Preserving Herstory

The current Australian national school curriculum is heavily preoccupied with war and colonisation. At best women are depicted as playing a tangential support role in relation to these male orchestrated power struggles. Meanwhile aspects of history of far more significance to women are overlooked, such as the suffragette movement which resulted in Australia being the first country in the world to grant women both the right to vote and to stand for election. This was achieved through non-violent campaigning. Despite the global historical significance of Australia’s achievement, it is not mandatory content in our national curriculum and most Australian students will be lucky if this topic has been touched upon during their schooling.

Other topics of huge historical significance to women, such as European witch hunting and Chinese foot binding, are also entirely overlooked by the curriculum or feature only as elective topics despite their vast impact on humanity. Furthermore, the lists of historical personalities provided in the curriculum are still vastly weighted in favour of males, particularly those who have played military roles. Respectful relationship education must necessarily include revision of our history curriculum to give equal weight to the accomplishments of women and to ensure that all students are taught about the history of female oppression.

The national curriculum needs to be rewritten from an intersectional feminist perspective rather than perpetuating a white male’s view of past events. Female historical personalities need to have equal representation and topics of significance to women need to be mandated within the curriculum. History needs to be expanded beyond being a history of male warfare and colonisation and explore other dimensions of human activity such as food production, fashion, architecture, technology, and the development of human rights, environmental and peace movements.

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