History of the HTAV

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.

With a new identity as the HTAV, during the 1980s the Association continued to evolve towards its current form. Perhaps the most enduring legacy was the 1986 acquisition of 'The Bakery' at 402 Smith St, Collingwood. These premises were the Association's home for over twenty years. Somewhat dishevelled, the building was transformed in 2003 to include carpets, air-conditioning and retail outlets below.

From around the mid 1980s, with Tim Gurry in the role of the Executive Officer, the HTAV expanded its repertoire of activities. While continuing to conduct professional development and publishing Agora, the activities of the Association expanded to the point that in the early 1990s, under the supervision of Bob Lewis, the publication of teaching resources and education kits constituted nearly half of the Association's income in any one year.

In the early 1990s a threat seemed to be coming from the development of 'Australian Studies'; the HTAV mobilised to meet this challenge by running conferences on how to increase the amount of history being taught. Most conferences during this period were held at the Collingwood Football Club, of which the Association was a member. The position of Extension Education Officer (EEO) became a fully-funded Departmental appointment advertised state-wide, and Tim Gurry was appointed to the position for three years.

The mid-1990s were a difficult period for the HTAV. In 1992 Jonathan Tapp, an inspiring teacher from Trinity Grammar School, was elected President, but early in his term of office he fell ill and died of cancer. Collingwood became a difficult suburb once poker machines were installed, and after a long search a move was made to the Veneto Club in Bulleen. In 1994 the Association lost half of its funding for the EEO position and had to make up the shortfall rather than have a half-time EEO. At the end of 1994 Tim Gurry resigned as Executive Director.

The loss of considerable state government funding during the early 1990s meant that there was no longer the same level of government support for the HTAV. The decline in education budgets also meant that membership declined through the second half of the 1990s. This had rather significant implications for the financial viability of the Association. This is perhaps nowhere more vividly illustrated than in the annual reports of the late 1990s when the Association experienced a loss of over $60,000.

Despite the financial constraints of the 1990s, under the successive leaderships of John Cantwell and Jacqualine Hollingworth, the HTAV continued to provide for the needs of its membership and the wider history-teaching community. As an organisation it represented teachers of History in the development of the Victorian Certificate of Education and two versions of the Curriculum and Standards Framework (CSF). It also continued to support classroom teachers by publishing an array of resources, Agora and conducting professional development and student lectures.

Under Jacqualine Hollingworth's extended tenure in the dual roles of Executive Officer and Education Officer, the Association entered its twentieth year and a new millennium in a more financially viable manner. Capitalising on the possibilities of new opportunities, the Association continued to grow with an expanding membership base, an extensive publications list and a broad program of professional development.

In 2005, as the HTAV neared its twenty-fifth year of incorporation, the Board appointed a new Executive Director, Michael Spurr. Under Michael's direction the Association expanded its publications program and enjoyed high levels of membership. At this time the HTAV's Vision Statement was developed, affirming a commitment to 'leading and nurturing History education.'

After Michael Spurr's departure, Nick Ewbank briefly served as Executive Director before Annabel Astbury was appointed to the position in 2008. In this period Agora incorporated a peer-reviewed section (Sungrapho) and the HTAV developed a new focus on digital learning and Primary-level History. Annabel played a leading role in the development of the Australian Curriculum: History. Richard Smith served as Executive Officer from 2012 till 2015, during which time the HTAV Publishing office was opened in Suite 209 of the Cambridge St complex and HTAV secured extensive grants and competitions. The current Executive Officer is Ingrid Purnell.

The Vision Statement continues to serve as a reminder that despite the many changes in staff, Board members, organisational structure and financial fortunes, the HTAV still provides the core services and fulfils the same roles it identified for itself in its earliest form. Thus, the history of the HTAV, as befits the central preoccupations of its members, has been one of continuity and change.

HTAV Vision Statement
The History Teachers' Association of Victoria is a dynamic professional organisation committed to nurturing and leading History education.

The HTAV will achieve these goals by:

  • Supporting the development of a professional community of teachers, historians and other educators committed to the craft and standards of History education;
  • Fostering the dialogue between the past, the present and the future with students, teachers, historians, other educators and the wider community;
  • Providing professional learning for teachers of History;
  • Developing resources to facilitate the teaching and learning of History;
  • Establishing connections between the classroom, the school, universities, cultural institutions and the wider community for the advancement of History education.

Sponsors & partners

  • National History Challenge - Sponsor Logo
  • Education Victoria - Sponsor Logo
  • Anzac Prize
  • Latitude Group Travel

NOTE: Indigenous Australians are advised that the HTAV website may include images or names of people now deceased.