" I AM WHITE, SO I AM AUSTRALIAN. POOKEY IS BLACK NOT AUSTRALIAN": THE POWER OF 'WHITENESS' IN THE EARLY CHILDHOOD CLASSROOM.
In this lecture, guest speaker Dr Prasanna Srinivasan, a research fellow in the Equity and Childhood Program, Youth Research Centre at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, reports on part of her doctoral thesis:
Many researchers in Australia have identified and acknowledged educators' discourses that indirectly and unconsciously allow racism to circulate in educational institutions. In this lecture, I share how young children's narratives categorise and attribute the characteristics of 'Australian/not Australian'
to particular children and adults based on skin colour.
Children and adults alike compounded the complexity of such distinctions with 'whiteness' and layered that with attributes such as religion and language. The colour, language, faith, food, festival and physical boundaries of the 'Australian' were conceptualised by those who regarded 'self' as 'Australian'
and by those who regarded 'self' as 'not Australian'.
Moreover, as the early childhood educators themselves were unable to think outside these dichotomies, children's conceptions were never challenged and anyone of us who tried to do otherwise were sanctioned.
These narratives clearly evidence that very young children understand and have the capacity to distinguish 'difference' based on these attributes, which they express or silence depending on their categorical disposition. Therefore, despite the political demise of the 'White Australia policy', 'whiteness'
still occupies and dominates the everyday early childhood interactions and practices and holds the power to classify both identities: 'Australian/not Australian'.