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one perfect day

this is not art

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White Australia has a black history*. But you wouldn't know it.
frank coffee
I took History as an elective in High School.** Not because I'm particularly interested in history, but because the alternatives (typing/woodwork/geography) were even less interesting to me. Because I moved schools at the beginning of Grade 10, I ended up taking "Australian History" twice.

This is what I remember from those classes: We spent weeks talking about the political and social climate that lead to the Eureka Stockade, and much time talking about the colonisation of the country. In contrast, I remember only a day or so spent on the, oh 40,000 years of pre-white history. Admittedly a lot of written Australian History is white history written by white men about white men, but still... On a related note, I believe the discussion of the Kanakas*** brought to Australia as indentured labour was quite short - maybe 15 minutes - and while we discussed "the Chinese" who came to Australia during the Gold Rush, the tendency was to classify "the Chinese" as a single entity.

I hope things are better for kids at school in Australia today. If I'd actually gotten to learn stuff in class, instead of it being whitewashed all about the white man, I might have been more interested.

*I stole the title from this article.
**In the 80s in NSW and Queensland.
***Yeah, Kanakas is the word that was in my textbook and everything.

(If you want to find out more about IBARW, go to ibarw).

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It's often not much different in the U.S., sad to say. Year after year I knew the "American History" textbooks would be the same damn thing; one measly chapter at the front of the book dealing with Indians, essentially cramming in the same "various tribes - Columbus - Pilgrims - treaties - reservations - 60s activism" condensed narrative, and that was that. It was always a bit eye-rolling to see the same stuff skimmed over again and again, especially when on any given year I was likely to be the only kid of recent Indian descent in the classroom. It's a little unsettling to have to realize at a fairly young age that these books and teachers that you're supposed to be learning from are actually putting forth less information than what you've already picked up from family and reading at home.

(I'm curious re: the last footnote, however, is "kanaka" used as an offensive racial term in Oz? 'Cause in Hawaiian that's just the word for "man", totally neutral.)

Kanaka isn't an offensive term as such, more inaccurate, as most of the South Sea Islanders who were used as labour didn't describe themselves as such. It does have connotations of 'slavery' or, at least indentured labour, since that's how many South Sea Islanders made it to Australia.

Gotcha. It did have me scratching my head and blinking a bit at the whole "Polynesian terminology, largely Melanesian subjects, aren't the two language groups rather further off than that, wha?" aspect. Which I probably didn't convey at all well due to the lateness of the hour and the lackingness of sleep and all. That's another bit of Australian history that was unfamiliar to me, so thanks for the information!

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I'm so glad to hear that, I still feel woefully ignorant about the original culture of my country - every step in the right direction is one I can get behind.

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