Since the first SPERA National Conference was held 31 years ago, a great deal has been achieved, many innovative practices have been celebrated and ground-breaking research around the provision of education in rural areas has been published. All of these achievements have been designed to prepare teachers to undertake careers in these areas and to provide rural students with a smorgasbord of opportunities to open doors for them.
The recent 31st National SPERA Conference continued the fine tradition of linking people who have a diverse range of interests but with the unifying desire to improve the educational and training opportunities for those living in the bush. The conference organising team, efficiently and effectively led by Dr Jodie Kline, put together an exciting program that included presentations by Australian Rural Health Education Network Chair Professor Sabina Knight, Charles Darwin University Centre for School Leadership Director Mr Gary Fry, Department of Education and Training (Queensland) Director-General Dr Jim Watterson, Charles Sturt University Professor of Education Jo-Anne Reid and Victoria University College of Education Professor Marie Brennan.
In recognising the innovative practices relating to rural education in educational institutions, we awarded the Australian Rural Education Awards at the conference. We received 16 high quality applications for AREAs in 2015. It is heartening to know that there are so many innovative projects taking place and that these will improve the opportunities of so many children. Special thanks to Dr Susan Ledger and Mr John Borserio for their work with organising the AREAs for us this year, and our sincerest congratulations to this year’s category 1 and 2 winners: Karratha Senior High School and the In2Uni Regional Outreach Program (Bega and Batemans Bay) at the University of Wollongong.
A special program that SPERA administers each year is the awarding of sponsorships to pre-service teachers to allow them to attend our conference. The sponsorships enable students who are on the thresholds of their teaching careers to network with leaders in rural education and hear about the innovative practices that are taking place. Such sponsorships would not be possible without the generous support of the Department of Education and Training (Queensland), Teachers’ Mutual Bank, the Diocese of Toowoomba’s Catholic Education Office, Lodestone, Wykari of Clare, and the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Associations in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
We received 14 high quality applications this year, which is exciting, but did make the task of the selection panel lead by Dr Paula Jervis-Tracey, difficult. Special thanks to Paula, Mrs Louise Martin and Ms Andi Bracey for their work in this area, and congratulations to our eight pre-service teachers: Adelaide Ford, Baylee Hardwick, Kylie Cochrane, Lauren Schuller, Megan Barlow, Megan Knights, Rory Quirk and Tess Madeley.
It takes the combined efforts of a dedicated group of people to organise and run a conference, and the SPERA Executive would like to thank the following people and organisations for their generous support:
- Deakin University Professor Jill Blackmore, for her assistance with securing the conference venue and funding the welcome reception;
- Ms Sarah Nailer, Ms Christine Schultz, Ms Sri Soejatminah, Ms Kymelise Wilson, Ms Leissa Kelly and Ms Emma King for their work as Conference Ambassadors;
- Geelong High School students and the Deadly Dancers, for their various performances;
- Aunty Lynn McInnes for her Welcome to Country;
- Ms Donna Squire and Ms Beate Behrendt for photography;
- the Waterfront Kitchen team for the catering and conference dinner;
- Curtin University, Deakin University, The University of Western Australia, CQUniversity Australia, and the University of Southern Queensland, for their contributions to the conference satchels; and
- the Centre for Research in Educational Futures and Innovation (CREFI) at Deakin University, the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) at Curtin University, Teachers Mutual Bank, the Diocese of Toowoomba Catholic Education Office, Lodestone, the Northern Territory and Queensland branches of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association, and Oxford University Press Australia & New Zealand for the various sponsorships.
The 2016 SPERA Conference will be held at CQUniversity Australia’s Mackay campus in Queensland. We look forward to seeing you there!