From Courtroom to Classroom: Transitional Justice and History Education in Australia

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History education occupies an increasingly vital position in agendas of transitional justice in Australia. Recent movements for truth, justice, and political transition have positioned school history curriculum as both a difficult and important subject of transitional justice, as well as a crucial instrument for furthering its aims and processes. This thesis explores how ideas of redressing the unjust past are reflected in, and reshaping, history curriculum in Australia. Central to this study is an expansive conceptualisation of transitional justice as a unifying tool (rather than a normative framework), which is used throughout to cohere diverse discourses of state redress and political transition. Due to the complex, evolving dynamics that constitute the nexus between transitional justice and history education, this study undertakes a mixed-method, interdisciplinary sequence of approaches that aim to expose the historical conditions that make possible the curricular present. First, it traces the emergence and fate of history, education, and the nation-state as an influential locus for shaping future national citizens, and shows how that purpose was modified in response to rising pressures of transitional justice during the latter decades of the twentieth century. Next, it analyses political speeches since the 1990s as moments of transitional justice that sought to reorient citizens in relation to the unjust national past. It argues that since the 2009 Apology to the Stolen Generations and 2010 national curriculum, history curriculum has been inscribed with a new task: to shape a national citizen positioned to reconcile the unjust past for the sake of the national future. Finally, by tracing the curricular manifestations of that post-national curriculum agenda, this thesis argues that agendas of transitional justice are not easily resolved in contemporary history curriculum. Through close textual analysis of how discourses of transitional justice manifest in current national and Victoria history curricula, this thesis explores the specific ways that knowledge of the unjust past has been incorporated in the school subject of History. By engaging closely with the complex synergies at stake in the relationship of transitional justice and history education, this thesis models ways forward and signals possibilities for future scholarship as well as implications for processes of transitional justice and curricular reform.
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