Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Dr Gary Johns at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, December 7, 2017. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

Julie Bishop never said Aboriginal culture shouldn’t be taught in schools

FactCheck August 7, 2019

The Statement

AAP Factcheck examined a posted article by Welcome to Country claiming former Foreign Minister and Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop stating: “Aboriginal children should not be taught their culture in schools”.

This article containing a fake Julie Bishop quote is still being shared two years after it was posted, and 13 years after the original media story upon which the false quote was based, was published.

The article had been shared by a number of Facebook pages and groups including ‘Indigenous people are joining forces’, ‘Australians vs Neoliberal & Right Wing Politics’, ‘Australian Greens politics, news and discussion’ and ‘The Australian Holocaust’.

The posted article features a picture of an angry Julie Bishop along with the headline: “Julie Bishop and the plan to ban teaching Aboriginal culture in schools”. The full article states: “It might not be making national headlines and Julie Bishop may not even be aware, but her comments from over 10 years ago are blowing up on social media”. 

Welcome to Country describes itself as “an independent Indigenous news/media website. We publish positive Indigenous stories but we’re not afraid to highlight controversial news like this either.”

The article was first posted to Facebook on November 7, 2017 and has since been shared over 31,000 times – including around 400 times in 24 hours.

According to Welcome to Country’s publicly posted analytics, its story had been viewed over 65,700 times.

The Analysis

The text in the body of the article does not include the quote attributed to Ms Bishop on her picture posted on Facebook. 

However, the article references another 2006 story published by Melbourne newspaper The Age, stating it exposed Ms Bishop’s endorsement of “a report that called for Aboriginal culture not to be taught in schools”.

Gary Johns wrote the ‘Aboriginal Education: Remote Schools and the Real Economy’ report the posted article is based on.

The Age article states Ms Bishop, then Education Minister, would consider using the report to frame policy. The report by Gary Johns was titled ‘Aboriginal Education: Remote Schools and the Real Economy’ and was published by the Menzies Research Centre, “the think tank for the Liberal Party of Australia”.

Gary Johns is a former Queensland Labor MP and Keating-era minister. After leaving parliament in 1996 Mr Johns joined conservative think-tank, the Institute for Public Affairs, he wrote for The Australian and served as president of the now-defunct Bennelong Society, a conservative advocacy body for indigenous affairs.

Mr Johns also authored a number of papers and books including; Waking Up to Dreamtime: The Illusion of Aboriginal Self-determination; Aboriginal Self-determination: The Whiteman’s Dream, Recognise What?; and No Contraception, No Dole: Tackling Intergenerational Welfare.

More recently, Mr Johns attracted controversy in his role as commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, claiming the inclusion of an acknowledgment of country in email signatures indicated a bias towards indigenous charities. 

According to the Age, the Johns report called Aboriginal culture a “problem” for children: “Too often, educators continue to defer to Aboriginal culture without recognising that Aboriginal culture is the problem. Can a culture that is pre-literate and pre-numerate survive in an education system that is meant to make children literate and numerate? Can a welfare culture that has no work ethic be in a position to prepare its children for school?”

The Age stated the Johns report also recommended governments close schools in remote communities if they weren’t financially viable.

The Age does not quote Ms Bishop stating “Aboriginal children should not be taught their culture in schools”.

The quote from Ms Bishop that most closely resembles this is: “I think what he’s (Johns) saying is that Western schools shouldn’t try to inculcate Aboriginal culture into students, that that’s a role for parents and elders, and I think that’s a very sensible suggestion.” 

The lead paragraph in the Age story contains the words in the quote attributed to Ms Bishop but attributes the statement to the Johns report.

The Welcome to Country story also included an embedded Facebook post of Ms Bishop photo with the same superimposed quote. It was posted by boxer and former NRL player turned mental health advocate Joe Williams.

Joe Williams describes himself as a proud Wiradjuri, First Nations Aboriginal man, and played for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs in the 2000s. 

AAP FactCheck found only one post of the alleged Ms Bishop quote on Facebook that predated Mr Williams’ post by The Sovereign Union, a movement working to assert “genuine pre-existing and continuing sovereignty over First Nations’ territories, lands, waters and natural resources”. It posted a link on October 24, 2017 to the Age story.  It was accompanied by a photo of Indigenous children in tribal dress, superimposed with the words ‘Aboriginal children should not be taught their culture in schools – Education Minister Julie Bishop’.

The Verdict 

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the posted article to be false. There is no record of Julie Bishop ever stating “aboriginal children should not be taught their culture in schools”.

False – The Facebook post is false.

 First published August 7, 2019 15:28 AEST

All information, text and images included on the AAP Websites is for personal use only and may not be re-written, copied, re-sold or re-distributed, framed, linked, shared onto social media or otherwise used whether for compensation of any kind or not, unless you have the prior written permission of AAP. For more information, please refer to our standard terms and conditions.