A school embroiled in media reports of “emotional abuse” because of an educational program aiming to teach kids about the Stolen Generation, is being defended by another parent of students at the school.
As part of a role-playing exercise at St Justin's Catholic primary school in Sydney on Tuesday morning, students were told their parents were not looking after them properly and the government had ordered they be taken away from their parents.
It was reported that several of the year 4 students became distressed, cried and considered escaping from the school.
As a result, a small number of parents complained to the school about how the activity was handled, claiming the students were not told in advance.
However, another mother at the school, who wishes to remain anonymous, told NITV News her children had participated without issue and that out of around 150 students in the year, only two parents had complained.
“99 per cent of the students and parents understood the lesson and it’s concept,” she said.
“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.”
She said the media reports had blown things out of proportion and that she had spoken with at least 20 other parents who felt the story was a beat up.
“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 school defended their actions and said the activity had been run in the school in previous years with no issues.
The school said they aimed to educate students on an important part of Australian history, but said the activity could have been handled better.
CEO of the Healing Foundation, Richard Weston said he hopes incidents like this don’t impact teaching Aboriginal history in schools.
“The last thing I'd like to see is an event like this detract from the importance of teaching this history in schools,” Mr Weston said.
“We need to get some change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and having a better understanding of Stolen Generation history, what's happened, and importantly its ongoing impact is really important to achieving that change.
“That has to go across the board for all Australians and the best way to do that is to start with kids in the education system.
“This incident just shows it is a very tricky area, it’s sensitive, the experience of Stolen Generation people has been quite profound in the way it's changed their lives so it does need to be approached carefully and sensitively, but it still needs to be taught.”