Learning the past to participate in the future: Regional discourses of Australian colonial history

Catherine Koerner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Indigenous  curricula  content,  including  particular  narratives  of  Australian  colonial  history  are  highly  contested  in  contemporary  Australia.  How  do  white  Australians  understand  Australia’s  colonial  past  and  its  relevance  today?  An  empirical  study  was  conducted  with  29  rural  Australians  who  self-identified  as  white.  Critical  race  and  whiteness  studies  provided  the  framework  for  analysis  of  the  interviews.  I  argue that they revealed a delimited understanding of colonial history and a general inability  to  link  this  to  the  present,  which  limited  their  capacity  to  think  cross-culturally in their everyday living -  activities considered crucial in the contemporary move  to  Reconciliation  in  Australia.  The  normative  discourse  of  white  settler  Australians to be ‘Australian’ is invested in the denial of Indigenous sovereignty to protect white settler Australian claims to national sovereignty. The findings support arguments for a national curriculum that incorporates Indigenous history as well as an Indigenous presence throughout all subject areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-40
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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