National History Day Established in Australia
AHA Staff, March 1995
History Day is coming to Australia. Gordon McKinney, executive director of National History Day in the United States, visited Sydney and Canberra in December 1994 to participate in discussions about organizing a History Day in Australia. Upon his arrival in Sydney, McKinney was briefed by Roger Grant, general manager of corporate relations for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the chief sponsor of the new History Day program. ABC is a government-funded communications network with an interest in history programming.
The initial meeting for Australian History Day could not have been better timed. A front-page article in a Sydney newspaper on the morning of the meeting described a commission report decrying Australian students' ignorance of history. A second newspaper story quoted the prime minister as saying that educating young Australians in the history of their country was the first priority of his government.
The History Day meeting was attended by an assistant secretary of a cabinet department, the director general of the National Library, the president of the Australian Historical Association, the president of the national teachers' union, a number of state secretaries of education, and other representatives of national organizations. It was decided that the History Day organization would work through the school systems and that ample government funding at all levels would be provided. ABC will provide publicity for the new program.
In Canberra McKinney met with the oral history department at the National Library, the leader of the territorial teachers' union, and the Department of Education for the Australian Capital Territory. The Australians will sponsor local pilot programs in 1995, state contests in 1996, and a national contest in 1997. There is every indication that they will have a large and thriving program by the time of Australia's centennial celebration in 2001.