Can Australia’s conflicted Aboriginal history be taught with honesty?

Australia’s national curriculum is back in the public spotlight right now, with Aboriginal-Colonial conflict being a sore point of contention.

Starfish is a proud partner working on the Myall Creek Centre for Reconciliation. The Myall Creek Massacre is of profound significance to Australia’s education for for two reasons: first its historical significance as fact; and second, for the possibility of authentic reconcilitation that it represents.

The Myall Creek Massacre gives an horrific insight into Australia’s contemporary history. On 10 June 1838, armed stockmen rode onto Myall Creek Station outside Bingara in north-west NSW and massacred 28 Wirrayaraay men, women and children of the Gamilaroi people.

Unfortunately, this horrific act was not an exception.

What is exceptional though, is what followed: the Myall Creek Massacre was found in law to be fact. After two highly publicised criminal trials, most of the men responsible were found guilty and hanged.

Myall Creek was the first time in Australian history that white men were brought to justice for the murder of Aboriginal people. A precedent had been set. Technically, this was the first time that Aboriginal Australians were recognised as human in the eye of the law and ruling settlers. This significant moment pre-dates the 1967 Referendum for the Aboriginal right-to-vote by more than a century.

On the matter of Australia’s national school curriculum Paul Daley of The Guardian writes in Is the national curriculum biased? Let’s have a classroom debate:

“Good teachers will always spot the dogma inherent in a national curriculum no matter who has written, meddled with, or politically compromised it. They’ll notice and seek to fill the omissions, too.

“I’m reminded of Henry Reynolds (a historian loathed by the right for his focus on frontier violence) as a university teacher in 1964, trying in vain to find mention of Aboriginal Australians in the main textbook for his Australian History course.

“Things have come a long way. But they can just as easily revert.

“The national curriculum is the worthy subject for fierce ongoing cultural debate. But ditching it in order to end the perpetual arguments about what our children should learn about their country’s past, thereby leaving it up to individual schools, would be counterproductive.”

From its deeply sad and horrific roots Myall Creek has grown to become one of the most concrete and widely recognised examples of reconciliation and healing anywhere in the world today.

These changes began with the trials that immediately followed and the far-reaching changes to the colonial legal system which resulted; through to the powerful reconciliation of the living descendants of that massacre ~ both black and white ~ who peacefully reconcile at the Annual Myall Creek Massacre Ceremony each year to powerfully walk the talk of reconciliation.

Myall Creek epitomises the benefits of honest learning for our shared future. It is in fact of national significance and international importance. Despite the systemic nature of colonial conflict, violence and dispossession of first peoples, there is as yet no facility commemorating this history and providing year-round reconciliation and education programs in Australia… or anywhere else in the world.

To support and become involved with Myall Creek see the Friends of Myall Creek and sign the Register of Support.

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