How can we change this?

The solution itself is easy – we need to include more of Aboriginal culture into the HSIE courses. However, what about the implementation of this solution? Well, that, on the other hand, is more tricky as it relies on bodies such as the Department of Education.

But hopefully, with continuous questioning of the courses’ content and pressure from students and teachers alike, one day, the compulsory HSIE courses will not just teach Australian history spanning the last 200 years but delve into the hundreds and thousands of years before the First Fleet even landed in Botany Bay.

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