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The hidden historiography of migration and Australian schooling

Helen Proctor (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 6 November 2019

Issue publication date: 11 November 2019




Despite Australia’s history as an exemplary migrant nation, there are gaps in the literature and a lack of explicit conceptualisation of either “migrants” or “migration” in the Australian historiography of schooling. The purpose of this paper is to seek out traces of migration history that nevertheless exist in the historiography, despite the apparent silences.


Two foundational yet semi-forgotten twentieth-century historical monographs are re-interpreted to support a rethinking of the relationship between migration and settler colonialism in the history and historiography of Australian schooling.


These texts, from their different school system (state/Catholic) orientations, are, it is argued, replete with accounts of migration despite their apparent gaps, if read closely. Within them, nineteenth-century British migrants are represented as essentially entitled constituents of the protonation. This is a very different framing from twentieth century histories of migrants as minority or “other”.


Instead of an academic reading practice that dismisses and simply supersedes old work, this paper proposes that fresh engagements with texts from the past can yield new insights into the connections between migration, schooling and colonialism. It argues that the historiography of Australian schooling should not simply be expanded to include or encompass the stories of “migrants” within a “minority studies” framework, although there is plenty of useful work yet to be accomplished in that area, but should be re-examined as having been about migration all along.



Proctor, H. (2019), "The hidden historiography of migration and Australian schooling", History of Education Review, Vol. 48 No. 2, pp. 142-155.



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