Howard, John: National Press Club address, Australia Day 2006

John Howard

A sense of balance: the Australian achievement in 2006: address to the National Press Club, Great Hall, Parliament House, 25 January 2006

See also this; together the two references give a good insight into this Prime Minister’s views on history.

Most nations experience some level of cultural diversity while also having a dominant cultural pattern running through them. In Australia’s case, that dominant pattern comprises Judeo-Christian ethics, the progressive spirit of the Enlightenment and the institutions and values of British political culture. Its democratic and egalitarian temper also bears the imprint of distinct Irish and non-conformist traditions…

Quite apart from a strong focus on Australian values, I believe the time has also come for root and branch renewal of the teaching of Australian history in our schools, both in terms of the numbers learning and the way it is taught… Too often, it is taught without any sense of structured narrative, replaced by a fragmented stew of “themes” and “issues”. And too often, history, along with other subjects in the humanities, has succumbed to a postmodern culture of relativism where any objective record of achievement is questioned or repudiated.

Part of preparing young Australians to be informed and active citizens is to teach them the central currents of our nation’s development. The subject matter should include indigenous history as part of the whole national inheritance. It should also cover the great and enduring heritage of Western civilisation, those nations that became the major tributaries of European settlement and in turn a sense of the original ways in which Australians from diverse backgrounds have created our own distinct history. It is impossible, for example, to understand the history of this country without an understanding of the evolution of parliamentary democracy or the ideas that galvanised the Enlightenment.

In the end, young people are at risk of being disinherited from their community if that community lacks the courage and confidence to teach its history.

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