Change and Continuity: The History of the HTAV
The History Teachers' Association of Victoria (HTAV) was incorporated as a legal entity in November 1980. Like any historical development, this date, at first glance, appears somewhat arbitrary. It neglects the longer prehistory of causation and origin and tells little about the nature of the organisation.
This prehistory was long, dating back to the 1950s and the foundation of the Victorian Historical Association. It was during this rather lengthy period of evolution between the 1950s and 1980 that the aims, character and activities that form the modern HTAV were defined. Even the most cursory of glances highlights the continuities of this history.
The aims of the Victorian Historical Association (VHA) were articulated clearly in the organisation's first Bulletin, published in October 1959, when the organisation was at least eight years old. This document proclaimed that 'This association of school and university history teachers is concerned to provide history teachers with a forum in which they can discuss professional matters. To this end it holds a number of meetings throughout the school year, sponsors lectures, discussions, film nights and displays.'
Agora, the Association's journal, first appeared nearly a decade later. As if hailing from some point in the future, perhaps the 1980s, maybe the 1990s or could it be last week, the opening sentence declared 'Whether we like it or not History as a subject in the schools appears to be under attack. But why?...' This 1967 statement certainly suggests continuity over time. In addition to the editorial which has been quoted, this first issue contained articles by Wes Blackmore, then the Senior History Master at Yarra Valley Church of England Grammar School, Professor N.D. Harper and Lloyd Evans. Agora underwent a number of changes in format over the next forty-odd years before it became the glossy quarterly we recognise today. Unsurprisingly, given that its history traverses decades, editors also changed. Nonetheless, from the first issue Agora has remained a cornerstone of the service the Association provides its members, and it now features a peer-reviewed section.
The publishing activities of the Association expanded through the late 1960s. In 1967 it produced two regular publications, Historian and Agora. Two years later these were to be joined by a third, the Journal of History for Senior Students, which was to be edited by Don Gibb from its inception.
In 1968 attempts were made to establish regional groups, ten in total, but these seem to have been relatively unsuccessful. At that year's AGM a constitution for the Association was adopted, formalising the VHA's existence.
The 1970s, despite concerns about the threat to History in schools voiced in the late 1960s, featured continuing growth and expansion of the Association's activities, although the decade appears to have culminated in crisis. Student 'Seminars' in Australian History were held for the first time in the third (last!) term of 1971 at La Trobe and Monash Universities, with approximately 1800 students attending.
In terms of membership the Association continued to grow throughout the 1970s. In 1972 AGM membership climbed to 673. In 1975, when the VHA moved to premises at 85 Howard St., North Melbourne (which it shared with the Geography Teachers' Association), membership had risen to 945, and was to reach 1144 by 1979.
Moves were made to set up a national association of History teachers, and the VHA was given the task of drawing up a draft constitution for the proposed body, which was to have been launched at Sydney University in May 1973. Ultimately, this national body was formed and exists today as the History Teachers' Association of Australia (HTAA). The VHA hosted the HTAA National Conference from 26-30 May 1978. This close association with the national body continued over subsequent decades with the HTAV hosting national conferences on a number of occasions.
While the 1970s membership figures and student lecture numbers suggest a thriving organisation, 1978-9 was described in the President’s Report as a 'challenging year' during which the Association 'survived financial crisis.' This period of crisis seems to have to led to a desire to reform the organisation with a new name and identity – the History Teachers' Association of Victoria. So through crisis and a lengthy incubation, in November 1980 the organisation we now know as the HTAV was established, with Bob Neal as its first President.
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