The History of HTAV
The History Teachers' Association of Victoria (HTAV) was incorporated as a legal entity in November 1980.
Its 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.
The aims of the Victorian Historical Association (VHA) were articulated in the organisation's first Bulletin, published in October 1959. '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. 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 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 journal that we recognise today.
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 edited by Don Gibb.
In 1968 attempts were made to establish regional groups. At that year's AGM a constitution for the Association was adopted, formalising the VHA's existence.
The 1970s saw continuing growth and expansion of the Association's activities. Student 'Seminars' in Australian History were held for the first time in 1971 at La Trobe and Monash Universities, with approximately 1800 students attending.
In 1972 membership reached 673. In 1975, when the VHA moved to premises at 85 Howard Street, 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 in May 1973. This national body continues to exist today as the History Teachers' Association of Australia (HTAA). The VHA hosted the HTAA National Conference from 26-30 May 1978.
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 VHA '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. In November 1980 the organisation we now know as HTAV was established, with Bob Neal as its first President.
During the 1980s HTAV continued to evolve towards its current form. Perhaps the most enduring legacy was the 1986 acquisition of 'The Bakery' at 402 Smith Street, 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 the mid-1980s, with Tim Gurry in the role of the Executive Officer, 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 HTAV mobilised to meet the challenge posed by ‘Australian Studies’. Most conferences during this period were held at the Collingwood Football Club, of which the Association was a member. The state government was supportive of the role of teacher associations and the position of Extension Education Officer (EEO) became a fully-funded Departmental appointment. Tim Gurry was appointed to the position for three years.
The mid-1990s were a difficult period for 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. The accommodation of ‘The Bakery’ was unsuited to HTAV’s growing needs, and after a long search a move was made to the Veneto Club in Bulleen. Government funding for teacher associations decreased in 1994, and schools were also feeling the pinch. Diversified business streams were required to supplement membership income.
Despite the financial constraints of the 1990s, under the successive leaderships of John Cantwell and Jacqualine Hollingworth, HTAV continued to provide for the needs of its membership and the wider history-teaching community. As an organisation it advocated for History teaching 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 Agora and an array of resources, 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. 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, 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.' In 2007-2008 ‘The Bakery’ was sold and a new office was purchased in the Carringbush Centre in Cambridge Street, Collingwood.
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 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 to 2015, during which time the HTAV Publishing office was opened in Suite 209 of the Cambridge Street complex and HTAV secured extensive grants and administered some of the national history competitions. Ingrid Purnell, a long-time staff member in HTAV Publishing, became Executive Officer in 2015 and oversaw the implementation of the new Victorian Curriculum History and the release of a suite of popular VCE textbooks. Dr Deb Hull, the current Executive Officer, was appointed in August 2017.
HTAV’s Vision Statement continues to serve as a reminder that despite the many changes in staff, Board members, organisational structure and financial models, HTAV still provides the core services and fulfils the same roles it identified for itself in its earliest form.