The purpose of this paper is to examine the ways that history curriculum has worked to legitimise dispossession through narratives that elide questions of Indigenous sovereignty, and which construct and consolidate white settler identity and possession.
The paper uses two case studies to compare history education documentation and materials at key moments where dominant narratives of settler legitimacy were challenged in public discourse: (1) the post-war humanitarian agenda of fostering “international understanding” and; (2) the release and educational recommendations of the 1997 Bringing them Home Report.
The paper shows that in two moments where narratives of settler legitimacy were challenged in public discourse, the legitimacy of settler possession was reiterated in history curricula in various ways.
This research suggests that the prevailing constructivist framework for history education has not sufficiently challenged criticisms of the representation of Aboriginal history and the history of settler-colonialism in the history syllabus.
The paper introduces two case studies of history curriculum and shows how, in different but resonant ways, curricular reforms worked to bolster the liberal credentials of the settler state.
This paper forms part of a special section “Challenges of Contested Spaces: Injustices and their Legacies in Educational History”, guest edited by Beth Marsden and Matilda Keynes.We acknowledge our position as settlers living and working on unceded Aboriginal lands. We recognise this research has been written from a privileged place as historians aiming to contribute to discourses about Indigenous education and schooling in Australia.
Keynes, M. and Marsden, B. (2021), "Ontology, sovereignty, legitimacy: two key moments when history curriculum was challenged in public discourse and the curricular effects, Australia 1950s and 2000s", History of Education Review, Vol. 50 No. 2, pp. 130-145. https://doi.org/10.1108/HER-07-2020-0043
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