The Politics of Knowledge Production and Ignorance Cultivation: History Curricula and Teacher Training in Australia

Ms. Angelique Stastny

Colonial history continues to be a source of fierce social and political conflicts in Australia. The historical knowledge that is created and disseminated is fundamental to how settler colonial power is constituted, sustained and challenged. History matters to current politics. The history curriculum reforms have faced both resistance (to change) and disappointment (for not meeting expectations). As an example, the 2012 Australian Curriculum – the first to be nation-wide – was contested and reviewed shortly after its implementation. What do these history curricula include and leave out? What political agenda do they serve? And, how are history teachers trained to implement these curricula and to teach Australia’s colonial history?

Based on an analysis of history curricula and interviews with history teachers in Australia, this paper analyses the educational policies and directives put in place to teach the colonial history of the country. An analysis of the historical knowledge produced by settler colonial power consists additionally of an analysis of how and why there is also ignorance about specific aspects of that history. I suggest, in this paper, that what the school system tries to ignore matters as much as, or probably more than, what it tries to teach.