Child-care centres, playgroups and kindergarten are places where toddlers and little kids play with blocks, hear about the pup called Spot and begin to socialise. Surely then the Brunswick kindergarten in Melbourne’s Greens-voting heartland indoctrinating its mini-clients about open doors for asylum seekers was an anomaly?
Alas, not so. Reconciliation Australia (RA) is specifically targeting what it calls “our littlest children” in pre-schools for all the current campaigns of Aboriginal activism. Its goal is to “impact the hearts, minds and actions of early learners.” Target groups include long day care, occasional care, family day care, playgroups, crèches and kindergartens. Close to 700 of these so far have signed on for thorough-going Reconciliation makeovers, starting with a flag out the front and extending to discussion of whether the national anthem is racist. The conditioning from between the ages of three and five softens up toddlers for RA’s political crusading in primary and high schools.
The pre-schoolers are inducted into abstruse “conversations” about a more respectful date than January 26 for Australia Day, and why a treaty and sovereignty are integral to reconciliation. In delivering a sanitised and tightly-censored version of Aboriginal culture , RA links reconciliation with the national Early Years Learning Framework where toddlers’ teachers “analyse and discuss with children ways in which texts construct a limited range of identities and reinforce stereotypes”. (My emphasis).
In videos celebrating pre-schools that have won Narragunnawali awards for their teaching plans, toddlers lisp and sing their teachers’ reconciliation slogans. One little girl, aged about four, recites, “Explore & Develop Penrith South [a day care centre] acknowledge the twaditional custodians of this land, the Dharug people and the land we are on today.” (For some sceptical history of the Dharugs, see here.)
Federally-funded Reconciliation Australia ($10.2m in 2017) pumps its material into pre-schools and schools via its “Narragunnawali” offshoot. Among Narragunnawali’s other backers are BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities ($11m over five years from 2017), the green/Left anti-capitalist educators at Cool Australia, run by the Just Jeans founders, the Myer Foundation and the ABC with its Right Wrongs platform.
Early learning and childcare centres sign on for a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) involving 14 obligatory elements (“RAP Actions”) and 25 optionals. In some Melbourne suburbs, Narragunnawali’s Action Plans (RAPs) have made bigger inroads into child-care centres and preschools than kindergartens and primary schools. Using RA’s Dashboard, and starting with my own suburb Ascot Vale, I found 18 early-learning places signed on in eight suburbs, contrasting with only one primary school (St Therese, Essendon). In Balmain , Glebe, Surry Hills and Parramatta, one finds nine affiliated pre-schools and child-cares. The only primary schools with Reconciliation Plans were Glebe Public School and St Oliver’s, Parramatta. The elite SCEGGS Darlinghurst (Anglican Girls) has a Plan, as does Sydney Boys High School.
The Melbourne sample of Reconciliation Action Plan affiliates is Ascot Vale – Highpoint Kinder Haven, Maribyrnong River Children’s Centre, Only About Children; Essendon – Community Children, St Therese Primary; Brunswick – Dawson St Child Care, Moreland Community Child Care Coop, NW Brunswick Kindergarten; Northcote – Clifton St Children’s Centre, Nicki’s Clever Cookies [childcare/kindergarten]; Melbourne 3000 – Genius Learning [childcare], Little Stars at Bourke Children’s Centre, Melbourne City Childcare and Kindergarten, RMIT City Campus Children’s Centre; Prahran – Stonnington Children’s Centre, Windsor Community Children’s Centre Coop; Balwyn – 3 Apples Children Centre; North Balwyn – Boroondara Pre-School, Red Apple Early Learning Centre.
For Sydney, the sample was Balmain – Balmain Care for Kids, Phoenix PreSchool; Glebe – Amigoss Pre-School, Glebe Public School, KU Laurel Tree House Children’s Centre; Surry Hills – John I Carroll Pre-School, Only About Children, SCEGGS, Sydney Boys High; Parramatta – Integricare Children’s Centre, Parramatta West Out of School Hours, Reggio Emilia Early Learning and St Oliver’s Primary (Harris Park).
RA expects its sub-primary onslaught to be an everyday occasion, with Acknowledgement of Country “a relevant daily routine”. Toddlers are hectored, “Why is it important to think about reconciliation every day? Why is it important to work towards reconciliation every day?”
On big days — and there’s no shortage of big days — toddlers get multiple doses of RA material. “Although not exhaustive, this list is a good start”, RA advises, going on to list Australia Day, National Apology Day, Close the Gap Day, Sorry Day, 1967 Referendum Day; National Reconciliation Week, Mabo Day, NAIDOC Week, Indigenous Children’s Day, and UN Indigenous Day. RA says,
Reiterate the meaning and purpose of reconciliation through concepts that are accessible to young children such as ‘friendship,’ ‘kindness,’ ‘fairness’ and ‘sharing.’ If you decide to implement something new into your daily routine, acknowledge the everyday significance to reconciliation the first couple of times you conduct the activity. For example, “and today, like every day, is an important day for reconciliation”.
On days of particular national significance, RA instructs “today is a very important day for reconciliation”:
Give the name of that day to the children (for example “Today is not just Monday, it is also Mabo Day, and this is a very important day for reconciliation”) and explain, in simple terms, what the day is all about. You may also wish to stimulate a basic reflective discussion with the children by asking questions such as:
– Why do you think this day is important?
– What do you think this day makes people feel?
– What could we do to help to celebrate and remember this day?
You may wish to consider facilitating some follow-up activities throughout the day based on children’s responses to the final question.”
The kids are dealt a positive view of 9-year-old non-Indigenous girl Harper Nielsen’s refusal last September to stand for the national anthem at assembly at Kenmore South State School in Queensland. Young Harper claimed that “young” and “fair” demonstrated bias towards white-skinned people. Kids are now being told, “Harper’s silent protest was heard by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, with high profile voices recording messages of support.” There follows “Conversation Starters: Do you think that the national anthem should be more inclusive? If so, in what way? Why is it important for young people to have a voice in conversations about reconciliation?”
RA thinks toddlers can answer questions such as “What does National Reconciliation Week [NRW] mean to you?” These are quite difficult questions, RA admits, advising
…you might need to prepare children by providing some context first, and by guiding their responses wherever relevant. Nevertheless, it is also important to encourage children’s independent expressions of their early understandings and ideas. As a group or individually, children can then be assisted to create their own NRW poster based on the theme.
One lesson for Early Learning (sub-primary) “Civics and Citizenship” involves playing the Paul Kelly/Kev Carmody song From Little Things Big Things Grow. “Children reflect on both socio-economic injustices, and opportunities, faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and businesses.” From the lyrics toddlers learn about the 1960s conflict between 200 striking indigenous stockman, led by Vincent Lingiari, at Wave Hill and “British Lord Vestey” who is “fat with money and muscle”. Toddlers also learn how, after years of Vestey’s roaring and thundering, “one day a tall stranger [Gough Whitlam] appeared in the land” with lawyers and great ceremony and delivered land-rights justice to the strikers. The kids should be given “regular opportunities to listen to and/or learn the lyrics”, a dozen verses no less, plus choruses.
They next get a briefing about “historical and contemporary issues and opportunities involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees/businesses” couched in toddler-friendly concepts like “kindness, fairness and friendship to facilitate this conversation”. Kids are asked, for example, “What makes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people/workers/ businesses special and strong?” Narragunnawali advises, “The overall aim of this activity is to foster opportunities for children to develop an early awareness — even if only subconscious — of the importance of supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, employees and business.” (My emphasis).
The rationale for RA’s intrusion into pre-schools and schools is that Reconciliation is a sanctified and bi-partisan cause, and nothing but good can come of educating kids about it from the earliest age. Kids will acknowledge past and on-going injustices, learn to eschew racism, and respect Aboriginals and their culture.
But RA also has its panoply of political aims, with sovereignty, treaties and implementation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) at the apex. Those top-tier goals would structurally transform Australia on race lines.
As RA asks schoolchildren,
- What is a treaty, and how might treaty-making processes meaningfully support the process of reconciliation in Australia?
- How might the ratification of a treaty – or treaty – positively change the Australian landscape, and the relationship between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?
- Why is it important to actively listen to the voices and perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within both treaty-making and reconciliation processes?
Below the apex are a host of contentious claims about alleged Australian racism. Plan-affiliates must agree and teach that dysfunction in outback communities is from the inter-generational trauma of white wrong-doings, which must be atoned for to “heal the wounds”. White/Aboriginal history is of the extreme black-armband kind of genocidal invasion. Enhanced money-flow is demanded for the salaries and costs of burgeoning reconciliation institutions. Big-ticket compensation claims are pushed for “stolen generations” and historic underpaid wages.
RA demands “respect” for Aboriginal culture and lifestyles but this can be hard to reconcile with the realities of some communities. In late 2017 Roebourne in the Pilbara was dubbed “town of the damned” because of the extent of child sexual abuse, which police described as “staggering”, “a cancer” and “an almost unrecoverable crisis”. Children there were more prone to being raped than almost anywhere else on earth. More than half the population of 1400 is Aboriginal and 80% of residents are on welfare. Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan likened the district to a war zone for little kids, with about 130 men either suspects or accused. The town is also afflicted with drugs, violence, gambling, house break-ins and per capita alcohol consumption three times the State average. Welfare payments not only finance alcohol but have often been used to bribe children for sex.
RA offers some data about a NSW country high school where Aborigines comprise about 100-125 of the 200-plus students. They come from a community afflicted with unemployment, welfare dependence and substance abuse, the site says. In one year the school enforced about 200 suspensions, with 80% being Aboriginal youths. Those getting many suspensions in Year 7 continue the pattern “despite all interventions”. Most suspensions were for disobedience, abuse of staff, refusal to follow instructions, disrupting others, threatening assault and actual violence.
Among the mandatory Plan elements, for pre-schools and schools alike, are engaging with Aboriginals from the community, training staff for “cultural competence”, ensuring a “welcome to country” for significant events, and celebrating or running events for National Reconciliation Week (which this year starts a day after National Sorry Day). They must attack racism and ”Ensure Aboriginal histories and cultures are incorporated in curriculum planning, development and evaluation processes.” Staff must teach about “the concept, history and progress” of Reconciliation, and “explore current affairs and issues” about reconciliation.
RA tells educators to first set up a working group of staff, parents, and community members, then assess the current state of Reconciliation enthusiasm in the school “or early learning service”. Write out a Vision to communicate to the community the commitment by school “or early learning service”. Get the principal to sign off on the Plan and forward the Plan to RA “for review”, RA says.
“Reconciliation” for RA also involves criticising the Howard government’s 2007 emergency intervention in the NT after the NT Government’s Little Children Are Sacred report. That report exposed rampant sexual abuse of NT Aboriginal children and utter dysfunction in NT communities from substance abuse, gambling and violence against women.
But in a video on the intervention an Aboriginal woman says, “We believe this government is using child sexual abuse as a Trojan Horse to resume total control of our land.”
A caption says, “International human rights are being violated in one of the most developed countries in the world.”
Man: What are my people? Are they human beings? We were rich when we were living alone in our country.
Woman: Why to us Yolngu people — when they did this to us in the first place?
Man: Invade our families, invade our land and tell us how we should live. You just don’t do it!
Caption: Can Australia deliver justice for its first peoples?
Clip of an old woman weeping.
Man: We have to start fighting together.
Closing: Jeff McMullen, TV journalist: The truth in this film is like a red hot poker driven into the conscience of a nation. Are we listening? Will we act?
In detail, the Little Children report said that in every one of the 45 places visited, alcohol was doing extremely significant harm to almost every aspect of community life. This included the safety, feeding, education and welfare of children. Some could be bribed with alcohol for sex, or their parents were bribed to make kids available. The report also warned that reporting of abuses from community members was constrained by fear of violence and intimidation against informers or their families. The child victim could be ostracised or “taken” by government. Community members also blamed sorcerers rather than making the perpetrator accountable.
Nationally, latest data on dysfunction includes a 32 times higher non-fatal hospitalisation rate for female victims of family violence than for non-Indigenes nationally.
RA insists that sexual assault, particularly child sexual assault, forms no part of Indigenous culture – notwithstanding the many horrified observations by early settlers. RA says “it is considered abhorrent by Indigenous men and women of all generations” and, predictably, blames the inter-generational legacy on the colonial experience.
RA’s blaming isn’t getting enough traction. RA’s 2016 poll found 32% of non-Indigenous adults considered Aboriginals responsible for their own disadvantage. An equal number disagreed and 36% were undecided.
On pre-school courses, teachers are warned that the resources they use must be vetted against “negative stereotypes and misinformation”. If teachers have any doubt, they should offer local Aborigines right of veto. Fearful of committing a cultural faux pas, teachers must accept whatever a local Elder or activist might tell them. Here’s a play for students crafted for a Queensland school by a local Aboriginal:
There was once an old Goanna Lady who was a healer. She moved from tribe to tribe using her medicine to help people. By making her way between nations she brought the people together and gave them a common connection. When she died a medicine tree grew in the place where she was buried. The Goanna lady’s tree continued to bring together the nations and provided a place of healing. 
This is of course a politicised fantasy (e.g. “nations”) with Western echoes dating to Boccaccio’s Decameron of 1350. Such tales are at odds with traditional Aboriginal cultures of girls promised from birth to polygamous old men, and endless payback killings and warfare against outsider clans arising from women-stealing and sorcery. Only five years ago near Alice Springs, six family members ‘hunted like a kangaroo’ a man as payback for allegedly killing a woman relative. They abducted him, poured petrol on his genitals and lit it, and clubbed and stabbed him to death – although he had been in gaol at the time the woman was killed.
RA urges a “truth and justice process for Australia”. This is to combat public scepticism about Aboriginal causes such as the “Stolen Generation” which 32% of Australians as a whole don’t accept.
Concerning truth, an example of surprising claims about victimhood arose from an address to a party of WA University students by Noongar elders at a beach at Rottnest Island (Wadjemup) in 1998. Speaking of its native prison history from 1838-1931, the elders claimed that during the term of superintendent Henry Vincent “a guillotine was used on the jetty at Wadjemup and an Aboriginal person would sometimes be illegally executed when new prisoners arrived. The new prisoners would then be responsible for burying the body.” An immediate historic problem is that Vincent’s term ended in 1867 and there was no Rottnest jetty until 1906. And the creation of a Rottnest Robespierre is not all. One of the elders told the students
“that when military forces were stationed at the island [during World War 11?], they accidentally uncovered the remains of a number of Aboriginal people. But the remains were not re-buried. Instead they were ground into powder and mixed with mortar used for buildings under construction on the island. This ghoulish act may have obliterated physical evidence of deaths on the island, but it cannot obliterate them from Aboriginal oral history or from the collective Aboriginal memory… Within the very mortar of houses used for accommodation, the ground up desecrated bones of Aboriginal people testify silently to the horrors of the past, their formless eyes now watching those who rejoice within what once were prison walls.”
These accounts are in the WA University’s peer-reviewed Studies in Western Australian History. From there the claims may already have percolated into “truth-telling” reconciliation lessons for credulous schoolchildren (hopefully not pre-schoolers).
Sir Ronald Wilson and Mick Dodson in their Bringing Them Home report of 1997 published Aborigines’ stories at face value and untested. Here’s an account by “Jennifer” (submission 437) about Cootamundra Girls’ Home, NSW around 1915:
‘Cootamundra in those days was very strict and cruel. The home was overcrowded. Mum remembered once a girl who did not move too quick. She was tied to the old bell post and belted continuously. She died that night, still tied to the post, no girl ever knew what happened to the body or where she was buried.’
The home was bad, but this tale reads more like something from Nazi Germany.
Aboriginal groups like RA do not necessarily speak for their communities. Peter Yu of Broome has been an Aboriginal administrator and advocate locally and nationally for 35 years. In his ANU Reconciliation Address last year he said Reconciliation has lost its moral and political gravitas — “it has become a nebulous and meaningless term and used by anyone as a throwaway concept … part of Australia’s lazy dialogue concerning Indigenous people dominated by symbolism which has little connection with the realities of people’s lives … Throw in recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution and the potential severing of constitutional links to the British Monarch and what we have in this country is a facile dialogue of disconnected symbols which are supposed to define Australian nationhood.”
He continued that only Aborigines can close the gap concerning prison rates, health, and family and community violence. Gains “can only come from our own determination, our discipline, commitment and leadership at an individual and collective level.” He added that “many conservative Australians of considered opinion are more thoughtful and committed about reconciling Australia than many of those who would describe themselves as belonging to the progressive side of Australian politics.”
Apart from school programs, hundreds of corporates, non-profits, sport bodies and government agencies have also signed on for Plans. The Federal Labor Party signed up after its conference last month. On Australia Day 2016, Google’s front-page “Doodle” (below) showed a weeping Aboriginal mother and her absent stolen children.
As the Reconciliation campaign ramps up, reconciliation heads further into divisiveness. Between RA “Barometer” readings in 2014 and 2016, the proportion of Aborigines wanting wrongs rectified rose from 37% to 44%; those saying that Australia is racist rose from 48% to 57%. Australians generally who agree we are racist have increased from 35% to 39%.
“Wrongs” to be “righted” are flexible, extending for example to the Abbott government’s budget cutbacks to the self-determination-seeking National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (NCAFP) in 2014. The cuts were in a program designed to curb waste and massive duplications in the Aboriginal industry. The Congress at 2017 was still getting $1m from government but board and key management remuneration had subsided from $1.1m in 2015 to $388,000. The Congress had 12 full-time equivalent staff.
The iron grip of the Left on education from primary schools to university is undeniable. But I had never suspected that the authorities had turned over the pre-school and child-care sector to Aboriginal activists, with nary a squeak from conservative politicians. The banner for any pushback against indoctrination should indeed read, “Little children are sacred”.
Tony Thomas’s new book The West: an insider’s tales – a romping reporter in Perth’s innocent ‘6os, is available here
 Translated as “alive, wellbeing, coming together and peace”.
 RA and the ABC misinform children about reconciliation’s history. For example, the ABC’s Right Wrongs peddles the line that because s127 of the original Constitution said Aborigines were not to be counted, they were treated as non-existent or like flora and fauna. In fact s127 was irrelevant to the states-conducted census but drafted to ensure states did not exaggerate their count of remote Aborigine numbers to entitle them to more federal MPs.
 Australia endorsed UNDRIP only in non-legally-binding form
 RA accounts give meagre data on executive pay. Key management people were paid a total $1.23m in 2017 but even the number of people concerned is not stated. RA total revenue in 2017 was $13.8m. Payroll costs were up from $5.34m in 2015 to $6.23m in 2017 for 54 staff.
 “For some, the uplifting effect on the nation of the Apology was paired with an ongoing sense of injustice that it was not accompanied with compensation.”
 A curiosity is that the slightly out-of-date templates for school welcomes and acknowledgements for each State and nationally refer only to “peoples”. The new politically-correct and absurd term is “nations”, further conditioning children to support nation-to-nation treaty business.
 Desmarchelier, Renee. PhD thesis, Whose Knowledge?: Science Education, Indigenous Knowledges and Teacher Praxis, 2016, p95.
 Windschuttle, Keith, The Break-Up of Australia, Quadrant Books, Sydney, 2016, p95
 Kwaymullina, Blaze. Wadjemup, holiday paradise or prison hell-hole [online]. Studies in Western Australian History, No. 22, 2001: 109-119.