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.
The national narratives that construct asylum seekers as illegal immigrants in Australia were protected and contested during the term of the former Howard Liberal government. This paper explores how white possession is reinforced in everyday speech about asylum seekers. To do this, it draws upon an empirical study conducted in rural South Australia with people who identified as “white Australian”. The study consists of 28 in depth semi-structured interviews conducted in 2003. The paper will firstly locate the interviews in the sociopolitical context of the former Howard Liberal government’s policies and key events such as the Tampa incident. In doing so, the paper adds to the small body of Australian sociological empirical research that investigates everyday practices of whiteness. The paper identifies discourses about refugees, border security and the “war on terror” that reinforce Australian discourses of white possession. The paper critiques the racialised privilege in discourses used by the interviewees about asylum seekers and argues this privilege is gained through the assertion of “white patriarchal sovereignty” (Moreton- Robinson 2004a) in everyday speech. This privilege simultaneously disavows Indigenous sovereignty and reasserts white national sovereignty through the raced exclusion of Middle Eastern and/or Muslim peoples who are located as illegal immigrants in everyday white discourses about asylum seekers.