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Education is, as we all know, a vital component in our lives. They do not call them our formative years for nothing. Yet, there are many things, those in charge of teaching, do not include in our learnings. The state or a particular religious organisation are most usually involved in defining the taught curriculum. Somehow, I find, there is always important shit they didn’t teach me at school. Stuff that they left out for reasons unbeknown to me but of which I am now willing to speculate upon. I have extended my research beyond just my own school days to include the experiences of others from different eras.

it is not easy being black

My School Education About Aboriginal Australia

In Australia, we are currently about to vote in a referendum about changing the Constitution to recognise First Nations people and to give them a voice to parliament in an advisory role. This has proven to be contentious with those unwilling to grant such recognition calling it divisive. These lively debates in the media have caused me to ponder upon my own education about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. I remember some pretty general historical stuff delivered from the colonising European’s perspective. Although, we had stopped calling them ‘savages’ by this time in the 1970’s the view was fairly bleak. Aborigines were painted as the race time forgot and their future, outside of assimilation, seemed questionable.

a cemetery in the middle of a desert

They Didn’t Teach Me About Genocide & Massacres In Australia

I did not learn at school that many native groups were massacred by both settlers and a native frontier police force. I did not learn that mass poisonings were pretty common, where settlers would add arsenic or strychnine to flour given to Aboriginal groups on their land or a water hole would be poisoned. The local Indigenous children, women, and men would die in agony from these crimes against humanity. Indeed, there was a complete absence of such truth telling in my secondary education at school. I canvassed my daughter on this same topic, as she grew up in Queensland where this behaviour by settlers was more prevalent in 19C Australia. Her secondary schooling was done by a Christian College on the Sunshine Coast in 2017-2021. My daughter has no recollection of such shocking historical facts being imparted to her in Australian history classes. Indeed, Aborigines played little part in this Christian based curriculum at all, according to her very recent recall on the matter.

Teaching & Whitewashing In Australia

I spoke with several acquaintances and friends from different age groups, some older and some younger, about these matters. I asked them to spend some time reviewing these things and to get back to me when convenient. None of them could recollect being taught about these heinous crimes being committed. Yes, references to massacres by gunfire were sketchily mentioned by a few teachers but these were usually pretty thin on details given. Whitewashing our colonial past would not be a too strong categorisation of this policy enacted by our education departments and those of the independent schools.

The upshot is that Australians do not know the true extent of what happened to First Nations people during colonisation in the 18C, 19C, and even into the early 20C.

Killing For Country by David Marr

Killing For Country: A White Agenda

David Marr, the respected journalist and writer, has recently published Killing For Country. This is an account of his forebears, who were involved in the Native Frontier Police, an official force tasked with killing native blacks. Marr estimates that they may have conservatively killed some 40, 000 First Nations people.

“David Marr was shocked to discover forebears who served with the brutal Native Police in the bloodiest years on the frontier. Killing for Country is the result – a soul-searching Australian history. This is a richly detailed saga of politics and power in the colonial world – of land seized, fortunes made and lost, and the violence let loose as squatters and their allies fought for possession of the country – a war still unresolved in today’s Australia.

“This book is more than a personal reckoning with Marr’s forebears and their crimes. It is an account of an Australian war fought here in our own country, with names, dates, crimes, body counts and the ghastly, remorseless views of the ‘settlers’. Thank you, David.”—Marcia Langton”

brown lake under blue sky

What you get in modern Australia is a populace largely unaware of the true extent of the genocide that went on to establish a white Australia in a land that had been Aboriginal for around 70, 000 years. This is a direct result of the important shit they didn’t teach me at school. It spurs one to ponder what else was missing from my state run education?

Australia, through its less than honest account of its colonial past, has sought to minimise and normalise its treatment of First Nations people. Former PM, John Howard, would not say sorry, as a strategic position in defence of how Australian governments dealt with their Indigenous population. “It all happened a long time ago,” is the common refrain from those unwilling to acknowledge the sins of the past. Well, actually it was not all that long ago in the time frame of history, more generally. Modern Australia is a very young country. Killings were still happening around a hundred years ago. Aboriginal deaths in custody are still occurring at an alarming rate today. The genocide continues in some form or another.

“The frontier wars were a series of violent conflicts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While conflicts and skirmishes continued between European land holders and Traditional Owners, the military instrument of the Queensland Government was the Native Police.

The Native Police was a body of Aboriginal troopers that operated under the command of white officers on the Queensland frontier from 1849 to the 1920s. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men were often forcefully recruited from communities—already diminished due to colonisation—that were normally a great distance from the region in which they were to work. They were offered low pay, along with rations, firearms, a uniform and a horse. Many deserted.”

You cannot mass murder a bunch of people and just move on. There are ramifications and consequences of such appalling behaviour long felt. Truth telling is the next stage in the Uluru Statement from the Heart process. If you do not know the real history of your country and community – you do not know yourself.

Was White Australia Born Out Of Biological Warfare?

There is credible speculation that the huge volume of mass Aboriginal deaths via disease around Port Jackson in the early years of British colonisation was due to small pox infection and was no accident. The first fleet were carrying vials of small pox in their cargo, according to the journals of Captain Watkin Tench. Plus, this form of biological warfare had been used on American Indians by the British. There were marines aboard who had been involved in those actions. The fleet were heavily outnumbered by the natives, running low on ammunition, and getting desperate for provisions to arrive. The military were, also, unhappy with the overly humanitarian leadership of Governor Arthur Philip in relation to dealing with the natives.

“In the 18th century, the use of smallpox by British forces was not unprecedented.  This tactic was promoted by Major Robert Donkin and used by General Jeffrey Amherst in 1763, when smallpox-laden blankets and a handkerchief were distributed to Native Americans from Fort Pitt near the Great Lakes. 

An outbreak of smallpox in Sydney in 1789 killed thousands of Aborigines and weakened resistance to white settlement. Chris Warren argues that the pandemic was no accident, but rather a deliberate act of biological warfare against Australia’s first inhabitants. In April 1789, a sudden, unusual, epidemic of smallpox was reported amongst the Port Jackson Aboriginal tribes who were actively resisting settlers from the First Fleet.  This outbreak may have killed over 90 per cent of nearby native families and maybe three quarters or half of those between the Hawkesbury River and Port Hacking.  It also killed an unknown number at Jervis Bay and west of the Blue Mountains.”

map of Australia

The denial of these terrible truths about the birth of white Australia is apparent in the loud No Vote campaign. The awful Sky News Australia, with its tabloid style opinion based journalism (if you can call it journalism), bleats its badly informed and racist message across the airwaves. The Murdoch media empire makes its money from exploiting the likes and dislikes of the dominant white cohort. It appeals to their fears by dog whistling up bogus issues like Aboriginals taking their homes and money. Downward envy is their house speciality. This appalling family has been at the epicentre of the Australian media landscape for decades. The descendants of European invaders and in some cases murderers are thin skinned and sensitive to any perceived slights upon their family name or character. Saying sorry is a bridge too far for many of these folk.

Modern Australia Must Embrace Truth Telling To Know Itself

Modern Australia wants its children and citizens to refer to a particular interpretation of our history. It does not want the populace to consider the brutal realities of its colonial past. Indeed, for much of the brief history of white Australia the thinking was that Aborigines would die out and be assimilated into the larger pool of a national identity. Unfortunately for the social planners and their political masters this has not happened. Stubbornly, First Nations identities have stuck around despite the institutional racism over centuries. Indeed, generations of Indigenous Australians are taking great heart in their particular identities. Now, they want Constitutional recognition and a voice to parliament advising on those issues directly affecting them. The No Vote campaign is running messages of assimilation with bumper stickers saying, “One Voice, One Mob, One Nation.” This is a denial of Aboriginal culture and a call for Australian homogeneity. This is a campaign based on ignorance from a white population which has been cosseted and protected from the truth. If anything solid has come out of this referendum, whatever the result, it has been a refocusing on First Nations people in Australia. Perhaps, learning about what really occurred during the invasion and colonisation of this land. Maybe, deepening the understanding of the situation now and then.

Honest relationships are never built on brushing over the past. Truth telling and treaty are coming.

A Voice to Parliament is Fair

Returning to the theme of this article, the important shit they didn’t teach me at school, a society is controlled by what they know and don’t know. This is why education is so important and why we had the history wars back in the 1990’s. The denial of the dark past is just as important as the abuse and injustice that goes on today. It forms of a framework for current reality. “If you don’t know, vote No.” This sums it up because, most of us don’t know and that has been by design. Yes, I hate to say that it is a conspiracy, because there are so many misguided conspiracists out there in the biosphere, but the manipulation of history is always so. Those in power make every effort to control the version of history promulgated within a nation for very good reasons. Culture is moulded out of those voices emerging from history, which are enhanced and amplified according to the wishes of those in power today. The ANZAC myth is the loudest one playing in modern Australia. This heroic story of gallant defeat has become the foundational myth defining our character. White Australia marching to the rescue of the mother country a long way from home. ANZAC day, since John Howard’s time has been amped up unceasingly to become a state religious festival. The nation unifies around this narrative of courage under fire. Murdering Aborigines fades into an uncertain misty past in comparison to the fine upstanding state sanctioned memories of the ANZACS.

Vote YES 23 in referendum

Vote Yes in the referendum on 14th October 2023 for a better, braver future for Australia. Compassion makes for bigger hearts and better human beings.

Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of Money Matters: Navigating Credit, Debt, and Financial Freedom.

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Clio

Clio was the ancient Greek muse of history. so we all thought that she would be an appropriate entity to run this site.
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