Why educators need to #LearnOurTruth

Hayley McQuire still remembers what it felt like to be a young Aboriginal student sitting in her grade four classroom, being taught that Captain Cook discovered Australia.

“It’s a feeling of being erased,” she said in an interview with Radio National. “I didn’t learn anything [in school] about First Nations history.”

“I grew up in my community on Country, learning stories from my dad and my family.

“Aboriginal kids bring this knowledge into the classroom, but when that’s not represented in that history lesson of how Australia came to be, it’s that feeling of erasure.”

“Where are the stories my family told me? Where’s my representation?”

For the past two years, Hayley—who is a Darumbal woman from Rockhampton in Central Queensland—has been travelling around the country as the National Coordinator of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition (NIYEC), listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people speak about their experiences in the classroom.

She’s learnt that her story is far from unique: 63% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people surveyed by NIYEC reported that their history lessons focused on the time after Cook arrived.

These real-life experiences form the backbone of NIYEC’s new campaign: Learn Our Truth, which was launched with support from creative collective BE. and the In My Blood It Runs documentary team.

The campaign asks principals and leaders in educational institutions to take a pledge to teach the First Nations histories, knowledges and cultures where their school is located, as well as the true history of Australian colonisation.

The above is an excerpt of an article from the May 2021 edition of Reconciliation News.

Read the whole story or find more stories in the full edition.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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