Push to teach New Zealand history in schools becomes more desperate

New Zealand history is a story full of blood and betrayal - but even teachers in our state schools admit they don't know enough.

Kara Gilmore and John Cormack are both teachers at Milford School, and say they want to learn more.

"I know there is so much more that I could know and learn about," Gilmore told Newshub.

The problem is - they're not required to know much about Aotearoa's history.

There are no set guidelines or resources in the curriculum and the Government has no say in it - it's left entirely up to schools to decide how much and what they teach.

And that's where Tamsin Hanly comes in. She's mortgaged her house to create Critical Histories of Aotearoa, a teaching programme she sells to schools.

It's now being used in 50 around the country - including schools like Milford.

"Educators get transformed because they realise 'oh my gosh, there's all this stuff that we don't know and we don't understand why Māori people have really negative statistics in this country, which is a direct result of the kind of colonisation processes'," Hanly told Newshub.

She says it can be a hard and emotional experience for teachers to confront the truth about our history.

"They feel anger, they feel relief, they sometimes have tears," she said.

Gilmore and Cormack have just completed the Critical Histories of Aotearoa course and say they've learned a lot.

"We were discussing that the early settlers, the Māori people, were actually scientists and they were mathematical and the way we perceive the intelligence they had is completely different to what the reality is," Gilmore said.

"There are actually three versions of the Treaty - the English version, the Māori version, then the Māori version translated into English, and they're quite different. So what everyone thought they'd signed wasn't actually the same," Cormack says.

"People don't understand why people are so grievanced by it because they just don't know what happened."

The History Teachers' Association is pushing for more local history to be learned in schools and its chairperson, Graeme Ball, says as a first step, we need to agree on what is taught.

"That key word is coherence. If we had the primary sector doing its thing, and intermediate thing doing its thing it will be just more of the same," he said.

He started a petition on Waitangi Day this year to get our history taught in schools and says momentum for this idea has been building since a student-led protest in 2015.

"Maybe it's a level of self-confidence in ourselves as a nation that this missing element really needs to be filled in," Ball said.

He says the Christchurch terror attack has put the spot light on racism in New Zealand.

"If people understood the past, our shared past, perhaps then those sorts of incidents too, of racists' comments might decline," Ball told Newshub.

Milford School principal Sue Cattell says history lessons don't necessarily need to replace other subjects, but can be incorporated.

"I do think it's important I know that in many, many other countries one of the things they always learn is about their country and their place - we don't do that here," she told Newshub.

The History Teachers' Association petition has almost 3000 signatures. In June, it will be handed to Parliament by National MP Nikki Kaye.

It has bipartisan support - which is another sign that more history could soon be taught in schools.