Move to ban Aboriginal culture

7th July 2006 at 01:00
Australia. Aboriginal children in remote communities should not be taught about their culture at school, according to a report backed by federal education minister Julie Bishop.

The report was prepared by Gary Johns, a former Labor party minister, for a right-wing think tank called the Menzies research centre. It argues that indigenous culture should be dropped from the school curriculum because it prevents Aboriginal children making progress.

Launching the report, Ms Bishop said Dr Johns had raised an interesting point in proposing that schools should not try to teach students about Aboriginal culture, as this was a role for parents and elders. "I think that's a very sensible suggestion," the minister said, adding that she would consider using the report to frame education policy.

Aboriginal children in remote communities struggle the most at school, said Dr Johns. Educators and governments should understand that western education cannot and should not preserve Aboriginal culture, he said.

Calling for a change in parents' behaviour, Dr Johns warned that where incentives to send children to school fail, compulsion should be used.

But critics condemned the report, saying there was no evidence to support its claims. They said the government was being driven by racism and a belief that Aborigines should assimilate.

Dr Johns said that too often, educators defer to Aboriginal culture without recognising that Aboriginal culture was the problem. "Can a culture that is pre-literate and pre-numerate survive in an education system that is meant to make children literate and numerate?" he asked. "Can a welfare culture that has no work ethic be in a position to prepare its children for school?"

But Warren Mundine, the national president of the Labor party, himself an Aborigine, described the proposed ban as "the most idiotic idea that I have ever heard in my life".

Mr Mundine said learning about their culture helped prevent indigenous children from becoming dysfunctional. One way that problems in indigenous communities could be resolved was by instilling pride in being an Aborigine, he said.

Geraldine Atkinson, president of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association, said students who were culturally stronger were socially, emotionally and mentally better equipped for educational attainment.

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