There are some in the media who use perpetual outrage as their stock-in-trade but they rarely present a balanced, or even truthful, view.
Last month, Murdoch local rag, the Manly Daily, featured a story under the headline SCHOOL PLAY ON STOLEN GENERATION SHOWS CHILDREN ABUSING OTHERS
Yahoo7news jumped on the story with the headline Outrage at primary school’s Stolen Generation play showing ‘nuns abusing Aboriginal students’.
news.com reported Primary school play on the stolen generation leaves parents horrified.
2GB radio host Ray Hadley picked up on the reports and denounced the play on air for its depiction of the treatment of the Stolen Generation.
“If these imbeciles want to do this at a five and six-year-old’s school concert, let them do it as themselves”, he told listeners. “But don’t use little kids carrying placards to do it and don’t put parents in the situation of having to clap for their own children even though they’re appalled by what’s happening.”
So what was all the fuss about?
As part of an “Australia You’re Standing In It” concert, the play involving year six students at Forestville Public school, which sits in Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah, depicted a re-enactment of nuns abusing Indigenous children which also featured younger students wearing “sorry” placards.
The Manly Daily article began:
“A NORTHERN Beaches primary school is under fire for an Australian history play that left parents horrified after it featured some Year 6 students dressed as nuns to abuse “Aboriginal” children.”
Except it was only one parent who was “horrified”, and he just happened to use his high profile as an Australian Socceroo to, rather than speaking to the school about his concerns, contact the Murdoch press and a 2GB shock jock.
Robbie Slater said he was “disgusted” when he saw the play last Friday at the school, where his five-year-old son Matthew is in kindergarten.
“Little children should not be exposed to that,” Mr Slater said. “At certain stages I walked out, I didn’t want to watch it to be honest. It was bloody disgraceful. I don’t think using five, six or seven-year-old kids is appropriate to push your own political agenda.”
One wonders if Mr Slater holds similar concerns for the five, six or seven-year-old kids who were ripped from their families, placed in orphanages, and abused by those whose duty it was to protect them.
As it turns out, the school newsletter was published before Mr Slater’s rant and it contained six separate letters from parents and grandparents praising the production.
“We attended last night’s performance and both came away happy and proud,” wrote one grandparent. “I personally have worried that not enough Indigenous history is being taught in our schools and so it was great to see the cast tackle the Stolen Generation.”
Another, who said she was a retired school principal wrote: “We were pleased to see that at last the truth is being taught about Australia’s “discovery” by Captain Cook, as well as our treatment of the Stolen Generation.”
One parent praised the concert as “amazing”.
“Most of all, my husband and I feel so grateful that our son is being taught the right values whilst learning about our true Australian heritage,” she wrote.
More parents took to Facebook to praise the play and Nina Mapson Bone was one of them. She posted an open letter about the incident on her Facebook account.
An open letter in response to the allegations against Forestville Public School
Leading the news on the radio this morning was a departmental inquiry into Forestville Public School, my son’s school. The allegation is that the school play was used to make a political point. The play was about iconic moments in Australia’s culture and history. The first half, performed by years K-3, was very innocent – sport, penguins, the beach. In fact I was personally feeling that it was very white and male (Steve Irwin, Croc Dundee etc) at one point. The second half, performed by Years 4-6 covered refugees, the real discoverers of Australia, and the stolen generation – including a re-enactment of the Governments’ apology to Aboriginals from 2008. All of the children performing will have been too young to understand or to have seen it at the time.
The play was factual not political. I understand that it might make some people uncomfortable but discomfort should not be a reason not to teach our children about the facts of important events in Australia’s history.
To those that feel that our children were too young for it, I say that those performing it were the same age, and sometimes older, than those that were taken from their parents. What my Year 3 son took from it was a compassion and understanding that I think is essential in helping to mend the issues we have in our culture in this country.
To those that say that our children shouldn’t have to apologise as they did nothing wrong – I say they were acting out a scene from recent history which actually happened. They were not personally apologising.
To those that say it is using children to make a political point I say when telling our children the truth becomes “making a political point” I worry about the state of our democracy. When something is shameful, when it makes us uncomfortable that is absolutely when the truth needs to be told – not doing so is one of the hallmarks of some of the most worrying societies on our planet.
To the teachers and children of the school I say this, thank you for the amazing effort you put in, well done on an outstanding production and I am sorry that by telling the truth you have been scrutinised in this way. I couldn’t be prouder of you all. Keep up the good work.
Nina Mapson Bone
The outrage follows a similar incident in June when a single parent at St Justin’s Catholic primary school in Sydney claimed “emotional abuse” because of an educational program about the Stolen Generation.
As part of a role-playing exercise, students were told their parents were not looking after them properly and the government had ordered they be taken away from their parents.
As one parent pointed out, “It was role play, the kids were told. The point was to teach them the harsh reality of the way kids were taken in stolen generations.”
“Kids participate in the 40 hour famine, is that emotional abuse? It’s to get them to feel what the starving kids in other countries are feeling,” she said.
“There are a lot of school programs where kids are meant to feel empathy and understanding towards a particular situation – this is on par with that.”
The Safe Schools program was another example of schools doing what they can to foster empathy and understanding. The accusation that it equates to sexual grooming says more about the accuser than the program which I am absolutely certain detractors know nothing about.
In a very short time our children will be leading this country. How can they address Indigenous disadvantage and reconciliation if they don’t understand the history? How can they fight discrimination if they don’t have empathy? How can they make the right decisions if we don’t tell them the truth?
I applaud our schools and hard-working teachers who not only teach “the basics”, but go so much further in instilling social responsibility in our future leaders.