The National History Summit took place over 12 months ago. Out of this successful conference came the national history draft curriculum — the drafting of an initial program of study in consultation with the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), Education Minister Julie Bishop’s office and over 90 written submissions. Then in June a review panel was controversially appointed by the Government to review the draft curriculum, despite the fact that it had achieved broad consensus. And now? Not much.

Since Julie Bishop appointed Geoffrey Blainey, Gerard Henderson and others to review the National Draft Curriculum, not a peep has been heard from the Minister’s office or the panel.

And as the nation hurtles towards the election, history teachers are demanding some answers.

Yesterday the History Teachers’ Association of Australia addressed an open letter to Minister Bishop and Shadow Education Minister Stephen Smith asking for feedback on their assignment:

The History Teachers’ Association of Australia (HTAA) has become increasingly concerned about what is happening with regard to a proposed national curriculum for Australian History. It is now more than twelve months since discussions began with a national History Summit in August 2006. In the meantime, HTAA and its state affiliates feel that we have been sidelined from the process. There has been very little communication, there is no indication of a timeline and there is uncertainty about the status and role of the ‘Reference Group’ that was formed recently.

The agenda for the HTAA’s October 1 AGM consists of a blank sheet so far — they have nothing to talk about. In fact, they say they have no idea what’s going on.

“More importantly, with a federal election imminent we feel that the major parties need to clarify their policies with regard to a national history curriculum,” added the HTAA.  

The HTAA asked the following questions of Bishop and Smith in their letter to be answered before their AGM on October 1:

1. What is your understanding of the current process for developing a national Australian history curriculum and how committed are you to this process?

2. Could you outline a rationale and vision for a national Australian history curriculum?

3. What is your attitude towards consultation with state and territory education authorities? Can you outline how this would be achieved?

4. How important do you feel it is to involve history teachers in the process of developing a national Australian history curriculum? Could you outline how this would be achieved?

5. The Executive members of HTAA and its state affiliates are busy working teachers who represent busy working teachers. With this in mind, how would you propose to make it easier for them to participate in consultation and syllabus development?

6. How important do you feel it is to take into account the differing perspectives of states and territories, with regard to both history and curriculum? Could you outline how this would be achieved?

7. Could you propose a timeline for the development of a national Australian History curriculum?

In today’s Age, Tony Taylor from Monash University and the author of the draft curriculum, talks about the importance of including teachers in the history discussion. “…If there is no informed teacher involvement in the planning process we’ll end up with teacher disengagement, bad Australian history and poor student learning,” says Taylor.

“The nation needs a bipartisan, professionally based approach to the teaching and learning of Australian history, not a politicised approach. So, without all of the above, it’s back to one damn thing after another.”

Crikey contacted the Minister’s office for a comment but was told Ms Bishop was in meetings this morning and will endeavour to provide a response for us for tomorrow’s edition.