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The College story

The Australian College of Educators (ACE) was formally established (as the Australian College of Education) in May 1959 at a Founders’ Convention held at Geelong Grammar School. That followed an informal gathering of a number of key educators at Wesley College Melbourne in June 1958 at which the possibility of creating such a body was first raised. As a consequence, a Provisional Council was established to undertake the planning.

The then Headmaster of Geelong Grammar School, Dr James Ralph Darling invited 118 educators from around Australia to the Founders’ Convention in May 1959–it was a representative gathering from all sectors State, Independent and Catholic representing all levels of education from early childhood through to tertiary.

The first National Conference, held at the University of Sydney was opened by the Governor-General of Australia. Within two years, chapters/branches had been established in all states, and later in the ACT, PNG (for a short time prior to independence) and the NT. The first Buntine Oration (given every second year) was delivered in Melbourne in 1962 by Professor Peter Karmel. Involvement of educators in branch and regional activities has been a key aspect of the life of the College for the past fifty years.

The first major project of the College, a five-year survey of teachers in Australia, involved all states in a comprehensive review of teachers and teaching. The first report, completed in 1967, was followed by others roughly on a decade by decade basis. Over the years ACE has been involved in major research projects at both national and state levels, and made many submissions to government at national and state levels.

From the very beginning, College Presidents were drawn from the ranks of Director Generals of Education, senior educators in schools and universities, and from national organisations such as the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). Sir James Darling was followed as National President by Sir Harold Wyndham (NSW) and then by Professor Charles Moorhouse (Victoria). Dr Eve Eden (Victoria) was the first female President.

For the first three decades headquarters for ACE were in Melbourne. After many years of discussions and planning, the sometimes-controversial move of the National Office to Canberra was completed in 1988, at the time of the presidency of Dr Shirley Randell. In Canberra a significant reputation was established for a range of publications and conferences, educational research, projects and submissions to governments, all with the aim of supporting the profession.

The 1966 National Conference was held at Shore (Sydney Church of England Grammar School, North Sydney) - the College Archives holds a copy of the one-hour live-to-air ABC telecast of the Divine Service, held in the school chapel during that conference. The only National Conference to be held out of Australia took place in Port Moresby in1974, one year before independence, when Dr AW Jones was National President.

In 1984, when Professor William Walker was the National President, ACE celebrated its Silver Jubilee, with events at Geelong Grammar School, followed by a National Conference at the Australian National University.

The 1988 Bicentennial Conference was held at Hunters Hill in Sydney, as a joint project with the ACEA (later to become ACEL). The name of the College and the logo were changed to the Australian College of Educators in 2002. In 2004, the Second College Convention was held, again at ANU in Canberra, to mark 45 years of service to the profession.

In May 2009, and with one of the Founder members – former Director-General of Education in Victoria, Dr Lawrie Shears - as an honoured guest, the College celebrated its 50th year with a National Conference and celebrations where it all began – in Geelong. The National President in 2009 was Professor Denise Bradley.

For the past four years, the College has been located within the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE) at the University of Melbourne. It was at this university, in May 1962, that Professor Peter Karmel delivered the landmark first Buntine Oration, entitled Some Aspects of the Economics of Education. In 2014, in partnership with MGSE, ACE held the Inaugural Jean Blackburn Oration, delivered by Mr David Gonski.

The National President for 2014–2015 is Professor Stephen Dinham from MGSE, and the Chief Executive Officer is Ms Catherine Pickett.

The strength of the College has always been its involvement of educators from all sectors and all levels of education, thus prompting a founder member, Dr A W Jones, to focus his writings on the collegial aspect of the College as 'bridging the gaps' by bringing together state, independent and catholic teachers from early childhood to tertiary level.

Tony Ryan, FACE

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