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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6326

Mr OAKESHOTT (3:12 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister in her capacity as the Minister for Education. Minister, in reference to the National Curriculum Board document titled Shape of the Australian curriculum—history, dated May 2009, can you clarify the discrepancy between page 8, which indicates primary students will learn about the world wars and, page 11, which indicates that secondary students will jump from World War I history to post-World War II immigration. Minister, if true, would you agree that this omission of World War II history at the secondary level leaves a significant hole in the story of Australia for students? If true, and if she shares concerns on this, will she undertake to review this decision and look to include World War II history at the secondary level as part of the national curriculum agenda?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for his question. The one thing I can say to him—and I want to assure every member of the House of this, and I think it is an important point—is: I am certainly not writing the curriculum and it is not my intention at any stage to intervene in the process of the development of the national curriculum. I know that the approach of the former government was to play these issues out for grand public debate in the hope that they could get some political advantage in relation to them. But the important thing out of all of the curriculum wars and history wars engaged in by the Howard government, after acres and acres of newsprint, is that they never managed to get a national curriculum in this country.

We are substituting that track record of failure with a successful process to deliver a national curriculum. I am very happy to say to the member that if he would like to talk to the head of the National Curriculum Board, Barry McGaw, we can facilitate that. I can also say to the member—and he has probably seen this through the history framing papers, through the consultations that have gone on in history; the same sorts of consultations that happened in English and other things—that Barry McGaw has been very consultative and very clear that teaching the history of Australia will be a narrative of the principal events, obviously including World War II and all of the significant conflicts and engagements of this country.

He has been interviewed extensively and that sort of framework for the curriculum is clear. The framing papers and discussions to date have received a lot of positive feedback. We want Australian students to get a feel for every part of the history of this nation and—obviously, as students progress through school—to get a deeper and deeper understanding of events. I am very happy for the member to talk to Barry McGaw. I am very happy to forward him all of the documents that have been made available publicly. I think he will find in those documents that it is very clear that all significant events, including World War II, will be covered in the history curriculum.