Daley, Paul: It’s not “politically correct” to say Australia was invaded, it’s history

Daley, Paul

It’s not “politically correct” to say Australia was invaded, it’s history‘, Guardian Australia, 30 March 2016 updated

This article comments on the Daily Telegraph‘s comment on a diversity guide at the University of New South Wales, pointing out that some common references by white settler Australians, for example, to Australia being discovered in 1770 by Captain Cook, are offensive to Indigenous Australians. The author of the article, Paul Daley, is one of Honest History’s distinguished supporters. Our collection of related material. And some later material.

The Daily Telegraph story quotes very selectively from the guide and paints it as more prescriptive than it is. The guide divides lots of words into ‘more appropriate’ and ‘less appropriate’. It has been around since at least September last year and is based on material that has been used in New South Wales schools since – wait for it – 1996.

My starting point [says Daley] as a non-Indigenous person who writes about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their stories, has always been to listen. To listen to the ways stories are told by Indigenous people themselves, to understand their meaning and to respect the way they view – and share – their histories.

Meanwhile, Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has made similar remarks to Daley’s in relation to a similar diversity guide at the Queensland University of Technology. Kyle Sandilands, Keith Windschuttle and Alan Jones as well as hundreds of commenters (2600 plus on the Guardian in 21 hours, taking both sides) on the Daley and other pieces were all exercised. Alex McKinnon in Junkee has a level-headed take. One way of looking at all this is that there are two important invasions in Australian history: one was in 1788 and has continued; the other was in 1915 in the Dardanelles.

UNSW’s statement made clear there is nothing mandatory about the guidelines.

The university rejects any notion that a resource for teachers on Indigenous terminology dictates the use of language or that it is designed to be politically correct … The guide does not mandate what language can be used.

Indigenous historian, Jackie Huggins, also commented. So did Wiradjuri journalist, Stan Grant, who seemed to think (wrongly) the guidelines were telling students how to think. Then there was Bryce Barker in The Conversation and Waleed Aly in Fairfax, both asking why Australians are so reluctant to face up to some aspects of our past. But perhaps the sharpest of all the follow-ups was from Luke Pearson in Guardian Australia.

You can not “get over” a colonial past that is still being implemented today. You cannot come to terms with a national history that the nation refuses to acknowledge ever happened. We cannot “reconcile” what happened yesterday when we are too busy bracing ourselves for what will inevitably come tomorrow.

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