*This is an edited version of a speech delivered by Dr Carolyn Holbrook to the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria annual conference in Melbourne on 27 July 2023.

 

History teachers hold a special place in my heart.

 

Like many of you, I was drawn to study history because I had the privilege of inspiring teachers at school.

 

And my admiration for history teachers was only underlined by my experience as a parent.

 

I loved how engaged with historiographical debates and academic history my girls’ teachers were.

 

Several years ago, I was at a festschrift for Marilyn Lake at Melbourne University when I bumped into one of my daughter’s history teachers.

 

She had taken annual leave to attend the festschrift!

 

But while we maintain the passion that drove us to become history educators, we teach with a sense that the discipline we love is under threat.

 

As HTAV’s Executive Officer Deb Hull wrote last year in the press, it appears that there is less history being taught in Victoria each year.

 

Students in years 7-10 are generally doing less than 60 hours of history each year, though it is difficult to tell because of the discretion within the curriculum.

 

Only 12 per cent of Victorian Year 12 students now choose to study history.

 

Rebecca Cairns and Kerri Garrard from Deakin University showed that the overall number of students completing Unit 4 Revolutions fell by more than 10 per cent between 2009 and 2018, from 5279 to 4756.

 

This is despite the number of VCE completions increasing by more than 2000 over the same period.

 

The state of Australian History is particularly concerning.

 

Year 12 Australian History enrolments have nearly halved since 2009, and declined by 81 per cent since 1992, despite significant increases in Year 12 retention rates.

 

The number of school providers of Australian History in Victoria has also halved since 2009, which raises concerns regarding the loss of specialist Australian History teachers.

 

On a brighter note, I see the figures bounced back in 2020.

 

And I understand there has been a revision of the curriculum for Australian history, which took effect in 2022, in an effort to respond to student feedback and attract more interest.

 

The trend is similar within universities.

 

Higher education academic Andrew Norton’s website shows a steady decline in history enrolments, apart from the peak that followed Julia Gillard’s introduction of a demand-driven system in 2012.

 

There is a sense of despondency in humanities departments in universities, where a shrinking number of permanent staff is surrounded by a cluster of precariously employed teachers, most of whom will never achieve permanent employment.

 

Universities talk up the importance of teaching, but don’t back the rhetoric with resources and rules, such as compulsory attendance at tutorials.

 

Recent policy decisions at the Commonwealth level have exacerbated the sense of gloom.

 

The Morrison government’s JobKeeper package was conspicuously denied to universities during Covid, resulting in the loss of approximately 17,000 jobs in the sector.

 

The Morrison government followed that with the Jobs Ready graduate package, which doubled the cost of most degrees in the humanities.

 

Jobs Ready has the stated aim of shifting student demand into courses such as nursing and science and steering them away from courses like Arts and Law, though it is very unclear that it has been successful in achieving that aim.

 

There are positive signs that the Albanese government will discard the Jobs Ready package.

 

But the big test will come when the government responds to the Universities Accord report, which is due to be handed to government in December this year.

 

Does it matter that our young people are learning less history?

 

I think it does.

 

Because I think that historical and civic knowledge are essential in a democratic society—people who are charged with the responsibility of voting and whose consent legitimises the rule of the state ought to have a working understanding of the context in which their society was founded, is maintained and can be reformed.

 

How can we contextualise the claims of our politicians if we have no historical context?

 

How can we understand the gravity of Scott Morrison’s covert accumulation of ministerial responsibilities if we have no understanding of the hard-won principles of responsible government?

 

How can we call out Peter Dutton’s blatant politicking about the Labor Party’s approach to China if we have no understanding of the appeasement policy during the 1930s?

 

How can we call out Sussan Ley’s claim that the Voice might veto Anzac Day unless we have some context for the politicisation of Anzac commemoration?

 

And how can we condemn recent claims by politicians in Florida that slaves benefited from the institution of slavery, unless we have some understanding of the truth about the history of slavery and Western imperialism?

 

The democratic civic compact depends on an educated, engaged and vigilant population.

 

If we have an ignorant, suggestible, even gullible, disillusioned and disconnected population, the civic compact begins to break down.

 

There are clear signs that this civic compact is under pressure.

 

Trust in democracy in Australia has been plummeting since the early 21st century.

 

The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer shows it has fallen 6 points since 2021, the second biggest decline behind Germany.[1]

 

Younger Australians are the least trusting, according to the Edelman survey.

 

In 1994, the late historian Stuart Macintyre chaired a group appointed by Prime Minister Paul Keating to devise a program of civics education for Australian schools.

 

In the report presented to the Keating government, Stuart warned:

 

‘When the lack of knowledge of how governmental institutions work and an uncertainty of what the civic ethos means is coupled with mistrust of politics, a danger arises’.[2]

 

I think that danger has arisen, around the world.

 

So, if the decline in history education is linked to a broader deterioration in the civic compact, what can we do about it?

 

Some of the causes are arguably cyclical, or able to be addressed at the curriculum policy level, if there is the political will to do so.

 

We are no doubt challenged by the choices available to students at both the secondary and tertiary levels.

 

The dramatic decline in the history major in US universities, which has caused a lot of consternation and debate over there, dates to the Global Financial Crisis.

 

In noting the decline in humanities degrees, Andrew Norton talks about the effect of economic and employment cycles on humanities enrolments, though the motivations of students are difficult to unravel, and many people choose to go to study at university when the job market is difficult.

 

But it does seem that in an increasingly competitive global economic environment, governments and students are opting for courses perceived to be more vocational.

 

This analysis explains why the humanities have been under pressure since the 1980s, since the advent of neo-liberalism.

 

I think history also loses out in the digital age.

 

Students are less inclined to read long journal articles and book chapters.

 

Andrew Norton speculates that subjects like Literature and History, which require significant amounts of reading are the victims of young peoples’ shorter attention spans.[3]

 

He presents data that shows a correlation between a decline in enrolments in those subjects and smart phone usage among young people.

 

I think that there is another, deep-seated problem, which is working against the discipline of history.

 

As secondary and tertiary educators and researchers, we are the spawn of the nation-state.

 

Nationalism emerged in the 1800s as a force for change, bolstering the claims of particular communities in Europe seeking to break away from imperial structures and monarchical rule.

 

It also proved incredibly effective at binding together communities that were undergoing immense change, as industrialisation transformed agrarian economies and communities.

 

In his classic 1983 study, Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson emphasised the extent to which nationalism was ‘invented’ or constructed, and the ways in which technologies of modern communication facilitated the capacity to propagandise a shared community of interest.

 

Scholars of nationalism such as Eric Hobsbawm and Anthony Smith have linked the spate of invented traditions, rituals and symbols in the late nineteenth century to ‘the increasing rapidity of social change and … the rise of mass political democracy’.[4]

 

These new secular rituals began to supplant the unifying role filled previously by religion and absolute monarchy.

 

Thus, we see the emergence of national flags.

 

And the personification of the nation in images like Marianne, Germania, John Bull, and Uncle Sam.

 

We have national anthems like the Marseilles and the Star-Spangled Banner.

 

And monuments and statues to the heroes of the nation and great battles that made the nation.

 

Historians played a key role in establishing the legitimacy of the nation-state.

 

Anthony Smith, a prominent scholar of nationalism, has written that historians provided ‘the moral and intellectual foundation for an emerging nationalism’.[5]

 

In the newly emerging literate cultures of industrialising societies, historians could trace the history of the nation to the primeval swamps.

 

They could describe in florid detail the glorious battles and blood sacrifice that provided the nation with its genesis myth.

 

Historians could identify the particularities of language, culture, custom and geography, that defined the boundaries of the nation-state.

 

Without the work of historians in imagining these new national communities and instructing young citizens in its virtues, the state could not have mustered its population in pursuit of massive industrialisation and economic advancement.

 

Without the theories that supposed a hierarchy of races in which the nations of Europe sat at the apex, the colonisation, enslavement and exploitation of large areas of the globe, could not have been achieved.

 

Without the love of the Fatherland or the Queen or the Empire, the state could not have sent its young men to die in their millions on the battlefield in 1914.

 

Nor could it have motivated its home population in the effort required to prosecute the First World War.

 

My point is that we owe our presence in the classroom and the academy to the unusual capacity of the discipline of history to propagandise the nation-state and instil the virtues of loyal and productive citizenship to the masses.

 

Portrait of Lord Northcote, third Governor-General of Australia (National Library of Australia)

Settler colonialism of the kind that created the Australian nation distorted the classic European nation-making process.

 

And left us with the legacy of a civic culture that is conspicuously modest.

 

I think this partly explains students’ disdain for Australian history—the disdain that Anna Clark’s work discerns and that is reflected in low enrolments.[6]

 

The French-Canadian scholar, Gérard Bouchard, has written about the inherent difficulty that settler societies face in conforming to the conventions of nationalism, as developed in eighteenth and nineteenth-century western Europe.

 

In The Making of the Nations and Cultures of the New World, Bouchard asked ‘how does one establish the foundations, the roots, and the vigour of customary traditions within the new collectivity’s short and uncertain lifespan?’[7]

 

This was a problem that vexed people in Australia.

 

Writing in 1890, the respected Victorian educator and politician Charles Pearson lamented that:

 

There is very little that is romantic or picturesque in the early history of a penal settlement on a continent peopled by some of the lowest savages known … We miss the grand procession of the ages; the conflicts of Church and State; the wars of rival nationalities; the relations of baron and knight and serf; all the colouring and light that we find in Chaucer, or Froissart or Shakespeare.[8]

 

School textbooks agreed that the Australian colonies had failed to conform to the conventions of nationhood.

 

The Royal Readers, which were introduced to Victorian schools in the 1890s and later adopted by other colonies, taught children that ‘Australia is essentially a new region, containing no human beings but a few of the lowest race of mankind’.[9]

 

In the century or so of British settlement in Australia, there had been no heroic wars or bloody revolutions.

 

The massacre, dispersal and killing by disease of Indigenous peoples was completely ignored, as if it never happened.

 

It followed, the Royal Reader concluded, that ‘Australia has no history, but that of a few squabbles with the Colonial Office’.[10]

 

The British journalist Alfred Buchanan wrote in his essay on antipodean society in 1907, The Real Australia, that people ought to sympathise with the ‘little Australian…He has so few materials with which to build. He has no national flag, no history, no bead-roll of fame, no justification for enthusiasm of any kind.’[11]

 

Bouchard proposed that there are three ways in which settler nations have dealt with their lack of history, as conceived by eighteenth and nineteenth century Europeans: they have co-opted the history of the indigenous population (for example, Mexico and Peru), they have rejected the need for history in the making of the nation (for example, the United States), or they have borrowed the history of their mother country.[12]

 

You won’t be surprised to hear that Bouchard puts Australia in the last category, along with New Zealand, Uruguay and Argentina.

 

While there were certainly efforts to promote a distinctively Australian version of nationhood—the radical nationalism of the late nineteenth century is the most prominent example—Australians largely held to a sense of British race patriotism.

 

The Australian character was, to quote a fine historian Graeme Davison, ‘British, White and Christian’.[13]

 

This choice of communal identification explains in part the failure of Federation in 1901 to register in the national imagination.

 

Portrait of Alfred Deakin (National Library of Australia)

The Attorney-General Alfred Deakin, tried to muster enthusiasm for commemorating Federation in the years following, but most of the Barton government and the rest of the parliament was uninterested.[14]

 

A columnist in Victoria’s Numurkah Leader contrasted the apathy of 1903 with the enthusiasm of 1901:

He would have been a bold man indeed who in 1901 would have ventured to predict that in two short years the patriotic fervor … and imperialistic rejoicings with which the inauguration of the Commonwealth was celebrated would have been practically non-existent.[15]

 

The Victorian School Paper reflects the lack of sentiment about Federation.

 

Indeed, the School Paper gave greater emphasis to the presence of the Queen’s representative, Lord Hopetoun and his wife, than to the new prime minister, Edmund Barton and his Cabinet.

 

Coverage of the death of Queen Victoria just a few weeks later far eclipsed the attention that was given to Federation.

 

Part of the problem with Federation was that it represented a separation from Britain at a time when Australians wished to emphasise their connectedness to the mother country.

 

The other major shortcoming of Federation was that it created a new nation from a peaceful legal settlement at a time when most Australians believed that nations were made in war.

 

Some, like the Federation poet George Essex Evans, tried to muster pride in Australians’ ‘bloodless flag’ and the fact that theirs was ‘Free-born of nations, Virgin white, Not won by blood nor ringed with steel’.[16]

 

But the sentiment of journalist and author A.G. Hales more accurately represented the view of the majority:

A nation is never a nation

Worthy of pride or place

‘Till the mothers have sent their firstborn

To look death on the field in the face…

Bridle to bridle our sons will ride

With the best that Britain has bred,

And all we ask is an open field

And a soldier’s grave for our dead.[17]

 

The British journalist Alfred Buchanan managed to be especially patronising when he wrote that: the most gaping deficit for the ‘little Australian’ looking to ‘nourish the flame of patriotic sentiment’ was that: ‘The altar has not been stained with crimson as every rallying centre of a nation should be’.[18]

 

Australia achieved its martial baptism on 25 April 1915 at Gallipoli; a military event that conformed sufficiently to the conventions of turn-of-the-century martial nationalism.

 

The Gallipoli landing was mythologised by the state, not least under the auspices of the official historian Charles Bean who wrote in his Official History that ‘the consciousness of Australian nationhood’ was born on the battlefield at Gallipoli.[19]

 

The Anzac legend has had its up and downs, but since the 1990s it has been heavily propagandised by the state.[20]

 

The government has spent more than a billion dollars in the last decade on Anzac commemoration, including the current $550 million renovation of the Australian War Memorial.[21]

 

It is perhaps not a coincidence that the Anzac legend is one aspect of Australian history that school children do profess interest in.

 

With the introduction of European-style education in Australia, history teachers were marshalled to the task of educating Australian children for imperial citizenship.

 

As this extract from a 1914 Education Department of Western Australia curriculum document shows, history education was unashamedly didactic and ideological:

If our teaching is of the right sort[,] the pupil should arrive at an intelligent pride in his race and its institutions; he should be inspired with a lofty admiration for the men who have won for us our liberties, who have made our race pre-eminent in the industrial world.[22]

 

Children were inculcated in what is often called a ‘Whiggish’ version of imperial history, a story of political progress from monarchical rule towards the liberal institutions that Britain graciously exported to its settler colonies.

 

History instruction of the ‘right sort’ should induce patriotic sentiment:

 

The story of the struggle for freedom and the growth of British liberties and institutions will naturally lead to the rights and duties of the citizens of to-day. Admiration of the achievements of the British race in peace as well as in war should lead to a broad patriotism and a real sense of our kinship with the other portions of the Empire.[23]

 

And the purpose of imparting this historical knowledge was, ultimately of course, to mould a population of loyal and co-operative subjects:

in the hands of a capable teacher the growth and development of the individual and of the race should become a fascinating study for the child-should give him an excellent training in citizenship and instruct him what a debt he owes his ancestors: and make him swear to pay it, by transmitting down, entire, those sacred rights to which himself was born.[24]

 

History remained a favoured discipline so long as it did the biddings of the nation-state.

 

But at some point, in the decades after the Second World War, this compact, between history and the nation-state began to break down.

 

Why?

 

As the extracts I just read demonstrate, history was complicit in the racialist ideas that sponsored the rise of Western empires and their extraordinary enrichment through the exploitation, including the enslavement, of non-Europeans.

 

These racialist ideas reached their zenith during the Second World War—I am referring to Nazism and the Holocaust.

 

When nationalism was discredited by its association with the Western imperial project and its sinister racialist implications, academic historians recoiled from their nation-making role.

 

Those scholars whose lives were shaped by Nazism and the Second World War—and I am thinking of Eric Hobsbawm in particular, but also people like Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner—produced definitive studies of nationalism in the decades after the war.

 

They revealed nationalism to be an ideological servant of modernity, capitalism and industrialisation.

 

Scholars such as Cedric Robinson, who pioneered the concept of racial capitalism, revealed the extent to which capitalism and nationalism rested upon a mantle of racism.

 

Nazism and the Holocaust struck such a psychological blow to Western modernity that they also undermined its epistemological certainties.

 

In place of the homogenising forces that landed us with catastrophes like Auschwitz and Hiroshima came a new heterogeneity, an intellectual rebellion against categories such as the nation-state.

 

Much innovative historical research in the last several decades has examined other kinds of communal identity besides that of the Western nation-state, including internationalism and anti-colonial forms, or those suggested by gender, racial or ethnic identity, sexuality and class, though the latter category has received less attention in recent decades.

 

Australia as a settler nation, grappling with the problem of what Stefan Berger called ‘historical time’, was later to dispense with the nation-making scholar-historian.[25]

 

I am thinking mainly of Manning Clark here and his six-volume History of Australia, written from the 1960s to the 1980s, in the Manichean and prophetic tones of older European histories.

 

The reluctance of historians to be blatant propagandists for the nation-state still leads to consternation and conflict.

 

Many of you would recall the history wars of the early 2000s, driven by John Howard’s desire to promote a more positive version of Australian history.

 

Howard criticised what he called—borrowing from Geoffrey Blainey—the ‘black armband’ version of Australian history.

 

A couple of years back we had Alan Tudge trying to reignite the history wars.

 

Tudge objected to the proposed new history curriculum, in which a portion of year 9 history dealing with the First World War would examine: ‘the commemoration of World War I, including different historical interpretations and contested debates about the nature and significance of the Anzac legend and the war’.[26]

 

The content would potentially include ‘debating the difference between commemoration and celebration of war’.

 

Tudge got on the airwaves, arguing that Anzac Day was ‘not a contested idea apart from an absolute fringe element in our society’.[27]

 

‘Instead of Anzac Day being presented as the most sacred of all days in Australia, where we stop, we reflect, we commemorate the hundred thousand people who have died for our freedoms … it’s presented as a contested idea,’ Tudge said.

 

Tudge’s view that the role of history is to instil patriotism was countered by a chorus of academics.

 

Professor Susanne Gannon, an expert in educational research at Western Sydney University, said the education minister seemed to have ‘a strange misunderstanding of the purposes of education’.[28]

 

Education was a cornerstone of a vigorous and healthy democracy, she said, and young citizens ‘need to have learned to investigate, explore and contest ideas in rational, honest and open ways’.[29]

 

“Choosing to present Anzac Day as ‘sacred’ and monolithic reveals an allegiance to simplistic ideas of the past, erasure of the experiences and histories of many in our communities, and a complete misunderstanding of historical consciousness and historical thinking that are foundational to the discipline of history,” Gannon said.[30]

 

Associate Professor Sue Nichols, of the Centre for Research in Educational and Social Inclusion at the University of South Australia, said: ‘I would encourage Minister Tudge to spend some time speaking with children and youth to learn what it means to be a globally connected, multilingual citizen of Australia.’[31]

 

The Institute of Public Affairs has consistently been a prominent critic of university history.

 

The Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Project at the IPA, Dr Bella d’Abrera, said in November last year:

 

History, as a discipline taught in Australian universities, is no longer about a study of the past, it has turned into a woke political project to erase our memory.[32]

 

An audit by the IPA, published last November, found of the history subjects offered at Australian universities teach more about ‘Race’ than ‘Democracy’ (86 subjects compared to 33 subjects), ‘Identity’ than the ‘Enlightenment’ (64 subjects compared to 25 subjects) and ‘Sexuality’ than the ‘Reformation’ (54 subjects compared to 17 subjects).

 

D’Abrera’s rationale was more sophisticated than Tudge’s. She claimed that:

Deliberately choosing to forget the past means graduates will be prone to repeating history’s same mistakes. Our future leaders need to be able to recognise the signs of totalitarianism, threats to our freedoms and threats to our personal sovereignty.

 

So, what is to be done?

 

I don’t believe that we as historians, shaped by the intellectual and cultural forces of our time, will conform to Alan Tudge’s instruction to teach children unthinking adherence to the Anzac legend.

 

That mode of instruction belongs in religion, not history, as we understand it.

 

But is it possible to reconstruct a more positive relationship with the nation-state, in the interests of our future as a discipline?

 

I have a couple of ideas.

 

The first is perhaps more relevant to academic historians.

 

A few years ago, I interviewed the head of a Commonwealth public service department, who told me that academic historians were invisible in public debate.

 

He said that if historians could not learn to distil our complex ideas into two-page policy briefs that could be absorbed by time-pressed public servants, we would remain invisible in public debate.

 

This confirmed a perception I had garnered from conversations with public servants over the years—that historians and other humanities academics were not perceived as making a constructive contribution to public debate.

 

To me, this meant that we were forgoing our capacity to influence policy, based on the knowledge and lessons we garnered from our historical expertise.

 

Much of my research is done with the hope that it can be applied to policy, in the interests of positive change.

 

I am the Director of a network of historians called Australian Policy and History, where we inject our historical expertise into policy debates.

 

We publish opinion pieces and policy briefs on our website.

 

Last year I co-edited with Lyndon Megarrity and David Lowe a collection of essays in which historians applied their research expertise to urgent issues, such as climate change, electricity reform, federation reform, refugees, Islamophobia, relations with China and foreign aid.[33]

 

The book was well-received and prompted some debate about whether we can indeed learn lessons from history.

 

All these initiatives seek to underline that history has an important role in civic society.

 

They seek to position us as constructive participants in public debates, rather than just critics of the status quo.

 

This approach is not without risks.

 

It leaves one exposed to accusations of ‘presentism’—or distorting the past in the interests of a present-day political agenda.

 

It also leaves us exposed to accusations of conforming to the ideological agendas of the state at the expense of academic freedom.

 

While mindful of these dangers, I feel positive about pushing for history to take a more applied approach.

 

And I believe that historians are responding to challenges like climate change, economic inequality and the fragility of democratic systems, with a more applied focus to their research.

 

My other idea is probably more dangerous.

 

It relates to the essential questions—what is history, and what is it for?

 

History is a rigorous, intellectual process, which uses quasi-scientific methods to understand what happened in the past and seek to explain it.

 

We all understand that much subjectivity remains in this process—in what we choose to study, how we arrange facts about the past and how we explain causation.

 

But as I have argued, history has another vital function in the human imagination.

 

It is a tool for binding human communities together, by embedding stories and rituals in the legitimacy of the past.

 

This myth-building capacity of history is what enabled its consolidation in schools and universities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

 

And it is the breakdown of this compact between history and the nation-state that explains to some degree the malaise of the history discipline.

 

Do we dare to re-enter the business of national mythmaking?

 

I suggest that we think about investing more in the mythology of Australian democracy.

 

I mentioned earlier that Australia’s nation-making moment in 1901 failed to capture the public imagination because of our attachment to Britain and our desire for a martial baptism.

 

But perhaps it’s not too late.

 

Australia has more than enough material with which to build a democratic legend.

 

The colonies pioneered government-provided ballot papers and provided separate voting booths, which allowed people to cast their votes in secret.

 

Women were early to get the vote, though when the Commonwealth enfranchised women in 1902 it disenfranchised Indigenous women and men.

 

In 1911, Saturday voting was introduced, making it easier for working people to cast their ballots.

 

Preferential voting was introduced in 1918 and compulsory voting in 1924.

 

Along with our non-partisan, bureaucratically managed election campaigns, compulsory voting helps Australia ameliorate the polarisation and voter suppression that are eroding American democracy.

 

While the Anzac legend is rooted in Australia’s Anglo-Celtic heritage, a democratic legend has the potential to appeal more widely.

 

The latest census results confirm the cultural diversity of our population: 27.6% of us were born overseas, and 48.7% have at least one parent born overseas.

 

In addition to those who feel no connection to the Anzac legend, some of us come from places where democratic mores are not culturally entrenched.

 

We need to include all Australians in the democratic project.

 

Education about our democracy must reckon with its failures as well as its successes.

 

These are most glaring in the treatment of Indigenous Australians and non-white people.

 

The United States stands as a cautionary tale of a nation whose democratic swagger does not match reality.

 

PROV, Record Series Number (VPRS): 8044, 7882, 10300

A recent Deakin History survey showed that a majority of adult Australians agreed with the statement that ‘History should celebrate the nation’s past’, though this belief is less strongly held among younger Australians.

 

In order to do their unifying work, national myths need to invoke some degree of pride in belonging to an ‘imagined community’.

 

Perhaps in their rejection of nationalism after the Second World War, historians have failed to understand that nations will continue to construct national myths.

 

And that these myths are less about rigorous history and more about the emotion of belonging—and for this reason they are worryingly impervious to us shouting from the sidelines about factual inaccuracies.

 

Whether we can re-establish the nexus between history and the nation-state in a way that doesn’t make us blatant propagandists is a very awkward question with no easy answers.

 

But I do believe our democratic history has been underplayed, and that it can provide us with a means of celebrating, to a measured degree, our shared national past.

 

Imagine if the Commonwealth showed the same commitment to fanning a mythology of Australian democracy as it has to propagandising the Anzac legend.

 

A $1 billion campaign to mythologise the democracy sausage—that could work.

 

 

Cover Image: Teacher and children in a classroom, c. 1890-1900 (State Library of Victoria)

[1] Edelman Trust Barometer, 2022, https://www.edelman.com/sites/g/files/aatuss191/files/2022-01/2022%20Edelman%20Trust%20Barometer%20FINAL_Jan25.pdf.

[2] ‘Whereas the People …’ Civics and Citizenship Education, Report of the Civics Expert Group, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1994, p. 15.

[3] Andrew Norton, https://andrewnorton.net.au/2023/07/04/the-decline-of-the-humanities/comment-page-1/.

[4] Anthony D. Smith, ‘Nationalism and the Historians’, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 1992, p. 70.

[5] Ibid., p. 58.

[6] Anna Clark, Private Lives, Public History, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2016.

[7] Gérard Bouchard, The Making of the Nations and Cultures of the New World: An Essay in Comparative History, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal and Kingston, ON, 2008, p. 20.

[8] Charles Pearson, Reviews and Critical Essays, Methuen, London, 1896, p. 216.

[9] Royal Readers, no. VI, Thomas Nelson and Sons, London, 1894, p. 195.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Alfred Buchanan, The Real Australia, T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1907, p. 308.

[12] Stefan Berger, ‘Introduction: Towards a Global History of National Historiographies’, in Stefan Berger (ed.), Writing the Nation: A Global Perspective, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hants, 2007, p. 5.

[13] Graeme Davison, ‘Narrating the Nation in Australia’, Menzies Lecture, London, 2009.

[14] Carolyn Holbrook, ‘Federation and Australian Nationalism: Early Commemoration of the Commonwealth’, Australian Journal of Australian Politics and History, vol. 66, no. 4, pp. 560-77.

[15] Numurkah Leader, 9 January 1903, p. 2.

[16] Fragment of a poem called ‘Ode for Commonwealth Day’ by George Essex Evans, which won ‘the prize of 50 guineas given by the New South Wales government for the best Commonwealth day ode’, Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 15 February, 1901, p.3, quoted in Deryck Schreuder and Stuart Ward (eds), Australia’s Empire, OUP, Oxford, p. 154.

[17] A.G. Hales, ‘Australia’s Appeal to England’, Campaign Pictures of the War in South Africa (1899-1900), Cassell and Company, London, 1900, p. x.

[18] Buchanan, The Real Australia, p. 308.

[19] C.E.W. Bean, The Story of Anzac: From 4 May 1915 to the Evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula, vol. II, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914—1918, new edn, QUP, Brisbane, 1981 [1924], p. 910.

[20] Carolyn Holbrook, Anzac: The Unauthorised Biography, NewSouth, Sydney, 2014.

[21] Honest History, https://honesthistory.net.au/wp/stephens-david-total-australian-spending-on-world-war-i-centenary-an-aide-memoire-for-the-curious/.

[22] Education Department of Western Australia, The Curricula for Primary and Central Schools, Perth, 1914. The Curriculum, Courses for Classes VII and VIII.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Berger, ‘Introduction: Towards a Global History of National Historiographies’, p. 5.

[26] ‘’Alan Tudge says he doesn’t want students to be taught ‘hatred’ of Australia in fiery Triple J interview”, Guardian Australia, 8 September 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/sep/08/alan-tudge-says-he-doesnt-want-students-to-be-taught-hatred-of-australia-in-fiery-triple-j-interview.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Bella D’Abrera, ‘Australia’s Campus History Crisis: Erasing the Past, Failing the Future’, Institute of Public Affairs, 28 November 2022, https://ipa.org.au/ipa-today/australias-campus-history-crisis-erasing-the-past-failing-the-future.

[33] Carolyn Holbrook, Lyndon Megarrity and David Lowe, Lessons from History: Leading Historians Tackle Australia’s Greatest Challenges, NewSouth, Sydney, 2022.

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Carolyn Holbrook
Carolyn Holbrook

Dr Carolyn Holbrook is the Director of Australian Policy History. Carolyn is working on a history of Australians’ attitudes towards their federal system of government. She is interested in the nature of state, national and imperial attachments and how they have been affected by geography, events and the passage of time. Her other major project is a collaboration with Professor James Walter at Monash University about the history of Australian public policy since the 1940s, with a particular focus on indigenous, refugee, housing and employment policies. Carolyn’s book about the history of how Australians have remembered the First World War, Anzac: The Unauthorised Biography, was published in 2014.