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EDUCATION AND THE CURRICULUM
This does not have to be an either/or proposition
Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge, together with numerous Christian organisations, is apparently concerned about a proposed school curriculum that would shine light on First Nations people and the impact of the white invasion of Australia.
These fears echo John Howard’s early attempts to have a “more balanced” school curriculum emphasising the positive impacts of settlers. He also stated that he did not believe in a “black armband” view of history and that as less than 50 per cent of Aboriginal children had been taken away from their families, there was no basis for talking about a “stolen generation” or related apologies.
So at a time when there is a need to better understand First Nations history and what reconciliation means, Alan Tudge and these groups seem more interested in creating a fear that needn’t be there. This is not an either/or proposition. Telling the truth about First Nations people’s history and their later destruction based on terra nullius philosophy does not automatically mean ruling out, as Mark Spencer, the director of public policy at Christian Schools Australia said, consideration of “the enormous impact of both Christian and Christian organisations on the shape of modern Australia”.
The minister’s statement seems to betray a narrow-mindedness about curriculum content emphasising the “benefits” of Australia’s invasion and subsequent development over the last 200 years.
Malcolm Ellenport, Brighton East
We need to address social and emotional engagement
State Education Minister James Merlino states, when talking about small group tutoring it’s “the most critical thing government is doing in schools this year” (“Tutors vital in state’s COVID catch-up”, Education, The Age, 3/5).
It’s instructive that social and emotional engagement isn’t seen as anywhere near as important and resources aren’t being poured into programs to address that need in schools. In 2020, there was lots of hand-wringing about the psychological damage done to year 12 students and it appears now they have graduated it’s business as normal in schools. It’s as if no other students suffered psychologically from the lockdown. A quick look at Resilient Youth Australia’s school resilience data from 2020 tells us otherwise, as will a conversation with anyone working with students in education.
It’s all very well to get students up to speed academically but it doesn’t mean everything will magically be OK. It’s time to embrace a whole-student approach to state education that is more than a 10-minute daily mentor/home group meeting to tick off the wellbeing box and hoping good marks mean happy socially and emotionally engaged students.
Rohan Wightman, Muckleford
Balance will always be problematic
Your editorial accurately articulated the complexities with amending the national curriculum (“New curriculum must fully reflect our past” 3/5). Balance will always be problematic, for we do not own history; rather, we are its benefactors.
Several years ago, Noel Pearson perceptively wrote in his Declaration of Australia that our present character can be encapsulated through the three strands of our grand narrative: an Indigenous foundation, British institutions and a modern-day multicultural character. It is the second of those strands that will now perhaps only make a somewhat perfunctory appearance in among civics discussion.
It was Alfred Deakin who wisely oversaw in our nation’s constitutional preamble the assertion that the people of Australia would be “humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God”. Separation of church and state rightly protects a nation from becoming a tyrannous theocracy, but it does not mean that church and state cannot co-operate for the greater good of society.
We must also stop pitting the secular against the spiritual, as if these two spheres are somehow mutually exclusive. Both can indeed work in tandem for the overall betterment of human progress. Robert Menzies’ quip from 1948 is still pertinent: “We cannot hack away at the foundations and then express surprise when some day the house falls.“
Peter Waterhouse, Craigieburn
My pact with the state
As an Australian citizen I have entered into a deal with the state. I will pay my taxes, obey the laws and rules, serve on jury duty and so on.
In return I have the right to expect the state, or government of the day, to act on my behalf, to ensure my rights are protected. These include political, economic and social rights. Surely safety is in there.
I for one am not comfortable, no, I am angry, at the government’s current treatment of Australian citizens in India. Is this the way we want the state to treat fellow human beings, let alone Australian citizens? Surely we have the humanity, logistical capacity and economic resources to do better than this.
Nettie Harper, Clifton Hill
Not the document it was
There is no doubt the Australian passport has always been a highly valued document. Does it now stand for nothing given the federal government’s banning of travel from India?
Sadly, it certainly looks like a dud document for those Australians stranded in the subcontinent.
Nora Sparrow, Canterbury
Cancel the Games now
The Tokyo Olympics should be cancelled now, or at least postponed by another year. So many other types of gatherings and businesses have been shut down for long periods in order to get COVID-19 under control. This is no different.
The argument that the athletes have trained hard all their life for this moment does not stack up. First, the Games were cancelled last year, so apparently it can be OK to do so. Second, hundreds of other professions and performers have worked hard all their lives and have been heavily restricted in their activity by public health controls.
These sportspeople are in the privileged position of having other events such as world championships at which they can display their talents and can triumph. Many such world events, smaller and more manageable than the Olympics, will be happening next year. The Olympics could readily shift to 2022 in a largely vaccinated world, and then follow with Games in 2026 and 2030.
David McRae, Kangaroo Flat
This is nothing new
Can we please be clear about identity politics. Identity politics has been present forever. It’s just that when that identity is male, heterosexual, white and wealthy it is invisible to those in the group and is just viewed by them as ″the norm″ or accepted default. For most of modern Australian history, every institution with power, be that politics, media, business or religion, has spoken with that very same male voice.
Unusually this year, young women and women of colour were granted a rare platform as our Australians of the Year. And guess what? The government has now ordered an urgent review of the Australia Day Council, which selects the recipients.
The same exclusionary response emerges when there is a suggestion schools might provide a First Nations perspective on history or when the ABC provides space for people of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Let’s be clear. People outside the wealthy white male group are the overwhelming majority on the planet and indeed in this country. Their voices have been dismissed for too long. They are entitled to be heard. And they do not need to apologise for their identity.
Kairen Harris, Brunswick
More than a Cats legend
For me, Frank Costa was more than a Cats legend.
Yes, he did so much for the club but was responsible for so much more. He was a legend in the philanthropic community, assisting so many organisations to raise millions. I had the honour of working with this extraordinary Australian through a campaign to build, ironically, a cancer centre at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne. A true gentleman and generous and caring man.
He was so much more than a football hero. Blessings to Shirley and his girls. He will be missed, but never forgotten.
Trish Roath, Healesville
We are not prepped for this
Jim Pavlidis (“Walking my parents into the twilight”, Saturday Reflection, The Age, 1/5) articulates the experience of many adult children with ageing parents: that of being in effect, parent to one’s own parent(s).
While there is usually excitement, and often trepidation, at becoming a parent of one’s own offspring, and plenty of pre-birth and post-birth advice, and at what to expect from babies and children as they develop through ages and stages – we are not prepped or forewarned, let alone eagerly anticipate, a later life role of parenting our own parents.
And yet, arguably it’s part of our humanity and humane family responsibility, to care for those who in most cases, have given the major part of their lives over to providing for, and caring for us.
Whether it involves actually personally and physically caring for one’s parent, or advocating and liaising with others more qualified and skilled to do so, caring for ageing parents can be at times frustrating, onerous and laborious. But for most, hopefully, it is a labour of love, where the ″labour″ is leavened with understanding, patience and humour, and outweighed by the forces of appreciation, gratitude, respect, compassion and above all, love.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East
His faith is not the issue
The majority of people wouldn’t have a problem with Prime Minister Scott Morrison being a religious Christian and a man of faith. We have had many prime ministers who have been men of faith.
It is when the stated Christian beliefs espoused by Mr Morrison are at complete odds with his actions and words about vulnerable people, such as refugees and low-income or no-income people, that we become intolerant and question his sincerity and his brand of Christianity, which sounds hollow and lacking in humanity.
Robyn Westwood, Heidelberg Heights
Christianity’s true spirit
Recent letters and discussion on the Prime Minister’s faith perspective reveal the growing influence of what can be described as ″prosperity religion″ central to many Pentecostal-type churches.
The message is believe and have faith and all will be well. This is an attractive message to those who seek simple answers to life’s challenges and justifies policies that emphasise self at the expense of others. It also allows the accumulation of wealth for one’s self at the expense of others in need.
This is, however, a corruption of the essence of the Christian faith that is committed to the service of others and the sharing of the resources of the earth with justice and compassion.
There are many churches and Christians who practise this form of Christianity each week and they are the light that shines in the darkness revealing the true experience of faith. Their demands for sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers, housing for the homeless and those in need reflect the true sprit of Christianity.
Ray Cleary, Camberwell
We still have a way to go
Great to see the Victorian government announcing solid and achievable commitments to halve emissions by 2030. Good to see the package also takes steps towards electrifying transport and drawing down carbon in agriculture.
Fifty per cent cuts by 2030 are in line with the US commitments but, scientists say, cuts of around 70 per cent are needed to keep global average warming below 2 degrees, so we still have a way to go.
While there are challenges ahead to actually meet these targets a clean energy transition will ultimately be beneficial for the Victorian economy and create sustainable jobs while helping mitigate the growing future costs from anthropogenic climate change. We owe it to ourselves, our kids and future generations to get behind these efforts.
David Hudspeth, Burwood
Policy v practice
It’s a pity the aspirations of the state government’s new emission targets are undermined by its construction of the traffic-inducing North East Link and the associated destruction of hundreds of mature carbon-absorbing trees.
Along with its policies on electric vehicles and forestry, this government is fast building a reputation for marked policy inconsistencies on environmental protection and climate change mitigation.
Darren McClelland, Moonee Ponds
We all can play a part
In response to the government’s announcement about Victoria’s emissions targets, Miki Perkins writes (The Age, 3/5) “let’s hope it’s enough”. I say, let’s not just “hope it’s enough”, as Victorians, let’s take action.
Sure, let’s hold our governments responsible, but let’s make changes in our own lives. We can all make a big difference by making adjustments. Let’s move from being consumers to being controllers. Moving away from thinking about what we ″want″ and considering what we really ″need″ in life is a good first step. We can all reduce the impact that we are having on our planet.
This is the decisive decade. There will not be another chance to alter the fate of all that live on this beautiful planet of ours. Let’s all choose to put our collective fates in our own hands and act now.
Amy Hiller, Kew
I have my doubts …
I agree with Amanda Vanstone (and Bertolt Brecht): Praised be doubt! (“Absence of doubt is a problem”, Comment, 3/5.)
Therefore, may I respectfully express my doubts on Ms Vanstone’s certainty that “Bob and Mary Stringbag” “are more likely to try to work things out for themselves” than those who do not support the present government.
Is she sure, without a shadow of doubt, Bob’s and Mary’s opinions are not produced, or at least affected, by the newspapers they read or the TV news they watch? And by the power of those who own those newspapers and news channels?
Mirna Cicioni, Brunswick East
Missing the point
The Morrison government uses the cover of health advice to justify its decisions (“India ban abandons citizens: Labor”, The Age, 3/5). I’m not disputing that the advice given by Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly is to pause repatriation from India, but that misses the point.
Professor Kelly and his team can only provide recommendations according to the circumstances before them. If the federal government had done its job and built quarantine facilities outside cities’ CBDs, the advice might well have been very different.
Jill Rosenberg, Caulfield South
AND ANOTHER THING
If many of the states act independently of the federal government by reducing emissions, then no doubt if they are successful the Coalition will claim responsibility for the overall achieved reduction.
Alan Inchley, Frankston
The science is clear concerning climate action but the politics urgently needs many more science-minded MPs (“Climate goals caught between politics and science”, Comment, 3/5).
Barbara Fraser, Burwood
Sean Kelly (“National identity hung out to dry”, Comment, 3/5) absolutely nailed it. I am so ashamed and fearful of the path down which our government is taking us.
Jenny Callaghan, Hawthorn
Are there any peacemongers in Canberra?
John Walsh, Watsonia
The last thing we need right now is a Dutton in a China shop.
Joan Kerr, Geelong
Peter Dutton: The Mouse that Roared (with apologies to Leonard Wibberley).
Bill Cleveland, Kew
To the Chinese ambassador to Australia: the ″hostile environment″ you refer to in Australia is not to Chinese students and tourists, but to your authoritarian government.
John Hughes, Mentone
Let an Australian try to lease a port in China …
Peter Caffin, Ringwood North
Two matches are played each week at the MCG: Aussie rules and Russian roulette.
Gary Bryfman, Brighton
Did Eddie take the pie warmer when he left?
Denis Young, Sandringham
Will the hard-working Australians left abandoned overseas by this government still be allowed to vote at the next election?
Greg Lee, Red Hill
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