MP Stuart Robert successfully whitewashed Australia's school history curriculum, but founder and publisher David Donovan explains why Robert is unfit to determine what our kids should be learning.
ON IT GOES, the Liberal Party attempting to recast Australia into its own image.
And if there was to be such an image, it would be an alabaster statue of a tall and impossibly noble-looking Captain Cook, in a huge tricorn hat, sword gallantly outstretched, with a knee-high leather boot grinding into Australia’s virgin soil a dusky native’s head.
Yes, the Liberal Party is trying to change the history books again.
Enter MP Stuart Robert, stage right. Stage Far-Right, to be precise.
In April this year, days before the May Federal Election was called and the Morrison Government went into caretaker mode, then Acting Federal Education Minister Robert signed off on a revised national curriculum. It was meant to be signed off earlier in the year, but Robert insisted on changes to the draft history syllabus.
Robert wrote to Derek Scott, chair of the body that manages the national curriculum, asking for what he described as a ‘more balanced view’.
Specifically, Robert asked for Scott’s Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to
‘… ensure key aspects of Australian history, namely 1750-1914 and Australia’s post-World War II migrant history are appropriately prioritised and can be taught within the time available.’
Robert was successful, with leaked documents revealing that over half of the junior high school history curriculum was simply excised.
Being highly intelligent, as clearly indicated by you reading Independent Australia, I probably don’t need to tell you much more about what was cut. Let’s just say Acting Minister Robert was not excited about any focus being placed on the world’s oldest extant culture. Mentioning any possible colonial “invasion” of Australia appeared to be especially vexing for the then Acting Education Minister.
It was a last gasp effort by the Liberal Government to cement into Australian kids’ minds that alabaster statue of a jackbooted Cook.
There are several things that could be said about all this. Like, John Howard’s campaign against what he called the “black armband” view of Australian colonial history ─ including his ceaseless promotion of the repellent Keith Windschuttle revisionist version, which claimed there were no Indigenous massacres or Stolen Generations.
Mention could be made of Opposition Leader Peter Dutton walking out of Parliament during the Kevin Rudd Apology to the Stolen Generations and his rejection as Defence Minister of giving military bases dual Indigenous names. Or Liberal MP Hollie Hughes' 23 June tirade, where she blamed the low conservative youth vote at this year's Federal Election on “left-wing rubbish” being taught in schools “basically run by Marxists”.
Instead, what I want to talk to you about now is Stuart Robert. Because I know Stuart Robert. And in my opinion, one of the very last people I would ever want to write a scrupulous and factual history of anything is Stuart Robert.
Not just because he was sacked from the Cabinet under Malcolm Turnbull over the gold Rolex scandal. Not because he has been implicated in dodgy dealings with property developers here on the Gold Coast, either. Not even because of his internet expenses rorts, or his slush fund paying for his former staffers to run as Independents at Gold Coast Council elections.
All that is a matter of record and has been reported on extensively here at Independent Australia.
No, the reason I would never trust Stuart Robert to rewrite Australia’s education curriculum is that I know him.
I actually know him. He was in the same grade at the same country boarding school as me for five years. We were in many of the same classes. Indeed, we were both Year 12 prefects ─ which, yes, is just as wankish as it sounds.
The first point to make is that I don’t believe Robert ever studied history at our high school. I’m fairly confident this is the case, because I did study history, all the way through.
This may be why Robert asked ACARA to ‘ensure key aspects of Australian history, namely 1750-1914’ were prioritised.
That start date of 1750 is problematic for anyone with a working knowledge of Australian history. Now, it may be that Robert was magnanimous enough to allow 20 years of Indigenous history prior to Lieutenant Cook staking Britain’s claim to New Holland in 1770, and 38 years before Captain Arthur Phillip established the British colonial bridgehead at Botany Bay in 1788. It might be because he wanted the course to reflect the view of Tony Abbott about Australia prior to the invasion: “nothing but bush”.
But given what I know about Stuart Robert, it is more likely he just got the date wrong because he doesn’t know that much about Australian history. The history he would most likely have absorbed, if any, would not have been Australian history, but the exploits of the British Empire. In the same way his fellow Pentecostal former flatmate, Scott Morrison, thought Cook was the first explorer to “circumnavigate Australia”, historical facts are likely to be secondary for Robert, behind the goal of glorifying Australia’s British heritage.
At school, as a prefect and boarding house captain, Robert was a haughty martinet. To my recollection, he never played any sport. Robert devoted himself to cadets and excelled on the parade ground, eventually leading the troop. He was also one of the original “Christian Fellowship” members at our staunchly non-secular co-educational grammar school. This was a bizarre bunch of happy clappers led by an odd maths teacher who closely resembled Ned Flanders from The Simpsons in almost every respect, even down to the bristly moustache.
Recently, Robert called Australian teachers “duds”. Knowing Robert as I do, this strikes me as a clear and profound case of projection.
Stuart Robert is the last person who should have anything to do with determining Australia’s history curriculum. He just wants to keep that white statue in our children’s minds and that shit should, really, now be… well… history.
Labor should repeal the Stuart Robert history curriculum changes post haste.
IA founder David G Donovan writes a regular weekly column on Tuesday mornings. Follow Dave on Twitter @davrosz. Also, follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.
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