Hayley McQuire still remembers what it felt like to be a young Aboriginal student sitting in her grade four classroom, being taught that Captain Cook discovered Australia.
“It’s a feeling of being erased,” she said in an interview with Radio National. “I didn’t learn anything [in school] about First Nations history.”
“I grew up in my community on Country, learning stories from my dad and my family.
“Aboriginal kids bring this knowledge into the classroom, but when that’s not represented in that history lesson of how Australia came to be, it’s that feeling of erasure.”
“Where are the stories my family told me? Where’s my representation?”
For the past two years, Hayley—who is a Darumbal woman from Rockhampton in Central Queensland—has been travelling around the country as the National Coordinator of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition (NIYEC), listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people speak about their experiences in the classroom.
She’s learnt that her story is far from unique: 63% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people surveyed by NIYEC reported that their history lessons focused on the time after Cook arrived.
These real-life experiences form the backbone of NIYEC’s new campaign: Learn Our Truth, which was launched with support from creative collective BE. and the In My Blood It Runs documentary team.
The campaign asks principals and leaders in educational institutions to take a pledge to teach the First Nations histories, knowledges and cultures where their school is located, as well as the true history of Australian colonisation.