Call for history revision - plus Higher Education Outcomes

Milanda Rout The Australian September 23, 2011

The national history curriculum fails to adequately teach students about the Stolen Generation and should be revised before it is signed off by state and federal education ministers next month.

That is the call from the Greens and the National Sorry Day Committee who will today hold a joint press conference urging the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority to delay the final approval of the history curriculum before it goes to the ministers.

"References to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in primary school are scarce and clumsily written, revealing serious flaws with the new curriculum," said the committee's indigenous co-chair Helen Moran.

"Australian children should not have to wait until Grade 10 to get a full picture of Australia's history."

She said Sorry Day and Kevin Rudd's apology on behalf of the Australian parliament were not included in Grade 3 course work, despite it being compulsory for students to learn about Anzac Day, Harmony Day and NAIDOC week.

"And in Grade 4, Aboriginal people are grouped together with flora and fauna in the module that briefly considers the impacts of colonisation," Ms Moran said. "This is unacceptable and insensitive, given the fact that Aboriginal people were wrongfully classified with flora and fauna in historical legislation."

She said the proposed curriculum breached the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report, which advised that the "forcible removal of Indigenous children" be a mandated component of history throughout primary and secondary school.

The Greens' indigenous affairs spokeswoman, Rachel Siewert, said yesterday that Australian students needed to understand "both the good and bad parts" of the nation's history and that included an appropriate amount of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content.

"In terms of Australian history, the Stolen Generation is a significant event. The effects of the policy of taking children from their parents and families are widespread and continue to this day," Senator Siewert said. "When learning about Australia's past, we need to recognise our many highlights, but also our mistakes."

History is one of four subjects to Year 10 that received conditional approval last December and waiting for the final tick-off. All states and territories except Western Australia had agreed to "substantially implement" the curriculum by 2013.

WA had set a tentative start date of 2014. The NSW government recently said it would not implement the curriculum until 2014 at the earliest.

The NSW and Victorian governments have also warned that they would not approve the new curriculum if it was of inferior quality.

But Education Minister Peter Garrett said the histories and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were a "core part" of the national curriculum. "We believe we have the right balance," Mr Garrett said.

Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People
DEEWR    pdf Terms of Reference pdf 431kb - pdf Professor Larissa Behrendt pdf 58kb

Professor Larissa Behrendt

University access takes new course

PS News September 22nd, 2011?

A review of higher education access and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is open for public input into Indigenous participation in higher education, research and the professions.

The Ministers for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans and Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr called for public input into the Review saying the Government recognised that Indigenous participation in higher learning was well below acceptable levels.

“I look forward to hearing from the higher education sector and broader community on how they view the current outcomes, on what’s working and what they think needs to change,” Senator Evans said.

“Higher education is central to building the capacity of Indigenous communities and facilitating the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the professional life of the nation.”

He said the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people benefiting from a higher education had improved in recent years but due to increasing rates of participation by non-Indigenous students, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students had remained unchanged at about 1.3 per cent.

“Only 0.5 per cent of students who complete PhDs in Australia are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander,” Senator Carr said.

“This highlights a need for strategic investment to support talented Indigenous people to pursue research degrees and research careers.”

He said an advisory panel had been appointed in April to lead the review and was examining the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the higher education sector, both as students and as staff.

The panel is chaired the Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney, Professor Larissa Behrendt and includes the Chair of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council, Professor Steve Larkin; Associate Secretary of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Robert Griew; and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Patricia Kelly.

Senator Carr said the panel would advise the Government on measures to improve outcomes for students, researchers and academic and non-academic staff with expert analyses being commissioned to inform its work.

Senator Carr said that research would focus on approaches to increasing participation, retention and completion of Indigenous students.

It would also focus on the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff in universities, particularly in academic and research roles, and the recognition of Indigenous knowledge within the academy.

Senator Evans said submissions on the review would be accepted until Friday 18 November 2011 and more information was available from this PS News link.