Civics Education - "Why Aren't Our Kids Being Taught Proper?
Written by Les Dudman   
Friday, 17 October 2003
Belconnen Inn Conference Centre
Canberra, Australia

Transcript as released by the Office of Research and Education

MR DUDMAN: “If you go down to the school today, you could be in for a big surprise.”

All Australians need to know what is being taught at their local school in Civics Education. What are the kids learning about their own Australian Constitution, history, heritage, traditions and values?

Much of our history, heritage and traditions are being neglected or downplayed to accommodate “political correctness”. This is driven in part by political agendas from State Governments. In broad terms, government is pressuring Curriculum Committees to write material favourable to their political ideology. Pressure is in turn applied to school staff to comply.

Curricula are generally in two parts:

1. Core Curriculum
2. School Based Curriculum.

Core Curriculum, which is compulsory in each subject area, can be easily influenced by ideology because of different pressure groups. Radical ideas are often included and traditional values and history, which the community expects to be taught, are left out.

Secondly, there is School Based Curriculum, which is written for the needs of each individual school. The Principal and Staff write this material to suit the needs of their own school. Even though good work is done, important topics on Australian heritage and traditions are often neglected or distorted.

An example of this manipulation or distortion is a change of terminology.

“The discovery and exploration of Australia” in HSIE has been rewritten as “The European invasion of Australia”. Emphasis has been given to the so called conquest of indigenous Australians. The positive features of the “First Settlement”, “The First Fleet’s Journey, and the foundation of modern Australia have been downplayed and the “negative” has been emphasised. Many parents, friends and teachers are concerned about the negative influence this type of distortion has on the Civics Education of children and grandchildren.

Governor Phillip in fact went out of his way to be fair and compassionate towards indigenous Australians and respected their culture and lifestyle. None of this is emphasised in curriculum areas in many schools. In many areas the teaching of our history and heritage has become “apologetic” and not “factual”.
The great achievements of Australians need to be taught enthusiastically to our children. In a short 200 years we have established the best democracy in the world, voted in the best Constitutional Monarchy system and have the most stable society in the world, all without a revolution or civil war.
Tragically these facts are not being taught enthusiastically and passionately to our children. Many schools are teaching these important matters but they seem to be in the minority. Many Australian children are being denied the knowledge of their own wonderful and exciting heritage.

Teachers can’t be blamed for all of these problems. Many are being told that these matters “are not a top priority at their school”; the special needs of the children lie elsewhere.

All children have the right to be taught a good civics and heritage program. This area should be top priority in every school. “Multiculturalism” has been used by many schools and governments as an excuse to neglect our Australian heritage. Many have been told that they didn’t want to offend ethnic groups by putting too much emphasis on our British style institutions. The Westminster System, the rule of law and our Christian values have often been deliberately downplayed.

As bad as all this sometimes appears, important victories have been won. A group of us were at the Dawn Service on Anzac Day a few years ago. We were talking to Rusty Priest, the then President of the NSW RSL. World War I was being discussed and we said that many of the veterans were passing away and this important part of our heritage, “Gallipoli” and the “Western Front” was not being properly taught in schools. It was not a “compulsory part” of any curriculum at schools.

Rusty went straight to Premier Carr, many others lobbied the government also and things happened. Within months the Premier announced that World War I would be a compulsory course to be studied by all Year 7 students from then on. A start!

A great victory for our Civics and Heritage Education. We need more.


Things can be done by all of us:

• You can ask your school what is being taught in Civics and Australian heritage.

• Ask to see the curriculum and books.

• Lobby your local State and Federal Members.

• Ring up radio talkback and put the subject on the agenda.

• Write letters to newspapers.

• Keep on keeping on.

• Teachers appreciate parents’ and citizens’ support. Often teachers are restricted by government and department pressure and are threatened with disciplinary action if they create problems for bureaucrats.

• “Go the whistleblowers!!”

• Our kids deserve to be taught our civics, history and heritage with enthusiasm.