We want to celebrate the more than thirty years of the Association's existence, and in particular highlight the contributions made by so many volunteers over that time. Only with their selfless giving of time and skills has the situation for gifted children in NSW been so improved. Which of course is not saying that there is not more to be done!
We have started with some vignettes from the celebatory article by then editor Cate Turner-Clark that was featured in the 150th issue of Gifted, published in October 2008 and some memories of volunteers Graham Brisbane and David Farmer.
1979 - Association formed...
October 1979 - First Newsletter
President is Laura Watson. Editor is Colin Boyd? The newly formed New South Wales Association for Gifted and Talented Children's first Newsletter appears. It is 14 pages long and stapled. Our version shows just how poor copying was back then.
April 1980 - the NSWAGTC Logo
President is Laura Watson. Editor is Pam Rohov. This was the first time the NSWAGTC logo (designed by NSWAGTC member Susan Sellers) was used on the front page (of the fourth issue of the newsletter.
1982 - Membership over 300
President is Geoffrey Fox. Editor is Judith Joby.
1985 - Membership Falling
Membership had fallen to just over 100 with five local activity groups (dropping to 4 in December). Published five newsletters a year. The Association did not operate as a lobby group and had no voice with government to work on needed changes within the education system. Charles Sturt University Bathurst's Mitchell Search weekends were valuable.
Graham Brisbane notes "Whilst the interest and research at the national level remained high thanks to the efforts of people like Louise Mares, Stan Bailey, Eddie Braggett and Miraca Gross, the local support association struggled. At state government level there was little interest, if any, in fostering these children within the education system (letters to the Minister took 10 months for a reply) and there were specific instructions within the NSW Education Department not to respond to issues associated with gifted and talented children. Testing undertaken by Education Department Counsellors was not allowed to be given to parents as they could not be considered competent to interpret the results."
1986/87 - Some Positive Glimpses
Change began in 1986 when there was a federal Senate Inquiry into the Education of Gifted and Talented Children (to which the Association made a submission) and an announcement that the World Congress would be held in Sydney in 1989. At the Association level however there were still difficulties in keeping things moving and in August 1987 the Association lost its President and had to survive without one for several months until Carolyn Regan took the job.
1988 - 50th issue of the Newsletter/Senate Inquiry Report/Change of State Government
President is Patrick Attard. Editor is Suzie Hamond. A snippet from the 50th edition (April) depicts a clipping from the Sydney Morning Herald 17/3/88: "Whiz kid Gareth Brisbane, who is just nine, has beaten the Education Department to become the youngest student in NSW. But even though Gareth has started Year Seven by switching to a private school, Education Minister Rod Cavalier has ruled he won't be able to sit for the HSC exam ... Gareth's father Graham Brisbane is quoted as saying "I can't understand why children can't take the HSC when they have the ability instead of when they have spent a certain amount of time at school."
In 1988 positive changes were beginning to happen. albeit slowly. The results of the Senate Inquiry were released with some positive outcomes. The Greiner government was also elected with a more positive attitude towards gifted and talented children (although it would take several more years to overcome the education department bureaucracy – a 1988 internal memo from the then Director-General wrote "work is to cease now on the position paper on advanced placement......this could resurrect issues such as the South Coast case which currently lies dormant").
The Association had grown its local support groups to 12. In October eight new selective High Schools were announced. A discussion paper was published in November on the curriculum in NSW schools and in December the Carrick Inquiry into NSW Schools was announced. The Association made a written submission (the only one dealing with issues for gifted and talented children in over 900 submissions) and in February 1989 was invited to present at hearings dealing with the submissions made.
1989 - World Conference means Growth/Small Management Committee
New President is Gary Holloway. Editor is Suzie Hammond. The 56th issue of the newsletter appears in booklet form rather than with a single staple. It also contains the first children's section called Kids Kontributions.
In February 1989 Graham Brisbane took over as the Association's Vice President, became Treasurer in June 1989 and added the roles of Newsletter Editor and Membership Secretary in December. The Association gained access to an Amstrad computer at that time with 20mb of Hard Disk memory – much easier than writing everything on a 48k Spectrum that could only store on floppy disks. 1989 also saw the World Conference held in Sydney in July (with a resultant 30% increase in membership). By the end of 1989, 15 local groups were providing support within their own communities.
During this time changes were also happening in the Universities. In the late 1980s the Universities of NSW and Wollongong joined Mitchellsearch in running weekend courses for gifted and talented children, and in April 1989 Wollongong University agreed to the early entry to university for children who could demonstrate their capacity to absorb the syllabus. In June 1989 The Board of Secondary studies agreed to allow sitting of the HSC in a particular subject, providing fees were paid.
1990 - Some Solid Changes amidst Turbulence
President is Gary Holloway. Editorship vacant. This is a turbulent time for the Newsletter as Gary Holloway, Graham Brisbane together with Theresa Bush act as intermittent editors. However, the Newsletter starts 'playing with the big boys' gaining an ISSN in its 66th Issue – July 1991.
The increase in membership numbers is not being matched by an increase in committee volunteers, although the offer by Helen Dudeney in February 1990 to take over running the camps was to prove fortuitous to the Association for many years to come. Fortunately the momentum was increasing and at the AGM in June Matt Handbury took over as Treasurer. The Association (through its President Gary Holloway) was invited to assist in the development of the teaching strategies section of the Science and Technology K-6 syllabus. The Association also arranged for formal charity status to enable tax deductibility for donations (among other things).
Graham Brisbane remembers: Twenty odd years ago I remember being concerned that the Association might not survive. At one time I was Vice President, Membership Secretary, Treasurer and Newsletter Editor (and not the 40 pages you get today). Local support groups were down to 4 and membership dropping towards 100. Fortunately my fears were not realised. However whilst our children will probably never know the work put in by the volunteers of the Association over the years, the parents of those children are unlikely to ever forget!!
1990 - Education Refom Act
After significant lobbying by the Association, the 1990 Educational Reform Act requires that regard should be paid to assisting each child to reach his or her potential and for the provision of opportunities to children with special abilities.
The new government published a White Paper in Sep 1990 on NSW education following a number of earlier enquiries which included specific references to the need of gifed and talented children. The paper highlighted the need to address many of the issues raised by the Association including the need for the curriculum for K-12 to be capable of satisfying and challenging gifted children and a system that is sufficiently flexible and open to allow them to move ahead of their aged cohort. Proposals were included to remove formal restrictions to acceleration that included entry age to Primary and High School and changes to the HSC such as removing the need for 12 years of schooling before being allowed to sit the exam. A commitment was made to release a comprehensive strategy for the education of the State's gifted children.
1991 - Government Support/Association Growth
In March 1991 a major plus for the Association was achieved when the state government provided funds in March 1991 for the Newsletter to be sent to all NSW government schools for a 12 month period. This provided a means putting forward information of relevant gifted and talented issues to a new generation of parents and teachers and led to a significant opportunity to increase membership, more than doubling in the next year. In April 1991 the state government published the NSW Government Strategy for the Education of Gifted and Talented Students.
Seven months later in November the NSW Department of School Education responds with its Policy Statement and Implementation Strategies for the Education of Gifted and Talented Students - to be applied throughout NSW government schools.
In June 1991 Gary Holloway passed on the reigns of President to Diana Whitton and in December 1991 David Farmer offered to take over the role of Newsletter editor and with Peter Hughes taking over the membership role Graham Brisbane departed the Committee after a very active role. "For me, an era gone but definitely not forgotten."
1992 - Gifted appears/HSC Pathways
President is Diana Whitton. Editor is David Farmer. After receiving old files and associated items from the boot of Graham's car, David Farmer takes over editorship of the Newsletter. The result: a journal called Gifted is born as the Committee approves the change of name proffered by David.
David recalls: "Originally, full of enthusiasm as well as naiveté, I was thinking of laying out the publication in Word Perfect but Treasurer and magazine publisher Matt Handbury equipped us with a professional layout program that after its initial learning curve allowed real magazine layout for the first time." Centrefold, the new children's section, also appeared in the same edition (number 69). David, realising the direction the wind was blowing introduced the first book and software reviews and indicated that contributions were welcomed on 'Diskette'.
The NSW Board of Studies releases its proposals entitled Higher School Certificate Pathways to accommodate "the increasingly diverse needs of students in the future", and incorporate flexible completion of HSC courses.
The significant government changes and associated publicity and the new look journal being distributed widely through the school systems contributed to Association membership growing sharply, reaching 800 by the end of 1992.
1993 - First State Conference/First NSWAGTC Office/Gifted Children Need Help?/Family Days
President is Diana Whitton and later David Farmer, who is also the Editor. Diana and a core committee ensure that the Association first state conference, held at University of Western Sydney Milperra, targetting both educators and parents, is successful.
The Association obtains some office space at Meriden School, Strathfield and opens its first office to handle the growing administration work with members, support groups and with its expanded offering of events for gifted children and their parents and teachers. Cate Stilwell was our first part-time paid administrator and set a very hard act for anyone to follow.
In March, the Association also publishes its first anthology of reference articles in Gifted children need help? A guide for parents and teachers with 41 articles from a wide range of academic, teacher and parent contributors. The 250 page book was edited and typeset by David Farmer, and was sold directly and distributed through bookshops.
In the second half of the year Family Days are introduced with simultaneous parent and child activities, to complement the many popular camps coordinated by Helen Dudeney.
1994 - NSWAGTC publishes Meeting the Needs of Gifted Students in the Regular Classroom
President and Editor is David Farmer. The Association, with funding from the Commonwealth Department of Employment, Education and Trainng, and the support of the Association of Independent Schools (NSW), the Catholic Education Commission of NSW, and the NSW Department of School Education, published a Video and Training Booklet that featured four teaching strategies that can be used to meet the needs of gifted students in the regular classroom. The featured strategies were: curriculum differentiation, independent learning, acceleration and mentoring, and highlight experiences at Cromer Public School, St Catherine's College Waverly, St George Girls' High School and Artarmon Public School. Information covering other strategies such as ability grouping, curriculum compacting and vertical unitised timetabling was included in the Training Booklet. The VHS Video/Training package was written and produced by David Farmer, and was both distributed to school systems Australia-wide and sold directly through the Association.
1996 - NSWAGTC publishes Gifted Children: The Challenge Continues
President is Patricia Cummins. Editor is Angelica Jacob. The Association publishes its second anthology of reference articles in Gifted Children: The Challenge Continues with another 41 articles from a wide range of academic, teacher, parent and child contributors. The 288 page book was edited and typeset by Angelica Jacob and Graham Barnsley.
1996 - NSWAGTC website created
President is Patricia Cummins? David Farmer creates and maintains the association's first website.
October 1997 - Gifted Issue 100
President is Helen Dudeney, Editor is David Farmer. Issue 100 presents in a green wrap around edition celebrating that Gifted actually made the Centenary mark. A snippet from the recently titled Newsboard tells readers that: "On 19th September Gordon Samuels, the Governor of NSW, Officially opened the Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information Centre (GERRIC) at the University of NSW, GERRIC will encompass all the existing programs and services in gifted education at the University of NSW and will be the first Centre of Research in gifted education in the Southern Hemisphere."
November/ December 1999 - Gifted Issue 111
President is Helen Dudeney, Editor is David Farmer. Catriona Coote begins supplying children's book reviews. Little does she know that she will still be doing this almost 10 years later ... and a new person to the gifted scene writes her first article under the pseudonym Alaine Bayly. Little did SHE realise that inside one short year she would be taking over editorship of the publication ... and that she would also STILL be there, along with Catriona, ten years later.
June/July 2000 - Gifted gets new Editor (Issue No. 114)
President is Helen Dudeney, New editor is Cate Turner. Having given up nearly 9 years of his life to not having holidays in January with his family, David Farmer hands Gifted over to newbie Cate Turner, whose previous experience in editing and layout consisted of having written an article for the publication in the previous year! David also hands over Centrefold to the hands of teacher and Committee Member, Mudgee based Denise Wood. Gifted goes completely country six months later with Cate relocating to Gunnedah NSW, proving that location is no longer a barrier to being Editor of such an eclectic publication.
September 2002 - Gifted evolves
President is Helen Dudeney. Editor is Cate Turner. Cate is still alive and learning more and more about the production process. Having lost long term printer connection, Eddie Doyle, to the world of big game fishing (!) the previous year she is joined by Glenn Brown to provide much more visual layout of the journal.
A snippet in this Gifted Issue No. 125 celebrating being part of a gifted family reads: Despite having read the container and having vivid and extensive life experience you manage to superglue your fingers from each hand to the superglue container, which leads to supersensitive gifted child No 1 (age 4) crying his eyes out over the fear that Mum may have to hold onto the glue container forever and gifted advanced developed sense of humour child No 2 (age 6) absolutely and totally wetting themselves with laughter at the idea of Mum having to quote 'go to the loo' with her hands still attached to the glue!! - Do I confess now that the snippet refers to an incident in the life of the Editor? No! I thought that I had better not!
Preparation is also well underway with articles from presenters of the AAEGT Conference being a feature of this issue. This is the second journal to include blue as part of the front and back covers. Who says we don't move with the times?
July 2005 - Gifted goes more "visual"
President is Cate Stilwell, Editor is Cate Turner. In being partnered by layout artist (artist being the keyword here) Phil Ragen in February 2003, Cate found someone who could express the articles that she filled Gifted's pages with 'in pictures'. Realising that many gifted people were highly visual had made her rethink her strategy for layout and Phil found the right images to reflect what the words were trying to express. Gifted had been, by this point, using a front cover photo for some time hoping to make the journal more inviting.
New columns at this point included Setting Sail a home schooling column and Seven Steps – a column aimed at encouraging gifted writers. Regular updates were also being published relating to the AAEGTC of which the NSWAGTC is affiliated.
October 2008 - Gifted reaches 150!
President is Denise Wood. Editor is Cate Turner. Gifted celebrates its 150th issue with a cover wrap with highlights of its publication history and changes - many included here.
Did you know?
|"I learnt so much about gifted children, backed up by very interesting research
which gave me a better understanding of the needs of gifted children and how
best we can nurture their strengths, skills and habits." An educator attending a NSWAGTC seminar.