A NSW School Asked Kids To Argue The Pros Of Slavery & Tell Me Again How This Country Isn’t Racist

Lake Macquarie High School

A high school in NSW is being called out online after it asked students to empathise with slave traders. Racism? In Australian schools? It’s more likely than you think.

Lake Macquarie Highschool in Booragul, NSW assigned the racist HSIE assessment to a year 9 class. Students were asked to write a report about the Atlantic slave trade from the point of view of either a minister for economy or human rights in America.

“I was reading it and I was shocked, confused,” South Sudanese student Athiei Mayek told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

The brief required students to either expose the conditions of enslaved people in America or highlight the “positive contributions” of slavery to the US economy. Specifically, students were asked to approach both sides with an “empathetic perspective”.

A photo of Lake Macquarie High School’s HSIE assessment. Image source: supplied.

Obviously, there is a *lot* wrong with this assessment.

Slavery isn’t just a hypothetical debate exercise, it is an on-going issue that has caused traumatised and killed millions of people across the world.

There’s no way to justify slavery that isn’t racist because arguing for slavery also means arguing for the dehumanisation of Black people. By asking students to empathise with those who are pro-slavery, students will essentially have to argue racist ideology.

On top of all that, there is also the issue of retraumatising Black kids who already have to deal with intergenerational trauma from slavery and colonialism.

Athiei and her siblings Akoi Mayek and Beny Mayek spoke to PEDESTRIAN.TV about feeling dehumanised as Black students who attend the school.

Akoi said she felt angry and went straight to her family. She alleged a teacher said students who argue in favour of slavery would get higher marks because it shows “more research” and “critical thinking”.

All three triplets said they have been plagued by racial slurs and threats of violence by other students since starting at Lake Macquarie High School in year 7.

“The amount of times we’ve faced racism in that school and made reports about it, nothing has come of it, nothing has been done about it. The kids still go back to school and complain about the same things,” older sister Jagorda Manyuon told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

Jagorda said her family received a verbal apology from the school’s principal after her persistent complaints about the HSIE assessment. However, she feels this isn’t good enough.

“[They] said ‘I’m not racist’ and I get that. Okay, cool you’re not racist — but can you still do something about this? What’s being done?

“I’m not sure an apology is enough. These things will just keep happening.”

University graduate and online activist Maria Alier brought the internet’s attention to the racist assessment online by sharing her outrage in a post on Instagram. It’s since been shared onto several other Instagram pages as well as TikTok.

“Asking someone why slavery happened and asking someone to justify why slavery should continue to happen are completely different things,” she told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“If one of the kids happens to say ‘I want to defend slavery’, what are they going to do? They’re going to go to Google it and find themselves in far-right websites.”

Maria condemned the school for creating “an environment that made students feel really disgusted”.

“It’s so frustrating because we experience so much racism everywhere,” she said.

“In the education system it’s always swept under the rug.”


@blondejeff again posting this so it can get the proper reach as it’s very disturbing and disgusting to see teachers perpetuating these type of projects within school!

♬ original sound – JEFF KISSUBI 🌸

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told PEDESTRIAN.TV the assessment is now being investigated.

“The Department has been made aware of an allegation of inappropriate content appearing in an assessment task at Lake Macquarie High School and is currently investigating the incident,” the spokesperson said.

“The Department has had an Anti-Racism Policy in place for 30 years. It promotes respect for people from all cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds and rejects all forms of racism in schools and department offices.”

PEDESTRIAN.TV has reached out to Lake Macquarie High School for comment.