The purpose of this paper is to explore representations of Aboriginal people, in particular children, in the Victorian government’s school reader The School Paper, from the end of the Second World War until its publication ceased in 1968. The author interrogates these representations within the framework of pedagogies of citizenship training and the development of national identity, to reveal the role Aboriginal people and their culture were accorded within the “imagined community” of Australian nationhood and its heritage and history.
The paper draws on the rich material available in the Victorian Department of Education’s school reader, The School Paper, from 1946 to 1968 (when the publication ceased), and on the Department’s annual reports. These are read within the context of scholarship on race, education and citizenship formation in the post-war years.
State government policies of assimilation following the Second World War tied in with pedagogies and curricula regarding citizenship and belonging, which became a key focus of education departments following the Second World War. The informal pedagogies of The School Paper’s representations of Aboriginal children and their families, the author argues, excluded Aboriginal communities from understandings of Australian nationhood, and from conceptions of the ideal Australian citizen-in-formation. Instead, representations of Aboriginal people relegated them to the outdoors in ways that racialised Australian spaces: Aboriginal cultures are portrayed as historical yet timeless, linked with the natural/native rather than civic/political environment.
This paper builds on scholarship on the relationship between education, reading pedagogies and citizenship formation in Australia in the post-war years to develop our knowledge of how conceptions of the ideal Australian citizen of the future – that is, Australian students – were inherently racialised. It makes a new contribution to scholarship on the assimilation project in Australia, through revealing the relationship between government policies towards Aboriginal people and the racial and cultural qualities being taught in Australian schools.
The author acknowledges the ARC Discovery Project (P110100505), “Designing Australian Schools: a spatial history of innovation, pedagogy and social change”.
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