After two years of COVID-related interruptions, the AATE/ALEA National Conference made its highly-anticipated return to Darwin last month (7–10 July)!

AATE Treasurer and Life Member Phil Page acknowledged the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund as a major sponsor. ‘The list of organisations that the Cultural Fund supports is phenomenal,’ he said. ‘It’s great to have such an important and powerful body supporting us as teachers.’

Nicola Evans (Head of the Cultural Fund and Reading Australia) and Jenny Ryan (Reading Australia Editor and Digital Publisher) represented Reading Australia at this year’s conference. More than 60 new resources had been published since the last in-person event, so it was the perfect time to reconnect with teachers and help them make the most of this freely available material.

‘There are now 260 resources for primary and secondary school teachers on the site, which is tremendous,’ Nicola said. ‘The resources are relevant and wonderfully written, and the response from teachers has been terrific.’

As part of the conference program, Nicola chaired a panel with the first three Reading Australia Fellows: Alex Wharton (2019), Karen Yager (2020) and Edwina West (2021). She also announced Jantiena Batt as the 2022 Reading Australia Fellow for Teachers of English and Literacy.

‘Jantiena starts her project in early August and will have up to a year to work on the research,’ she told the audience. ‘We’re really looking forward to hearing more about her project as it evolves.’

Alex, Karen and Edwina – appearing together for the first time – shared what they had gained from both their research and the Fellowship itself.

‘It’s been such a significant investment that I would confidently say it’s been life changing,’ Alex said. ‘Teachers can be reluctant to invest in themselves because they don’t get the time or space. But the Fellowship is an opportunity to pause and do just that: invest in your own professional care.’

The panellists emphasised the Fellowships’ profound benefits not only for their career development, but for their own personal growth.

‘I feel like the Fellowship has really centred me and brought me back to what I love to do,’ Edwina said. ‘I’m normally a “yes” person, but I’m now making changes so that I’m not pulled in all the different directions I was previously.’

The Fellows also echoed the importance of teachers elevating diverse and authentic voices in the classroom, and encouraged their peers to embrace Australia’s rich literary landscape.

‘It’s time to realise we’ve got some great Australian authors out there,’ Karen said. ‘Kids will relate to them because they’re describing where they are and the country they’re on. Australian writers are amazing and offer so much insight. And every time I listen to a writer, I become a writer.’

Reading Australia thanks and congratulates the organisers of this year’s AATE/ALEA National Conference, who delivered an inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable program. It was a pleasure meeting everyone in Darwin, and we look forward to the next joint conference in Canberra in 2023!