History Colloquium hears of challenges ahead 

Jan Salmon presents ‘Drivers of Change in Darwin’s Hinterland’ at the History Colloquium

The national history curriculum for Australian schools poses both opportunities and challenges, the annual History Colloquium heard in Darwin recently.

The President of the History Teachers Association of Australia, Paul Kiem, said the curriculum expected teachers to cover an enormous amount of material.

“I applaud the return of History as a discipline to the curriculum but there are content, implementation and delivery issues that could be counter-productive unless they are ironed out,” he said.

Mr Kiem said the shortage of history teachers in Australia could have adverse implications.

“There’s a demand in History, arguably more so than in other subjects, for the teacher to be able to engage students. Efficient teachers need skill and expertise in order to impart interpretive and other complex concepts to their students, but in History they also need to be passionate and enthusiastic.

“There is the danger that many history students will be taught by a teacher without an adequate background in the subject, which will be neither beneficial to the student nor the discipline.”

Mr Kiem said one of the opportunities from a national curriculum was the more stable platform on which universities could design teacher training courses.

“It will offer universities clarity about what is required of history teachers regardless of where they are in the country,” he said.

Mr Kiem was one of nine speakers to deliver papers at the Colloquium, which was held in the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory at Bullocky Point.

Colloquium coordinator Dr Steven Farram, of Charles Darwin University’s School of Creative Arts and Humanities, said: “All speakers were well received and as one participant commented, ‘the papers were diverse, polished and interesting’.”

The Colloquium provides an opportunity for CDU staff members and postgraduate students in History and related disciplines to present and discuss their research projects.

These included Masters candidate Jan Salmon (Drivers of Change in Darwin’s Hinterland), PhD candidate Kathy De La Rue (Was Darwin Different? Australian Capitals and the Typology of Towns) and Dr Aaron Petty (The Social Logic and (Eco)logical Consequences of the European Colonisation of the Top End).

Others presenters travelled from Canberra, Sydney and Alice Springs.

The Colloquium was jointly organised by CDU’s School of Creative Arts and Humanities; the Australian National University’s Centre for Environmental History; the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and the Professional Historians Association (NT).