July 1 2020 will mark the 42nd anniversary of Northern Territory Self Government. It is also an anniversary for education, because education was the first portfolio taken over for local management by the Northern Territory Government. The Northern Territory has a rich educational history – but you wouldn’t know it!
It is a sad fact that our history of education in the Northern Territory is pretty “muted”. A lot has gone on over time but remembrances are diminishing as people leave, move on or become deceased. When Gary Barnes took over as Education CEO in 2009 he rued the fact that there was no history of education in the Northern Territory to which he could refer and be informed as the incoming CEO. This situation eleven years and two CEO’s later has not changed.
With that in mind, I have wondered for a long time whether or not it would be possible for a thread on “history”, with sub titles to differentiate the specific aspects of Territory Education that have happened in the past, to be built into the department’s website.
Under defining subtitles (aboriginal education, bilingual education, and so on),an annual chronology could be established so the comments on specific subjects relating to the year of happening could be included.
I have raised this in the past only to be told that the resources necessary for setting up and maintaining a program of this nature would make it uneconomic. I would counterargue that costs would be quite minimal because the program would simply be added as an element of the Education Department’s existing website.
Specifics of content might even be moderated by a volunteer or volunteers who would have specific oversight of the historical thread. I would envisage this as being done in conjunction with the Media and Marketing Section of the Education Department. Advice and assistance might well be provided by the NT Archive.
There are other ways in which this reference to our history could be extended. Oral histories by past educators is an approach that could be an element of recording our history. Another might be bylines relating to theses and dissertations, that relate to educational history and developments in the Northern Territory completed over time. Referral to these studies would be useful.
At the moment any documentation of this nature would be housed with Charles Darwin University or the Northern Territory archives. Cross referencing in a “trove” manner to these sources could be useful.
I am aware that progress is a constant and acknowledge the fact that systems and priorities have to change over time to meet needs. However not having a history of where we have come from in educational terms is to our eternal detriment.
Among other advantages, history is informing and can help in preventing a repeat of failed processes and mistakes from the past. The decisions that are being made about education should be informed. Part of that information is an awareness and appreciation of our history.
I would welcome readers consideration of this issue and look forward to comments on the subject.