History education and the history wars in Australia

Document Type

Journal Article


Education and Arts






Originally published as: Leadbetter, B. (2002). History Education and the History Wars in Australia. Yearbook of the International Society for History Didactics : History teaching in the crossfire of political interests, 29/30(1), 97-108. Original article available here


In his Australia Day address in 2006, John Howard, the (then) Australian Prime Minister, called for a "root and branch renewal of the teaching of Australian History". This led, later

in 2006, to a meeting in Canberra, sponsored by the Minister for Education, and held under

the auspices of the Commonwealth Department of Education, of Australian Historians and a

few History teachers. The purpose of this gathering was to make recommendations in response to a proposal to make Australian History compulsory in all Australian schools at some point. The summit concluded that Year Nine was a good point at which to implement such a course and a further group were deputed to draft a syllabus. That group reported late last year, just as the government changed. Now it appears that the approach favoured by the Howard Government will be abandoned. This paper analyses these events both in terms of the attempt to implement assert a socially conservative and economically neoliberal view of the world, while appearing to favour "objective narrative", and the deeper contradiction between politically driven syllabus construction and students’ learning.

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