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The term ‘apartheid’ first originated in the year 1948 when it became the law in South Africa. It was a racist policy used to segregate the nation’s white people and non-white people. But very few knew that apartheid also existed in Australia. Apartheid is an Afrikaans word that means ‘apartness’ or ‘separateness’. According to Korff (2016), the term apartheid is used to describe a state of affair where an authoritative group submits a minority by inducing racial segregation with the help of political, legal and economic discrimination. In Australia this was done towards the Indigenous people. In 1901 along with other acts introduced at the time, one was the so-called White Australian policy also known as apartheid. The Stolen Generation were children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were forcibly removed from their families and communities by the Federal and State Government as a result of past government policies between 1910 – 1970. Some were adopted by white families and others were placed in institutions where neglect and abuse were common. This was done so that Indigenous people would forget their culture and grow up like the Whites learning western habits and behaviours. This act of removal left a legacy of mental trauma and loss that still continues to affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. While the aim of the policies was to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it failed in achieving this aim as the white society refused to accept them as equals and often looked down upon them.
In the article ‘The silent apartheid as a practitioner’s blindspot’, Mark Rose articulately demonstrates the impact the horrific acts and legislations had on the Stolen Generation through his father’s experiences. Mark begins the article by discussing the experiences of his father, Geoffrey Rose who was a victim of the Stolen Generation. Geoffrey was removed from his family when he was forcibly taken from his Aunt’s house on the Framlingham Mission. With an olive complexion and good academic performance Geoffrey was a suitable candidate to be removed under the Act. Abducted at the age of six, Geoffrey was stripped of his identity, his family, his community and his culture. The day he was taken was probably the last day he lived like a normal child. He was placed in an institution where he was subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse. There he was deprived of love, care and emotional connections from his family. He was cut off from his culture and lost his identity and was left with no self-awareness. Geoffrey, like other Stolen Generation survivors are left sitting on the fence with no sense of belongingness because they were not accepted by Aboriginal people nor the White people. The Stolen Generation movement has had a negative impact on the children who were removed and their families. Those ripples are still felt today by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. But their stories have been silenced by the government until the National Apology. According to Mark Rose (2012), the forced forgetting of history is a crucial issue that created ‘silent apartheid’ within the society and the education system. This mindset has seeped through the generations and is still prevalent even today. With the help of the Australian Curriculum and various state and territory education initiatives, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives have become a mandatory part of the curriculum”.
However, only being in place for the last decade or so means that teachers and educators have been deprived of Indigenous history throughout their years of schooling. This lack of knowledge has led to the silent apartheid which has been presented in schools causing a vicious cycle of inadequate information being passed down from generation to generation. It is an education that suppressed and devalued all aspects of Indigenous culture, beliefs and values. This gap in the Australian Curriculum hides genuine knowledge about Australia’s First Nation People and replaces it with stereotypical information that is untrue and illegitimate. In some cases this ignorance is replicated in the classrooms by completely ignoring Indigenous history. This cycle of ignorance then bestowed, strengthened and duplicated as a regenerative pandemic. These actions not only affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but also other non-Indigenous Australians who have been denied access to legitimate and true information about the land they live in and its traditional owners. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been looked down upon by mainstream society because non-Indigenous people’s views on Indigenous people are warped and distorted, They look at Indigenous people as drunk, violent, uneducated and unfit to work, thus marginalising and shunning them from society. These have left Indigenous people with low self-esteem and lack of pride in a culture that is centuries old.
In the article Mark Rose highlighted two important aspects of the ‘silent apartheid’ experienced in Australia: its promulgation and the abyss in which it lives. With universities producing many educators and teachers year after year with little to no knowledge about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, the ignorance is passed on from educators to students. The promulgation is enormous as educators pass on this information to many students throughout their career, thus creating another generation of people who have wrong perceptions and ideas about Indigenous people and their culture. This harmful cycle needs to stop and the issue should be addressed. Teachers need to be well-equipped with the right knowledge to break this vicious cycle and create a better society for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike. As Mark Rose (2012) rightly notes that the national psyche is crafted through the agency of teachers, whose role should not be underestimated. The second aspect pointed out is the abyss. This abyss, void of accurate Indigenous knowledge is replaced by half-truths and stereotypes that should not be seen in the classroom. This jaded understanding and limited knowledge places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the fringe where their choices diminish and opportunities disappear. These misnomers are damaging and harmful for everyone and thus should be stopped so that we as teachers do not create another generation of misinformed students. We as architects can shape the minds of our students and bring about change in the way they perceive Indigenous people. By educating ourselves with the correct information we are able to pass on that knowledge to our students and bridge the gap by replacing misconceptions and half-truths with facts. Within the article Mark Rose highlighted a number of issues but there were a few that stood out for me: “Racism by cotton wool”, “Exoticism”, “Parallelism” and “Abrogation of responsibility via workforce”. Racism by cotton wool is a detrimental phenomenon which provides the educator an excuse to exclude themselves from engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so that they don’t offend them with the content they teach. This leads to the students being neglected where they are deprived of the highest quality of education or feedback and are drawn to accepting low standards. Indigenous people are labelled with the title of being exotic, a synonym for being intellectually lazy and savage like.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are left with doubts in their mind and question their identity causing them to withdraw emotionally, physically or intellectually. Parallelism is a double-edged sword with programs that should complement mainstream programs to help Indigenous students but they are significantly different. They are short-term, insufficiently resourced and badly evaluated. These programs cause Indigenous students to be shunned from general programs thus crumbling their rights to take part in all the programs that the education system has to offer. Abrogation of responsibility via workforce is clearly evident in every workforce including the educational sector. This issue works around the notion that Indigenous issues should be taken care off by Indigenous people hence once again segregating them. In the school setting there is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait education worker (IEW) who is paid low wages but is seen making principal-like and curriculum decisions. According to the AITSL standards teachers are required to implement strategies aimed at teaching Indigenous students with differentiated teaching methods in order to meet every student’s learning needs. However, in order to address these standards, teachers need to have a good understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history of which they were deprived of. They fail to provide adequate feedback and lacking skills that are required to educate Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. This trend needs to change in order to create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. Mark Rose’s article is very insightful as it taught me thighs that I never knew existed in Australia. Having come from India this is entirely new for me as I have never witnessed this in my country.
I also found it very hard to comprehend the harsh treatments the Stolen Generation children went through. Before being introduced to this subject my perceptions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were based on things that I was told about them being violent, drunk, lazy and dangerous. I was told that they were dole-bludgers and always looked for hand-outs. This shows how ignorant people are about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s history. I am also quite confident that these people who have provided me these misconceptions are not aware about the things that happened in the past. After learning more and more about this subject my views about Indigenous people have changed and it makes me more determined to share their past so that these misconceptions and negative views about them change.
As a pre-service teacher I feel that Mark Rose’s article is very helpful in changing my opinions and assumptions and I am encouraged to educate my students so that they can grow up learning the truth about the First Nation People and the land that they live on. We as future teachers have the power to change this trend and narrow if not close the gap and help uplift Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so that they feel more confident about themselves, their identity and culture. By educating the students with fact and truths we can help change people’s perceptions and stop the cycle of ignorance. When I plan my lessons in the future I will make sure to include Indigenous history in my curriculum. I thoroughly enjoyed the article and I want to help Indigenous people in any way I can. Learning about the hardships they went through made me sympathise with them and has made me re-think about my assumptions on people. I now look at them from a different perspective with a passion to help them be accepted and respected by society. It is time that non-Indigenous Australians start respecting them and making them part of their daily lives. It is only through us teachers that ‘silent apartheid’ can be eradicated from Australia.
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