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President's Report

Martin Mills

Welcome to the first newsletter of 2016. Since the last newsletter we have had a very successful annual conference in Fremantle. Congratulations to all those involved in the organisation, especially Margaret Baguley the Chair of our Conferences Standing Committee. We are gearing up for another exciting year, culminating in the next conference, to be held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (27 November to 1 December).

There are many things on the AARE agenda this year before then. We have another series of theory workshops being organised, we are developing a research project with the Australian Teacher Education Association and the Australian Council of Deans of Education on research in teacher education, we are having on-going discussions with other national associations re closer ties, including constructing a memorandum of understanding with the European Educational Research Association and further conversations with the Asia-Pacific Educational Research Association. We are also partnering with the Australian Curriculum Studies Association to hold the World Curriculum Association Conference in Melbourne in 2018.

Our first book in the AARE Routledge Local/Global Issues in Education series has been published and the series editors have been reviewing the next set of proposals. There are a number of benefits accruing to members as a result of this series in terms of accessing Routledge books at a discount and having free access to series of e-books – the details of this will be published shortly.

This year’s strategic initiative grants have been awarded to projects led by:

Emily Gray, RMIT - Developing arts-based interventions into everyday sexism in the academy

Alison Wrench (UniSA) and Stewart Riddle (USQ) - Researching and resisting educational inequality: Reframing policy and practice

We have become a Foundation Sponsor of the Media Centre for Education Research Australia being set up in Adelaide which has recently received a start-up grant from the SA government. Our members from the Research in Education Network are working with us to produce a webinar on developing ARC Linkages with various jurisdictions that will be available in the very near future. Announcements will be made when the details are finalised.

On the day after our 2015 conference the Excellence in Research Assessment (ERA) results were published. There is in the main a good news story here for educational research in that at the 13 (Education) two-digit code, no universities went down in ratings and approximately 50 per cent improved. There was some minor movement down of universities at the four digit code in 1302 (Curriculum and Pedagogy) and 1303 (Special Studies). However, in 1301 (Education Systems) eight universities improved, in 1302 nine improved and in 1303 12 improved. These data can be read in a number of ways, for example, that the quality is improving, that different panels produce different outcomes, universities have become better skilled at demonstrating the quality of their work, or a combination of these. However, what is clear is that Australia does produce educational research of the highest quality and that we should celebrate such research. Avenues such as the Australian Educational Researcher and the annual AARE conference provide excellent opportunities for this.

The next ERA is not far away: 2018. This means preparations will be getting under way in universities early next year. In the meantime the ARC is considering some changes to the process which may take into account factors such as impact. Sometime mid-year 2016 AARE will hold a workshop with ARC representation to consider what the refinements to the process might mean for the field of education. We will keep members informed of this process.

The most recent AARE Executive meeting was held at the end of February in Sydney. Two important events occurred around that time. The first was the series of rallies in Brisbane supportive of doctors and other medical staff at the Lady Cilento Hospital refusing to release from hospital a one year old baby girl, who had been injured on Nauru, until safe accommodation could be found for her and her family – Nauru did not meet the criteria for this. Many of our Brisbane members attended one or more of these rallies. The AARE Executive wants to express its solidarity with those medical staff, to acknowledge our members who attended these rallies and to condemn the current government practices surrounding refugees.

The second event was the political and media attention given to the production of the Safe Schools Program for LGBTI students. As an Executive we signed an open letter expressing our support for the Safe Schools Coalition and acknowledging the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment for LGBTI students (and teachers). The letter contained the following paragraphs:

A national survey of the health and wellbeing of same sex attracted young people found that 75% of these young people experienced some sort of homophobic abuse and school was the place where most of that abuse took place (80%). (Writing Themselves In, 2010)

A national survey of the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and gender diverse young people in Australia, found that 61% of gender diverse and transgender young people had experienced verbal abuse and 21% experienced physical abuse. Of those who had experienced abuse, 80% had thought about self-harm and 81% had thought about suicide. (From Blues to Rainbows, 2014)

Safe Schools Coalition Australia provides much needed positive support to school communities who are able to request free professional development for staff, a range of resources, advice and guidance on how to create more inclusive learning environments for all students. The number of schools who have engaged with the program (almost 500) and the number of staff who have accessed training (over 13,000) shows a clear demand from Principals, teachers, students and families across all education sectors.

The Executive is of the view that as an Association we want to encourage active engagement with, and advocacy on, issues that relate to social justice and education, and indeed on how Australia sees itself as a nation. We would thus like to encourage our members who feel strongly about these issues to contribute pieces to our blog or alert our Twitter accounts and Facebook page to events, articles and seminars that address such matters.

I would like to welcome to the Executive our newest members for this year: Julie McLeod – who will amongst other things be the AARE representative on the World Curriculum Association Conference organising committee, Bernadette Walker-Gibbs – who will take on the Awards portfolio, Abbey MacDonald – the Early Career Researcher member, and Annette Woods – President Elect. Welcome back those who were re-elected: Michele Simons – Treasurer, and Robyn Henderson – responsible for Theory Workshops. I would also like to thank those who stepped down at the end of 2015 for all of their work on the Executive – Amanda Keddie – Awards, Sue Saltmarsh – SIGs, Lisa Papatraianou – Early Career Researcher member and Newsletter, and Julianne Moss – Immediate Past President. I, and the Executive, would also like to thank all of those who work on various AARE sub-committees and in the SIGs. It is voluntary labour within the Association that keeps it active and vibrant. We are all too well aware of how difficult it can be to find the time to do this work amongst all of the other things expected in our workplaces, so thank you!

Martin Mills
President AARE 2015-2016


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