A little fair play


Quairading School. Image shamelessly lifted from State Heritage Office site.

Depressing news that the heritage-listed Quairading School burnt down last night. As a piece of architecture it was completely average, but this was a key battleground in ensuring Aboriginal children received the same right to education as white kids.

For those who’ve seen the movie Rabbit Proof Fence, you will know the head of the Aborigines Department, A. O. Neville, was demonised in the film. But he turns out to be the good guy here, fighting the Education Department for the admission of Aboriginal kids to Quairading School when they had been excluded on racist grounds.

If you want the full story on the school check out this link.

But the real hero was John Kickett who simply wanted his offspring educated, and kept moving his family in the 1910s, struggling to find someone who would teach them. In a heart-breaking letter he sent to his local MP, John set out the reasons why Aboriginal children deserved better.

We have left the original spelling in the small excerpt below to show that John was barely literate, and writing a lengthy letter with all the formalities required in his day must have been a real effort. But his passion for ensuring the next generation did better shines through.

I wont a little Fair Play if you will Be so Kind Enough to see on my Beharfe since reciving the Letter from the Department Dated 30th April 1918 that My Children Cannot attend school at Quairading.

I see that the Education Department as let Johnny Fitzgeralds Children enter the State School north west of Quairading. They are attending the school four months just now this is not Fair at all. They were turned out of the Quairading State School for some reason and let them enter another. What I here is that Baxter made it right for them Because one of them is at the Front Fighting.

Well Sir I have Five of my People in France Fighting. Since you were up here in your Election one as Been Killed which leave four. Cannot my Children have the same Privelige as Johnny Fitzgerald…

Would you Be so Kind Sir see if they can goe to Dangin or the same school north of Quairading if I send them their? Sir I Cannot see why my Children could not attend here at Quairading.

My People are Fighting for Our King and Country Sir. I think they should have the liberty of going to any of the State.

I had Fifteen Parents of whos Children are attending the State School have signed the Petition knows my Children well so they could goe to School here But was refused By the Department.

My Childrens Uncles are Fighting. Could you do some thing for the little ones.

The battle over Anzac Day


So, with Anzac Day coming up and the hundred year thingy being all important, Dodgy Perth asks the question: Won’t somebody think of the children?

More specifically: How should we introduce Anzac Day to the kids?

We have been pondering this since enjoying the savage beating Peter Stanley inflicts on Anzac Ted (an appalling-written book for pre-schoolers).

So Dodgy Perth now looks back to a different war. One between the Government and the RSL.

In the 1920s schools would invite a digger to speak on the subject of Anzac Day. Until 1925 when the Minister for Education banned them.

The RSL was outraged. Seriously, seriously outraged.

Led by the holy trinity of Rabbi David Freedman, Archbishop Riley and Sir Talbot Hobbs, the anger still seems palpable 90 years later.

The peacenik teachers and politicians were more concerned with ‘turning the other cheek’ and the newfangled League of Nations than teaching children to do their duty.

“Whether certain people like it or lump it,” Talbot Hobbs declared to loud applause, “we are going to do our duty by our fellow comrades.”

Anyone who said the RSL wanted to go into schools to teach children to kill people or war was a glorious thing was simply a liar, he thundered.

The Government, though, stuck to its guns.

There was no question of children not being taught about Anzac Day, it insisted. The question was not what should be taught, but who should do the teaching.

In this case, people who are trained to give instruction to young minds (we call them teachers, usually) were ideally placed to deliver lessons on the War.

Returned soldiers had certainly done their duty, but they were not qualified to communicate with the kids. That was best left to teachers.

In any case, there had been complaints after one digger spoke to the assembly for more than two hours the previous year. Which showed exactly how much they understood young minds.

Interestingly, for all their concern over children, the RSL regularly banned kids and women from the Dawn Service in Kings Park. Women and children do not lend an air of dignified respect to the occasion said the RSL, so they had to stay away.

So, nearly a century later, what have we learned about how to teach pupils about the Anzac story?

Given the regular fights between opposing camps of historians, Dodgy Perth suggests the answer is we have learned bugger all since 1925.