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Academic Writing on Australian History

100% originality is essential

The purpose of this task is to:

• help you clarify, through reading and personal reflection, your understanding of an

important aspect of Australian history and contemporary political debate;

• develop your skills in critiquing perspectives and evaluating information gained from a

variety of sources; and

• enhance your written communication skills, especially as they relate to clarifying your

own conceptualisation of Australian history, the experience of Indigenous Australians

and your work as a classroom teacher.

Task :

A key element of contemporary 'cultural conflict' in Australia has been the so called 'history

wars' in which a key point of contention is how the early years of colonial settlement should

be addressed in the school curriculum. Conservatives want a 'grand narrative' of heroism –

the taming of a hostile land and the building of a new society based on the values of

mateship and egalitarianism. Progressives, on the other hand, want a 'warts and all' version

of Australian history – one that acknowledges the dispossession and suffering of

Indigenous Australians.

The two approaches are exemplified by the following quotes:

"The 'black armband' view of our history reflects a belief that most Australian history since

1788 has been little more than a disgraceful story of imperialism, exploitation, racism,

sexism and other forms of discrimination. ... I believe that the balance sheet of our history is

one of heroic achievement and that we have achieved much more as a nation of which we

can be proud than of which we should be ashamed." John Howard (1996). The Liberal

Tradition: The Beliefs and Values which Guide the Federal Government. Sir Robert

Menzies Lecture. Sir Robert Menzies Lecture Trust.

"[In response to what eminent Australian anthropologist WEH Stanner referred to as "the

great Australian silence"] … revisionist historians represented colonization as a matter of

invasion, depicted the frontier as a line between conflicting parties, regarded the conflict as

war, treated the Aborigines' response as resistance, and explained the violence of

frontiersmen in terms of racism as well as other factors" Attwood & Foster (2003), Frontier

Conflict, National Museum of Australia, p.4.

Write an extended response. In doing so:

• Define what is meant by the term 'history wars' in the Australian context. Who are its

principal protagonists? Briefly outline the positions held be each side. (Approx. 200

words)

• With reference to the relevant research literature, provide an account of the

experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the period during

which European settlement spread across the Australian continent. (Approx. 1,000

words)

• Analyse the view that full Reconciliation depends on a recognition that the alienation

and disadvantage experienced by some Indigenous Australians can be linked to the

dispossession experienced in the past. (Approx. 400 words)

19

• Assess the claim that the perspective of Indigenous Australians continues to be

mediated by those with little or no cultural experience of Aboriginality. Discuss the

implications of this observation for your work as a classroom teacher. (Approx. 200

words)

Note: Students are encouraged to access at least some Indigenous perspectives directly –

Marcia Langton's 'Prologue' to The First Australians would be a good starting point. Plenty

of Aboriginal historians/writers/artists have addressed the culture wars in one way or

another in their particular representations of Australia's past.

Maximum length: 1,800 words

Færdigheder: Research Writing

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