Australia—Risking Loss of Heritage
The class of ’59 at my old high school celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Though I was not able to make it Down Under for that occasion, the ensuing photographs of my contemporaries, most now in retirement, did bring back memories. They were memories of an education curriculum balanced across the arts and sciences, with a good hefty dose of compulsory physical education and weekly sports of British origin, in all seasons, that made for a quality education.
Though a bit of a louche student at high school, given the attraction of sun and surf in a beautiful Mediterranean-style southeast coast Australian environment, I have never regretted the rigors of that education.
As the years have rolled by, one thing I have become increasingly thankful for is the sound education gained both at elementary and high school level in the British and European heritage that built my home country into one of the most favored nations on the globe.
Yet, I have to confess at disappointment during return visits to Australia when observing, with each visit, the progressive loss of the ties that so bound Australia to its British imperial heritage in better times. The explanation as to the reason for that loss is very evidently bound up in Australia’s national education curriculum.
Writing for the Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper, journalist Susie O’Brien observes (March 2),
Our draft national curriculum overlooks our British and European culture in a rush to promote Australia’s Aboriginal heritage, our position in the Asia-Pacific region and our green credentials.
In the history curriculum document, for instance, Asia is mentioned 19 times, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 times. We are continually reminded to use examples and texts that hammer home our connection to Asia, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and emphasis on sustainable living. But there’s not one mention of the Commonwealth, the United Kingdom, Great Britain or even the Queen.
Well, shame on the drafters of that curriculum!
I well remember working in Australia’s national capital, Canberra, at the time that Aboriginal affairs had become a fashionable way for politicians, lawyers and professors to make a name for themselves and a dollar on the side. The socialist-feminist-environmentalist set was seizing influence in government and education circles at that time.
Later came the weird claim by one Australian prime minister that Australia, its whole national heritage British and European to the core, should look to Asia for its future. Such a stance had been aided by Britain being lied into membership of the European Community. This had resulted in the loss of British custom in support of Australasia’s primary agricultural industry, a traditional backbone of the rural economy of Australia and, in particular, New Zealand.
Now, decades later, Australia is in danger of having its cultural heritage Aboriginalized, Asianized and greened out of existence.
O’Brien points out that “many of you might not be aware of it, but the entire curriculum is underpinned by three so-called ‘cross-curriculum dimensions,’ or themes. These are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australia’s place in the Asia-Pacific, and sustainable living.
“But these three themes don’t reflect the full picture of who we are as a nation or how we see ourselves. Where are the themes reflecting our British and European roots and current realities?” (ibid.).
The burning questions that so heavily impinge on Australia’s future at this juncture are these: Just what is the Australian identity today? What are the real values that Australians respect and seek to protect from the impact of creeping multiculturalism? What are the standards that underpin Australian society today?
The realists worry about all this.
As British commentator Melanie Phillips once observed, “Throughout the West … [the] political class is incapable of disinterested statesmanship because it is no longer sure in what—if anything—it still believes” (Daily Mail,May 14, 2007).
Of Australia’s immediate previous prime minister, Phillips noted, “Mr. Howard, in sharp contrast, is entirely free of such absurd and crippling cultural cringe. He believes in Australia and its Western values. He thinks these values are superior to any alternatives. And it is this total absence of equivocation in upholding the national interest which explains his robust defense of both Australian identity and Western civilization against attack.”
In this age of great global disruption—this age of immense challenges to Western civilization from contending cultures and great religious movements foreign to the West—does Australia—which under Mr. Howard stoically resisted incursions upon its foundational values, institutions and freedoms—now, under a different form of government, have what it takes to continue a “robust defense” of Australia’s true identity as a nation?
Read our online booklet Australia—Where to Now? for more on this subject.