Profile image of Rebecca Cairns

Dr Rebecca Cairns



Senior Lecturer


Faculty of Arts and Education


School of Education


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus


Doctor of Philosophy, Deakin University, 2018

+61 3 522 78204


Dr Rebecca Cairns is a senior lecturer in Humanities education at Deakin University, Geelong. Her curriculum inquiry research investigates how we do curriculum and focuses on History, studies of Asia and decolonising approaches. Prior to this she taught in secondary and primary schools in Victoria and Queensland.

Read more on Rebecca's profile

Research interests

Research interests: curriculum inquiry; curriculum enactment; History curriculum; decolonising curriculum; studies of Asia; Asia as method; open educational practices and resources; senior secondary curriculum; critical policy analysis; discourse analysis

Rebecca investigates how contemporary and historical socio-political conditions shape curriculum. This includes examining how curriculum gets made and mediated by a range of curriculum actors across contexts.

This work brings much needed socio-historical understandings of curriculum making practices to the often highly politicised debates around the relationship between curriculum policy, public policy, historical narratives and socio-cultural change.

The Asia literacy dilemma: A curriculum perspective (Cairns & Weinmann, 2023): This book examines the dilemma of 'Asia literacy' and brings into focus Asia as a curriculum dimension using curriculum inquiry. It interrogates current curricular imaginations of Asia, aims to move towards a more multifaceted discussion of Asia-related curriculum, and seeks to amplify the voices of students and teachers as key curriculum actors.

Decolonising Australian History Education Fresh Perspectives from Beyond the ‘History Wars’ (Cairns, Fricker & Weuffen (in press): This book is the first of its kind to showcase a range of fresh and expert perspectives on decolonising History education in Australia. The research-informed chapters by First Nations and non-Indigenous educators and scholars provide guidance on applying practical strategies for decolonising learning and teaching, and moving beyond the ‘history wars’.

Rebecca is also interested in the potential of Open Educational Resources (OER) for initial teacher education and has co-authored two collections with Master of Education pre-service teachers: 

Diverse Historical Narratives and Perspectives: A Collection of Learning and Teaching Activities 2023

Historical Thinking for Senior Secondary Students: A collection of teaching and learning activties 2022

She has experience reviewing journal articles, examining PhD theses and is available to supervise Higher Degree Research students.


Co-convenor: Transforming Curriculum, Assessment and Pedagogy Research Program, Deakin

Associate Editor: Curriculum Perspectives

Member: Centre for Contemporary Histories Research, Deakin

Council member (Teacehr Representative): Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA)

Member: History Teachers' Association of Victoria (HTAV)

Units taught

Current units:

EHI702 History Curriculum Inquiry

EEO101 Humanities through Experiential Pedagogy


Cairns, R. (2023). Future directions: Developing quality resources for decolonising Australian history education. Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference, University of Melbourne.

Garrard, K.A. & Cairns, R. (2023). Social media as a tool for recruiting and empowering a diverse mix of student participants in curriculum research???. European Conference of Educational Research, University of Glasgow.

Cairns, R. (2023). Student voices in the Australian curricular landscape: an analysis of student participation across sites of curriculum making. Australian Curriculum Studies Association Conference, Brisbane.

Cairns et al. (2022). Symposium - Curriculum intentions and curriculum realities: Exploring assumptions and possibilities for curriculum transformation. Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference, University of South Australia.

Cairns, R. (2021). Curricular Responsiveness to Crisis Panel. Comparative and International Education Society’ International Conference, May, Seattle, USA [online].

Cairns, R. (2018). Deimperialising Constructions of Asia in Senior Secondary History Curriculum. World Curriculum Studies Conference, Melbourne University, December 9-12.

Cairns, R. & Weinmann, M. (2018). ‘Successful participation’? Exploring the gap between intended and experienced Asia curriculum in senior secondary schooling, Where’s your Asia? Symposium, University of Western Australia, November.

Cairns, R. (2016). The Shrinking VCE History Curriculum and a History of the Curricular Present. Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference, Melbourne, November.

Cairns, R. (2016). Analysing the discursive construction of Asia in senior secondary History curriculum in Australia. Asia Pacific Education Research Association (APERA) Conference, Kaohsuing Taiwan, November.

Media appearances

Cairns, R. (2022). The national history curriculum should not be used and abused as an election issue. The Conversation.

Cairns, R. (2018). ‘Western civilisation’? History teaching has moved on, and so should those who champion it. The Conversation.

Cairns, R. (June 7, 2018). The Politics of History Education. Breakfast. ABC Radio Perth.


Deakin School of Education Innovative Pedagogue Award 2022

Arts and Education Teaching Excellence Award (Middle Years Teaching Strategies Team) 2018

Philip Brown History Award 2016


Navigating the Curriculum Resource Marketplace


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Engaging diverse voices across sites of curriculum making in Australia: realities and possibilities

K Garrard, R Cairns, M Wienmann, S Hannigan, F Phillips

(2024), pp. 1-17, Australian Educational Researcher, Berlin, Germany, C1

journal article

'Learning from history is something that is important for the future': Why Australian students think history matters

Rebecca Cairns, Kerri Garrard

(2023), pp. 1-14, Policy Futures in Education, London, Eng., C1

journal article

Anticipating Controversy: What's the Problem Represented to Be in Australian Policies for the Selection of Learning Resources?

Rebecca Cairns, Rebecca Cairns

(2023), Vol. 67, pp. 196-208, Australian Journal of Education, London, Eng., C1

journal article

The Asia Literacy Dilemma: A Curriculum Perspective

Rebecca Cairns, Michiko Weinmann

(2022), London, Eng., A1


Recognizing, reproducing and resisting West as method discourse: an analysis of senior secondary Asia-related history curriculum enactment

Rebecca Cairns

(2021), Vol. 18, pp. 21-44, Journal of curriculum and pedagogy, Abingdon, Eng., C1

journal article

Towards Asia "curriculum-as-lived": Amplifying student voice in the Asia literacy curricular landscape

R Cairns, M Weinmann

(2021), Asia Pacific Journal of Education, C1

journal article

Learning Firsthand: Vietnam War Digital Teaching Resource

Kerri Garrard, Rebecca Cairns, Julianne Moss

(2021), Geelong, Vic., A6

research report/technical paper

Tracing the unsteady relationship between Asia Education Policy Discourse and History Curriculum in Australia

Rebecca Cairns

(2020), Vol. 44, pp. 258-277, Asian Studies Review, Abingdon, Eng., C1

journal article

Deimperialising Asia-related history: an Australian case study

Rebecca Cairns

(2020), Vol. 50, pp. 126-148, Curriculum Inquiry, Abingdon, Eng., C1

journal article

Exams tested by Covid-19: An opportunity to rethink standardized senior secondary examinations

Rebecca Cairns

(2020), Prospects, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, C1

journal article

Flatlining? National Enrolment trends in senior secondary History

Rebecca Cairns, Kerri Garrard

(2020), Vol. 50, pp. 1-9, Agora, Collingwood, Vic., C1

journal article

A systematized review of research into/on Asia literacy in schools

R Cairns, Christine Halse

(2018), Vol. 45, pp. 9-23, Asia literacy in a global world an Australian perspective, Singapore, B1

book chapter

The many voices of senior history curriculum enactment

R Cairns

(2018), Vol. 53, pp. 4-13, Agora, Collingwood, Vic., C1

journal article

Funded Projects at Deakin

Other Public Sector Funding

Learning first Hand: Vietnam War teaching and learning resources.

Prof Julianne Moss, Dr Kerri Garrard, Dr Rebecca Cairns

DPCGV Grant - Research - Department of Premier and Cabinet, Government of Victoria

  • 2020: $68,181


No completed student supervisions to report