Learning the past to participate in the future

Regional discourses of Australian colonial history

  • Catherine Koerner
    Charles Darwin University


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 crossculturally 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.

Published: 2013-06-01
Pages:29 to 40
Section: Articles
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How to Cite
Koerner, C. (2013). Learning the past to participate in the future: Regional discourses of Australian colonial history. International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, 6(2), 29-40. https://doi.org/10.5204/ijcis.v6i2.101