Incorporating texts that relate to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander history, culture and identity into the curriculum is not only essential in the sense that it allows students to learn about the unique and complex nature of Indigenous histories and cultures , but it also fosters reconciliation, acceptance and tolerance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student’s. However, educators must understand the importance of evaluating resources before implementing them into the classroom, so as to avoid the generation of racism, cultural bias and stereotypical generalizations towards Indigenous peoples and their cultures. Therefore, this paper will critically evaluate two texts which could potentially be incorporated into the stage four and five history syllabus to allow students to develop a greater sense of understanding, awareness and respect for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures. In doing so, this paper will also explore theoretical literature in evaluating these sources and the impact in which they may possess in shaping students’ understanding towards Indigenous histories and cultures. Lastly, this paper will provide teaching strategies in which educators may employ when utilising these texts within the classroom.
‘The Burnt Stick’ by non- Indigenous author Anthony Hill is a fictional text which explores the history of the Aboriginal ‘Stolen Generations.’ The text is based on accurate historical events which took place in the early 20th century whereby the Australian government implemented racist policies which allowed for the forcible removal of ‘half-caste’ Aboriginal children from their homes and placed into detention centres. This text tells the story of a five year old ‘light-skinned’ boy, John Jagamarra, who is taken away from his Aboriginal mother to be raised as ‘white’ in the Pearl Bay Mission. This text would be best suitable for a stage five history (year 9) Indigenous and non-Indigenous student’s. In using this text as a historical source with year nine student’s educators may incorporate it into the history syllabus point
whereby student’s learn about the ‘changing rights and freedoms of Aboriginal peoples and other groups in Australia’ (NSW Board of Studies, 2002, p.36). In the long term, this text will allow students to develop a greater sense of self and awareness in exploring the past of others as well as their own. It will allow them to be informed and active citizens with a critical understanding of the nature of history as outlined in the syllabus.
This text possesses many strengths and weaknesses in contributing to a student’s understanding and awareness of Aboriginal history, society and culture. The text is very effective in terms of providing an empathetic view in regards to the mistreatment of Aboriginal peoples by the Australian government. It reinforces the notion of a ‘shared history’ and this is especially effective in avoiding the notion of cultural bias. The author focuses both on the Indigenous and non-Indigenous experience of the history of the ‘stolen generations’. Aveling (1998) notes that Indigenous history should be taught as ‘shared experiences’, rather than ‘other’ and ‘different.’ She maintains that ‘guilt is not an effective tool for reconciliation rather understanding our shared history is’ (p.305). Hence, it is the educator’s role to develop a greater sense of awareness amongst student’s that there should be mutual respect when investigating both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous sides of history. This will not only foster respect and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student’s but it will also allow students to think critically in interpreting history.
Although the intentions of the text is positive in the sense that it voices the loss and trauma of Aboriginal peoples, some weaknesses in the text hinder its positivity to an extent and educator’s must be aware of this as an aspect of...