This article examines Alfred Deakin’s attitudes towards, and impacts upon, Aboriginal people during the period 1880-1910, drawing on newspaper articles and parliamentary debates as principal source materials. The discussion begins by charting the long, influential and often positive relationships Deakin had with several Aboriginal communities during a period as a Victorian MLA between 1881 and 1884. It then proceeds to document Deakin’s extraordinary descent into paternalism and racially-based fatalism which pervaded his later association with Aboriginal affairs whilst Victoria’s Chief Secretary (1886–1890), Victorian MLA for Essendon and delegate to Federal conventions (1890-1900), as the Federation debates took shape. And finally, the article outlines the attitudes Deakin expressed towards Aboriginal people in his various post-Federation political roles, including Attorney-General, Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs. In doing so, the discussion draws out the connections between Deakin’s advocacy of a white Australia and his attitudes towards Aboriginal Australia, and demonstrates the extent to which the creation of a new nation both informed and responded to socio-racial ideologies that mandated the exclusion of non-white identities from the nation-to-come
Indigenous curricula content, including particular narratives of Australian colonial history are highly contested in contemporary Australia. How do white Australians understand Australia’s colonial past and its relevance today? An empirical study was conducted with 29 rural Australians who self-identified as white. Critical race and whiteness studies provided the framework for analysis of the interviews. I argue that they revealed a delimited understanding of colonial history and a general inability to link this to the present, which limited their capacity to think crossculturally in their everyday living - activities considered crucial in the contemporary move to Reconciliation in Australia. The normative discourse of white settler Australians to be ‘Australian’ is invested in the denial of Indigenous sovereignty to protect white settler Australian claims to national sovereignty. The findings support arguments for a national curriculum that incorporates Indigenous history as well as an Indigenous presence throughout all subject areas.