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Perpetual outrage about nothing

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.

Yours faithfully

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.

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  1. jimhaz

    “Slater is now an analyst and commentator for Australian Pay-TV channel Fox Sports,commentating matches in the A-League, while also appearing on Fox Sports FC and Matchday Saturday, which are both weekly football coverage shows”

    Mixing with the wrong people. Mind you he does have that “look” about him.

    “Perpetual outrage about nothing” – Feud with Foster on the grounds of anti-Brit racism

  2. Kerri

    And our PM has said you can’t rewrite history! Those on the right would rather forget the brutality of our history than acknowledge the damage done.

  3. Harquebus

    Kaye Lee
    Unuvagoodwun. Thank you for your effort.
    Have you considered gathering some of your exposes together and creating a book? In a digital format, it could be updated and amended continually.
    Free download courtesy of theAIMN perhaps?

  4. Kaye Lee

    When Peter Dutton walked out on Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generation, he justified it this way…

    PETER DUTTON: I regarded it as something which was not going to deliver tangible outcomes to kids who are being raped and tortured in communities in the 21st century. Now, if I thought for a moment that it was going to deliver positive outcomes to those kids, to their families, to those communities, then I would support it in a heartbeat. But I thought it distracted us from that.

    What about the kids being raped and tortured on Nauru in the 21st century because of your actions Peter?

  5. Kaye Lee

    I don’t save what I write H. Need to keep room in my head for new stuff.

  6. diannaart

    Those whose need for confected outrage, tend to be those who can least handle the truth.

    Thank (again) Kaye Lee – I don’t know how you do it, but please don’t stop.

  7. Jack

    The open letter writer was already prejudiced herself. “personally feeling that it was very white and male”. Glad she ended up happy with how the play turned out

  8. diannaart

    There are many who wish to balance out lies in equal measure:

  9. Bernard D

    Kaye, some valid points, perhaps the solution for the next play is to get parents to dress up as abused children or abusive nuns? In relation to the St Justin’s Catholic primary school event, students were convinced they were in a virtual hostage situation. Some were found to be plotting an “escape” from the school itself. Imagine if they had succeeded on the day. Building a more empathetic society is good, but how to do it without making more problems?

  10. Zathras

    Some people are simply addicted to outrage as talk-back radio demonstrates so easily and radio show sponsors know the value of disaffected customers looking for a dose of Retail Therapy.
    Every night on those tabloid “news” programmes we learn about yet another everyday threat to our health and well-being.

    Likewise, every March and November we hear the traditional complaints about “they’re trying to ban Easter/Christmas” (whoever the mysterious “they” may be).
    Like so many individuals in society, religion has an eternal persecution/martyrdom complex.

    Some people don’t feel alive if they’re not defending themselves from some sort of personal attack and always need somebody or something to blame for what they consider their own miserable lives.

    It’s also a handy distraction from reality, which is probably even worse.

  11. Kaye Lee


    It was news.com that reported students were plotting an escape. This seems entirely untrue because, when a few kids became a bit distressed (apparently one of the three classes involved wasn’t informed it was a role play exercise beforehand though it was related to the unit of work they were studying), they were reassured by their teacher that it was just part of an activity. The “virtual hostage” thing is a beat-up.

    Perhaps, just for a moment or two, those kids got real insight into the lived experience of generations of Aboriginal people. Any ongoing discomfort is something we all should feel about a shameful period in our history. Many things in our history should make us feel uncomfortable so we learn to do better.

  12. Chris2017

    Interesting but look in the mirror when you write about SSM. The same quirks and foibles are abundant with the end of winter.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Please elaborate Chris2017

  14. Michael Taylor

    Harquebus (and Kaye), it was interesting that you should say that. A couple of people (one from a university) have approached me with the aim (no pun intended) of putting together a book based on AIMN articles. It’s a fabulous idea – of course – but the biggest obstacle is that I’d have to do a fair bulk of the preliminary work to get it started.

    My energy and availability doesn’t match my enthusiasm, sadly. And despite gentle reminders (from the interested parties) I’ve still haven’t travelled further than the first couple of pages.

    I seem to think that spending eight hours a day on the site (two hours sharing/promoting the posts, two hours of my turn at moderating, one hour on the guest posts (on average), one hour responding to all our emails, one hour on editing, and one hour on admin stuff) is about as much as I can put in at this stage.

    But …

    The idea lives on. Your comment was a gentle and unintended reminder that I really do need to pick up the pieces from where I left off.

  15. Phil

    Good on you Michael Taylor for the work you put in – AIMN is a brilliant source of progressive opinion and debate – you are doing our democracy a damned good turn.

  16. Michael Taylor

    Thanks, Phil.

    My contribution is nothing compared to all the great writers and commenters who put in the huge efforts that make it all worthwhile. They are the “face of the place”. Carol and I just get all the jobs behind the scenes. But if we’re lucky we get a chance to comment now and then. ?

  17. Harquebus

    Michael Taylor
    Perhaps asking the readers and contributors for their favorite or most memorable articles from theAIMN, add a few of your own and start from there.
    Of course, you know which article I will nominate.

  18. diannaart

    … proof that the most commented articles are not among either favourites or notable…

    Not making this any easier am I? Michael.


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