In an important development for arts education research in Australia, the National Advocates for Arts Education (NAAE) has negotiated with the National Library of Australia (NLA) to accept its archival material. After almost a year of cataloguing and sorting, the NAAE archive is now safely rehoused at the NLA from its original home in the Ausdance National library.
Formed in 1989 with the support of the Joint Council of Cultural and Education Ministers, the National Affiliation of Arts Educators (as it was then known) was established to continue the work its members were already engaged in with the federal government’s National Arts in Australian Schools (NAAS) project. This in turn had grown out of the Hawke Government’s commissioned review of arts education called Action, education and the arts: report of the Task Force on Education and the Arts to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (1984).
Archived documentation of those early years includes most of the earlier national, state and territory reports into arts education conducted jointly by the Australia Council and the Commonwealth Government in 1977, and some of the correspondence, articles and submissions made to those reviews. Much of the 1980s NAAS project material, including ephemera, reports, correspondence etc. is in the archive, as is the late Robert Osmotherly’s seminal paper, Dance Education in Australian Schools, which was commissioned by Ausdance National and published as part of the NAAS project in 1991. This paper became the blueprint for all future Australian dance curricula.
Soon after its establishment in 1989, NAAE embarked on a campaign to ensure that the Arts were included as one of the eight key learning areas in the Australian curriculum. Under the leadership of Geoff Hammond and later Joan Livermore, NAAE members had significant carriage of the consultation and writing of the Curriculum Corporation’s 1992 documents The arts—a statement on the arts for Australian schools and its companion The arts—a curriculum profile for Australian schools. NAAE member Ralph Buck played a significant role in writing the dance curriculum.
Between 1994 and 1996 NAAE was provided with funding from the Department of Education & Training to employ a full-time researcher, during which time it produced many important publications, all now in the archive. NAAE maintained its activity after funding ceased, making submissions to federal inquiries, publishing papers and advocating for Australian arts education research.
In 2007 the Australian Government introduced Phase One of a new national curriculum. In October 2008 when it became evident that there were no plans to include the arts, NAAE developed an advocacy plan that targeted significant members of all political parties, and on 17 April 2009 the government finally announced that the Arts would be included in Phase Two of the Australian Curriculum.
NAAE members played a significant role in developing the initial Shape Paper and then in the writing and revision of The Australian Curriculum: The Arts. The NAAE’s key art form experts were invited by the Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority (ACARA) to share their specialist knowledge and skills to produce the documents, with the final version now approved by all States & Territories and available online. Some NAAE members continue to be involved in helping to produce ACARA’s work samples.
The NAAE archive provides a fascinating insight into the politics, passion, processes and practices around arts education in the last 40 years. Regular representations continue to be made to federal, state and territory education and arts ministers, the federal opposition, the Australian Council for the Deans of Education, the Australian Primary Principals’ Association and the Australia Council.
The NAAE is keen to see this unique archive developed further, and we are encouraging all art form members to contribute their own archives to the NLA to complement this collection. The five art forms represented by the peak bodies are dance (Ausdance); drama (Drama Australia); music (Australian Society for Music Education, Music Australia and The Music Trust (observer); visual arts (Art Education Australia and the National Association for the Visual Arts) and media (ATOM—the Australian Teachers of Media).