2022 VATE State Conference

Conference program
Download and read the full conference program here

We are excited to return to an in-person State Conference at Deakin University, Burwood on Thursday, November 24 and Friday, November 25. A section of the conference will also be presented in a hybrid-format incorporating live streaming via Zoom all the keynotes, guest speakers, panels and a small range of workshops.

You can find more information about registering to attend the conference in-person on the State Conference event page.

You can find more information about registering to attend the conference online on the Hybrid State Conference event page.

Keynote speakers

Thomas Mayo    
 

Thomas Mayo a Kaurareg Aboriginal and Kalkalgal, Erubamle Torres Strait Islander man. He was a wharf labourer for sixteen years and is an official of the Maritime Union of Australia and is the author of four books as well as essays and articles published in the Griffith Review, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian. His present works cover both historical and contemporary First Nations struggles, biographical narratives, fatherhood, masculinity, love and race. Thomas was inspired to write his first book: Finding the Heart of the Nation – the Journey of the Uluru Statement towards Voice, Treaty and Truth, after being entrusted to carry the sacred Uluru Statement from the Heart canvas to Australians from all walks of life, soon after its creation in the heart of the country in 2017. Thomas travelled throughout the nation for eighteen months with the Uluru Statement, taking it to the smallest of communities to the largest of city gatherings, playing a key role in building the peoples movement for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to what it is today. His first children’s book: Finding Our Heart, is a children’s book about the Uluru Statement. It has been a roaring success because of its contemporary art and powerful truth telling with a uniquely clear call to action.

Michael Mohammed Ahmad    
 

Michael Mohammed Ahmad is the founding director of Sweatshop Literacy Movement and the editor of several critically acclaimed anthologies, including After Australia. In 2012, Mohammed received the Australia Council Kirk Robson Award for his outstanding achievements in community cultural development. His debut novel, The Tribe, won the 2015 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelists of the Year Award, and his second novel, The Lebs, was shortlisted for the 2019 Miles Franklin Literary Award and won the 2019 NSW Premier’s Multicultural Literary Award. Mohammed’s latest novel, The Other Half of You, was shortlisted for the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award and won the 2022 Queensland Literary Award for Fiction. Mohammed completed his Doctorate of Creative Arts from Western Sydney University in 2017.

 


Guest speakers

Craig Reucassel    
 

Craig Reucassel is an Australian writer and comedian who is best known for his work with The Chaser and for going through your bins on The War on Waste. Craig and a group of friends founded The Chaser newspaper, which led to a number of ABC TV Chaser programs including The Election Chaser, CNNNN, The Chaser’s War on Everything, Yes We Canberra and The Hamster Wheel. Most recently he’s hosted the ABC Series Big Weather and The Fight for Planet A on ABC TV and is Executive Producer on Win the Week. Craig was born in South Africa but moved to Australia at a young age. He then attended the University of Sydney, and graduated with honours in Bachelor of Economics (Social Science) and Bachelor of Laws. At some point he also co-hosted the triple j shows Today Today, Bloody Sunday and The Race Race with fellow Chaser Chris Taylor. He has performed in David Williamson’s Jack of Hearts and Tim Firth’s Neville’s Island at the Ensemble. Craig is married with three children. He has a cat and a dog that could do with a walk if you have any time.

Supported by the Whitlam Institute and the 2023 What Matters? Writing Competition.

 
Mary Mason & Amanda McGraw  

 

 

Mary Mason left England in 1972 bound for Africa as a qualified nursing sister. There she discovered that oranges were not 4d each on the greengrocer’s shelf but in that part of Africa were sold cheaply in large bags, often from the roadside. The unanticipated shift in perception, the notion that framing is contextual, has led her to question and then disrupt the habits she perceived in teaching. She became a leader in innovation in the schools in which she has worked. Her passion for literature and learning led her to develop ground breaking communities of practice for teachers, establish learning and research communities , and innovative professional learning programs for VATE. She has participated in Victorian Education Committees and has written a number of books for teachers. Mary is a Life Member of VATE, and she was a member of VATE Council and a co- coordinator of VATE’s Professional Learning and Research Committee until 2021.

 

Dr Amanda McGraw engages in collaborative work at the boundaries of teacher education and secondary school learning. She is a passionate reader, writer, and narrative researcher, who believes story and artistic expression are a powerful means of capturing and understanding complexity and fostering new learning through collaborative interpretive work. Amanda’s research interests include reading in English, dispositions in teaching, and teachers’ professional learning. Amanda was awarded an Australian Government Higher Education Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning in the tertiary sector and has worked as the academic advisor for the Victorian Academy of Teaching Excellence. She taught for nearly 20 years in both state and independent schools and held leadership positions including Deputy Principal. Amanda is a Life Member of the Victorian Association for the Teaching of English (VATE), is a member of VATE’s Council, and also VATE’s Professional Learning and Research Committee.

Stewart Riddle    
 

Stewart Riddle is an Associate Professor (Curriculum and Pedagogy) in the School of Education at the University of Southern Queensland. His research examines the democratisation of schooling systems, increasing access and equity in education and how schooling can respond to critical social issues in complex contemporary times. He has published extensively on educational disadvantage and the connections between literacy, equity and access to quality educational outcomes for young Australians. Stewart’s most-recent book is Schooling for Democracy in a Time of Global Crisis: Towards a More Caring, Inclusive and Sustainable Future (Routledge, 2022). Prior to joining academia, Stewart taught high school English in Queensland schools for eight years.

 

Panels and Forums

Education as a public good: The implications of policy for English teachers

Our great function when we approach the problem of education is to equalise opportunity to see that every boy and girl has a chance to develop whatever faculties he or she may have, because this will be a tremendous contribution to the good life for the nation.
- Robert Menzies’ speech to The Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Association of NSW, Annual Conference 1964

Poverty is a national waste as well as individual waste. We are all diminished when any of us are denied proper education. The nation is the poorer – a poorer economy, a poorer civilisation, because of this human and national waste.
- Gough Whitlam’s 1969 election pitch for equal access to education

In the 1960s and 1970s education was considered to be a public good. Prime Minister Menzies was the first PM to invest in public and non-government schools in the form of libraries and science programs. Prime Minister Whitlam on advice of the Karmel Commission funded all schools on the social justice principles of need and committed to a comprehensive and continuous financial commitment to schools and universities.

Post-war educational expansion meant English teachers were valued by the state and the public. They were agential and valued contributors to society, trusted as professional experts to educate the young and adults at a time of educational progressivism and activism. The mantra of VATE at the time was “local problems, local solutions”.

Over the past fifty years there has been a shift from valuing well-funded public education based on the premise that it was a central pillar of a democracy to education being seen as for private individual good premised on idea of school “choice” as a right. Federal policies over twenty years have facilitated greater funding of non-government schools impacting on the public sector. Other forms of privatisation are evident through edu-businesses providing pedagogical tools, technology infrastructure, music and other programs such as camps. Teachers are now more subject to surveillance and experience over work in the context of less secure employment and heightened public expectations.

On this panel, Professor Jill Blackmore, a teacher in public schools during the 1970s, will outline the policy environments and shifts that have occurred since VATE was established in 1972. Prue Gill will speak of her experiences in teaching English at that time. Dr Fleur Diamond will report on a study that engaged in a dialogic, intergenerational inquiry into the careers of long-serving English teachers in Victoria. VATE President, Dr Emily Frawley will reflect back on the panel, from her position as a practising English teacher at a government school.

Panel chair

Alfred Deakin Professor Jill Blackmore

Panel guests

Prue Gill, Dr Fleur Diamond, Dr Emily Frawley, Associate Professor Jo O'Mara

Reckoning with the future

One of the important roles of subject English is to develop engaged, informed and compassionate citizens. How do we, as English educators, encourage curiosity and foster dialogue, transparency, ambition and sustainability when looking to the future? Now is the time for students to see themselves as part of an opportunity to shape Australia’s future.

The guests on this panel will consider the important role of the English classroom in supporting students to facilitate difficult conversations which address a range of issues to prepare them for an ethical and sustainable future.

Panel chair

Sonia Murr

Panel guests

Zuva Goverwa, Zifer Tanner-Kamal, Marjan Mossammaparast

This panel is supported by The Wheeler Centre.

 

Inclusivity, acceptance and ambition: The role of subject English
 

Whitlam called for Australians to celebrate and embrace diversity. Through the removal of the White Australia Policy and the enacting a series of legislation and policies that promoted the principles of multiculturalism, the Whitlam Government heralded enthusiastic change and recognition of the beauty of cultural diversity and social harmony.

This panel discussion will examine the role that subject English has, and can have, in furthering Whitlam’s legacy of combatting and countering prejudice and discrimination. The panellists will explore whether discriminatory biases in the English classroom impede on the Australian values of egalitarianism, mateship and a ‘fair-go’, and will confront the power that language holds in fostering inclusivity, acceptance and ambition.

Panel chair

Ross Huggard

Panel guests

Glynis Rose, Shabnam Safa

 

Curriculum Committee Forum: It’s our time (again), and their time…and it’s about time: Teacher and student agency in the curriculum

In an article in The Conversation, after yet another government lament about falling standards in Australian education, Glenn Savage argued:

Australia has fallen into a pattern where the experts and expertise that shape reforms are no longer in schools. This needs to be urgently re- balanced…. Australia needs to stop listening to the loud voices of education gurus and members of the global ‘consultocracy’ who claim to have ‘the answer’. Instead, we should invest energy and resources to inspire local networks of evidence creation and knowledge sharing. This organic and bottom-up approach puts faith in the profession to experiment, solve problems and collaborate to create solutions in context.

And why stop at teachers? What about students? Their agency has been sanctioned in the government policy, Amplify: Empowering students through voice, agency and leadership. They have been invited to participate in curriculum design and resource development for civics and citizenship. They have taken to the streets and the Federal Court to argue for the environment and meaningful climate action because their lives depend on it. And why not teachers and students working together?

Marie Brennan states:

A crucial challenge for us, as educators, is to identify and create spaces for curriculum inquiry as active knowledge practice that, with future-problem focus, builds collaborative engagement with students who are living their present towards futures. Curriculum inquiry, in this context, is a form of practical resistance to the official straitjacket of the promoted ‘syllabus’—not necessarily to content but creating room for new and experimental learning-and-teaching relations among teachers and students.

She also reminds us that teachers and students have been ‘there’ in the agency space before. Garth Boomer’s ‘negotiated curriculum’, the ongoing work of Roger Holdsworth and Connect, the Australian National Schools Network. VATE has been ‘there’ too – its ‘local diagnosis, local solutions’ policy, through its participation in STELLA, the professional standards project and more recently, its Community of Practice reading project. A caveat – and sobering thought – agency for ‘solutions in context’ of course requires collaborative creative energy. In a COVID- and post-COVID environment where ‘burn out’ and mental health pressures have dominated – is it too much to expect teachers and students to ‘rally’ once again? And do they want to?

Forum guests

Marie Brennan, Amanda McGraw, Norman Capapas, Hayley Allen. The forum will be convened by Terry Hayes on behalf of the VATE Curriuculum Committee.

 

Writers Talk Writing

Jennifer Down    
 

Jennifer Down is a writer and editor. Her debut novel, Our Magic Hour, was shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. The story collection Pulse Points won the 2018 Readings Prize and the 2018 Steele Rudd Award in the Queensland Literary Awards. She was named a Sydney Morning Herald Novelist of the Year in 2017 and 2018. Bodies of Light, her second novel, won the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award. She lives in Naarm/Melbourne.

Michael Mohammed Ahmad    
 

 

Michael Mohammed Ahmad is the founding director of Sweatshop Literacy Movement and the editor of several critically acclaimed anthologies, including After Australia. In 2012, Mohammed received the Australia Council Kirk Robson Award for his outstanding achievements in community cultural development. His debut novel, The Tribe, won the 2015 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelists of the Year Award, and his second novel, The Lebs, was shortlisted for the 2019 Miles Franklin Literary Award and won the 2019 NSW Premier’s Multicultural Literary Award. Mohammed’s latest novel, The Other Half of You, was shortlisted for the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award and won the 2022 Queensland Literary Award for Fiction. Mohammed completed his Doctorate of Creative Arts from Western Sydney University in 2017.

Marjan Mossammaparast    
 

Marjan Mossammaparast is an award-winning writer and English/Literature teacher. Marjan’s first collection of poetry, That Sight (Cordite Books, 2018) won the 2019 Mary Gilmore Award, was shortlisted for the 2019 Queensland Literary Awards and was commended in the 2018 Anne Elder Award. Her second volume, And to Ecstasy, was released in March 2022 through Upswell Publishing. Her poems have been published and commissioned in a wide range of literary journals in Australia.

 

Conference Day 1

Thursday 24 November

9.00am - 9.55am:
Guest Speakers

10.00am - 11.00am:
Workshops (TW1)

11.30am - 12.30pm:
Keynote Speaker

12.40pm - 1.40pm:
Workshops (TW2) & Writers Talk Writing (WTW1)

2.40pm - 3.40pm:
Workshops (TW3) & Curriculum Committee Forum

Conference Day 2

Friday 25 November

9.00am - 9.55am:
Panels

10.00am - 11.00am:
Workshops (FW1) & Writers Talk Writing (WTW2)

11.30am - 12.30pm:
Keynote Speaker

12.40pm - 1.40pm:
Workshops (FW2) & Writers Talk Writing (WTW3)

2.40pm - 3.40pm:
Workshops (FW3)