Agora (2022/Issue 3) – Contested Histories

Agora is a journal of curated professional reading for History teachers. This digital download of the latest edition explores some of the issues involved in teaching contested histories so that these can be approached with confidence and sensitivity in History classes. Articles discuss how to conduct classroom discussions of contested histories that are inclusive rather than adversarial, how a school decolonised its library, why Black Lives Matter protests provide a great case study for teaching current controversies around memorials and commemoration, how the ‘White Australia’ policy was contested in public debate at the time, how mistrust of ‘critical race theory’ has politicised teaching of American History in US schools, and why the political right is now appropriating the Eureka flag. In Praktikos, a classroom activity examines Dark Emu’s use of primary sources while a teacher argues why it remains a fantastic resource for students to learn about Ancient Australia.

Print copies of Agora are available by annual subscription.


About this item






Reflection | Ashley Keith Pratt, President
Editorial | Guy Nolch, Editor


THEMA | Reflections on the theme

Australian History Is Contested | Richard Broome AM, Emeritus Professor in History, La Trobe University; Life member, HTAV
Declining enrolment numbers are attributed to Australian History being ‘boring’ when in fact its controversial nature requires a curriculum with nuance and complexity.

Who ‘Owns’ the Eureka Flag? | Matthew Allanby, Xavier College
While the political left has traditionally claimed the legacy of the Eureka Rebellion,  the political right is increasingly appropriating this narrative to protest against government powers.

Charles La Trobe and the Kulin: ‘Protection’ or Exile from Country? | Margaret Anderson, Old Treasury Building
Documents reveal tensions in Port Phillip over La Trobe’s intentions to carry out his duty  to protect First Nations people by forcing them from Melbourne.

The Contested Nature of Dual-Naming in Australia | Harrison Croft, Monash University
Acknowledging original Indigenous names can legitimise the deep history of a place, but the act of renaming is tokenistic if renaming is itself an end.

The Early Critics of a ‘White Australia’ | Ian Keese, Retired teacher and author
Although there was majority support for the newly federated Australia to adopt a policy based on race, it is important to realise that there were also strong critics.

How Religion Shaped Australia | Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University
Australia is often said to be a secular nation, but the nation’s relationship with religion is more complicated than that.

Righting History: Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia | Paul Kiem, University of Sydney
The Monument Avenue Commission’s report into Richmond’s Confederate statues, and the subsequent flashpoint between neo-Confederate and Black Lives Matter protestors, provide a great case study for teaching current controversies around memorials and commemoration.

Race Consciousness and the Teaching of American History | Daniel J. Willever, Ramsey High School, New Jersey
In an era of intense political polarisation, teaching American History has become more complex and challenging than ever before.

Decolonising the Curriculum: A Canadian Perspective | Rachel Collishaw, President, Social Studies Educators Network of Canada; and President, Ontario History and Social Science Teachers’ Association
Canadian provinces are revising the curriculum as the nation confronts its history of Indigenous genocide in residential schools.

The Discomfort of the New Idea: Contested Histories and Cognitive Dissonance | Deb Hull, History Teachers’ Association of Victoria
An unexpectedly fiery podcast about the Industrial Revolution shows that ‘diverse interpretations’ occur in all kinds of histories.


PRAKTIKOS | Teaching Ideas

Facilitating Respectful Classroom Dialogue for Contested Histories | Laura Newman, Social Education Victoria,  and Nicole Marie, Point Cook Senior Secondary College
Preparation and dialogue protocols can support classroom discussions of contested histories that are inclusive rather than adversarial. 

Dark Emu: Investigating a Controversy in the History Classroom | Robert Lewis
Dark Emu has been accused of being misleading in its use of evidence. This classroom activity will help students explore the controversy by investigating how primary sources have been used in the book.

Dark Emu Overcomes Barriers to the Meaningful Teaching of Ancient Australia | Alana Ryan, Presbyterian Ladies’ College
Many teachers feel ill-equipped to teach First Nations history in detail, but Dark Emu provides a fantastic base to navigate this space.

Aboriginal Artworks and Cultural Objects as Primary Sources | Nikita Vanderbyl, Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University Mildura
Object-based learning can provide students with opportunities to ask questions that provide a deeper connection to the contested nature of First Nations history.

Decolonising a Library: Our Experience | Laura Capraro, Ben Lawless and Josephine Motti, Aitken College
What decisions need to be made when ensuring the books in your school’s library reflect current knowledge and do not perpetuate stereotypes and racism?

How Students Use Social Media When Learning About History | Kara Taylor, Irymple Secondary College
Interviews with Year 7–10 Humanities students reveal the extent to which they get and interrogate their newsfeed to make sense of history and the world around them.