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The Forum > Article Comments > A better way of looking at our past > Comments

A better way of looking at our past : Comments

By Gregory Melleuish, published 1/2/2006

Gregory Melleuish argues the Prime Minister's plan should be engaged to get history back on track.

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Gregory says "... the Prime Minister ... has provided the outline of an Australian history that is humane and open-minded in approach, and which will enlarge the outlook of our young people."

What a Prime Minister he would be if he actually walked the walk, instead of just talking the talk. In almost all his actions, Howard promotes a narrow, exclusive view of history. Don't harp on the past, that's 'black armband' history, unless of course you're talking about Gallipoli and the Diggers. Deny the bits of Australan history you don't like, and drone on and on and on about the bits you do like.

"Humane and open minded". You must be talking about another John Howard.

Sorry Gregory, you have a very one dimensional view of the PM. And by the way, I'm not a Marxist.
Posted by AMSADL, Wednesday, 1 February 2006 9:59:23 AM
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I'm afraid that this is just an argument amongst the elites, the Prime Minister being one of them. In my experience of teaching history to 13 - 15 year old students in the 1970's and 80's I found that most of them regarded it as of little relevance to them and also had a world view removed from those of us attempting to educate /indoctrinate them. When surveyed they informed me that their favourite TV programme was 'Prisoner,' a soapy about women in jail. I was therefore not surprised when I read that a researcher had discovered that children of their age regarded school as similar to prison. I suppose that made us teachers the prison guards and hardly likely to win their hearts and minds for communism , neoconism
or anything in between.

I doubt that anything has changed much.
Posted by DAVIDAHA, Wednesday, 1 February 2006 10:39:54 AM
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I applaud Melleuish and his assertion that history should be enquiry based and that historians should be sceptical but level headed. The reason alot of students are turning away from history is because they are sick of post modernism's aggresive and dictatorial potrayal of Australian history and its complete lack of balance.

I don't think young people are disinterested in Gallipoli and the ANZACS or in the traditional view of Australian history. In fact statistics have shown more young Australians heading to Gallipoili and ANZAC parades in recent years. Admittedly many young Aussies like an excuse to get on the grog but it is at least somewhat positive that they are doing so in the company of the 'old brigade'. I personally would much rather Australia Day was celebrated on ANZAC Day but I'm sure this wouldn't suit the left's agenda either.

Much of this debate seems to centre on the teaching of 'indigenous history'. Most Australians support the Prime Minister's stance in regards to not saying 'sorry' and most support the policy of 'mutual responsibility'. History should be taught within this popular framework ie Indigenous Australians were treated very badly for a large proportion of Australia's history but it is now time to get on with it rather than dredging up the past with a symbolic but practically useless 'Sorry'.
Posted by wre, Wednesday, 1 February 2006 11:33:52 AM
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AMSADL,DAVIDAHA,

I've got to agree that 1 or 2 speeches by Howard will not undo more than 10 years of advocating a narrative Ďthree cheersí historical perspective to be applied to policy and public discourse and just about everything else in between. Too little too late.

It took him this long to learn that the world was deeper and broader and much more complex than that he had been raised to think it was.

Appealing to small 'L' liberal sentiment (civic nationalism) and walking his talk are indeed very different political activities. Was he merely re-setting the room temperature for Costello entrance in 18 months time? Who knows? We are left to once again fight over and defend our own interpretations.

I also understand GM is also being very pragmatic. And for good reason.

A tilt back into yet more paranoid nationalism that asks white Australians marginalized by the inequalities of economic rationalism and globalization to displace their anxieties and attack and vilify Aboriginal people, migrants, particularly refugees is not in the national interest. He realises that the pendulum can only swing only so far to the right & would only hamper his ability to hear and speak to the electorates fears.

And so I guess this is what Melleuish is asking. Will this new agenda be engaged or is it simply another of Howard's pet red herrings that journalists will feed off/lend from in opinion pieces for the rest of the year? Will Costello begin to sing the chorus to this new Howard anthem?

Iím sure history teachers all over are too busy to care, but perhaps they should be.
Posted by Rainier, Wednesday, 1 February 2006 11:57:14 AM
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Most Prime Ministers are interested in creating history, not worrying about how it is taught. While Howard's statements on the issue are relatively mild on the face of it, it is more of the 'dog whistling' he has perfected, a call to the ex-Hanson crowd, a perpetuation of the culture wars Howard has waged and largely won.

I would be more kindly disposed towards Howard's views on history if he were more principled about how he handles the history he is making. So often when events occur that might tend to show his government in a less than favourable light, we get the obfuscation, the hair-splitting, the defensible lie, the taking of refuge behing bureaucrats who have accepted the wink from the Howard government: 'you know what you have to do, make sure you don't leave a trail that points to us'. The current wheat board corruption scandal is the latest in a wearying run of such events.

Hiding behind cabinet and other secrecy documents, Howard will survive by concealing what he knew about many scandals that have occurred and how he was involved. History will no doubt expose him for the shallow, mean and dishonest leader that he is. In the end, he will have lost the history wars due to his own imperfections.
Posted by PK, Wednesday, 1 February 2006 2:26:18 PM
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I applaud Melleuish's article, and hope it will lead to more interest in our history, as this is the best way to discover ourselves as we really are.

One of the best ways to do this is to celebrate it more. Michael Duffy's suggestion that the Rum Rebellion be re-enacted at dusk each Australia Day is magnificent. Perhaps the main reason that this hasn't been done in the past is that so much of our history has been considered disreputable, particularly to Authority.

How Australian!

I love reading about the first few decades of life in Sydney, with the magnificent villians such as George Crossley, and comparing them to the cowboys of today.

The fact that in the Rum Rebellion no-one was injured in the slightest (apart from a few egos) and that the only opposition came from Bligh's daughter using her parasol, again is so Australian.

The main defect with the current left-wing fashion of looking at our history with horror is that it totally fails to explain how we converted a wilderness into a rich, democratic and egalitarian country in a little over a century. The second defect is that unrelieved horror turns people off from studying it.
Posted by plerdsus, Wednesday, 1 February 2006 3:41:02 PM
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