Education Publishing Awards Australia for 2014, State Library of Victoria

  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education

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Thank you, Michael. I’ve always thought, having been a former speechwriter that when you get a round of applause before the start of a speech it means you have a very optimistic crowd. You don’t know what I am going to say, or for how long I am going to say it.

It is a particular honour to speak to you this evening, particularly in this building; this library. As a secondary school student I used to visit here, back in the days when it was dark and dank, before Jeff Kennett’s restoration brought this magnificent building back to life in the late 1990s.

This very room was the first building of what was then known as the Melbourne Public Library. It was one of the first free public libraries in the world. It was founded by a giant of the early history of this city, we passed his statue in the forecourt, a person inextricably linked to education, and making the work of publishers available to as wide of an audience as possible.

Redmond Barry arrived in Port Phillip, as it was then known, on the 13th of November 1839, famously dying 41 years and ten days later, less than a fortnight after the hanging of his most infamous prisoner, Ned Kelly. And this Library of course also houses his armour today. Sadly, all too often that is where our knowledge of Redmond Barry stops.

But he was a fascinating individual. A harsh judge with very liberal and progressive attitudes, but dedicated to the diffusion of knowledge.

He was synonymous with the development of Melbourne as it exploded with the discovery of gold.

Not only would we be a very different and much poorer city without him, but through his impact on Melbourne, he profoundly influenced our future nation.

The University of Melbourne and this library are two of a plethora of institutions for which he was the driving force, many education-related.

I won’t try to pronounce it in Latin, and I am relying on a third party translation, but the inscription above the staircase to this room translates as ‘Books are a delight at home and no hindrance abroad’.

It neatly summarises Barry’s drive to provide people with the greatest possible access to information, albeit in the middle of the 19th century.

His commitment was such that his own home acted as a public library, open to all to come and read.

He personally chose the first three thousand eight hundred books for this library.

His outlook was of the enlightenment and utilitarian liberalism that viewed access to knowledge as a key driver of social change and economic development.

I often remind school children today that it wasn’t so long ago that if mum or dad didn’t know the answer to a question, and your teacher didn’t; and it couldn’t be found in school or the local library – then it was here that you came.

And while this place may seem cavernous, particularly to a school student as it did to me when I was 15, it still placed limits on available knowledge that are virtually unimaginable to young Australians today.

Not only does this place represent a critical reminder of our history, it can also symbolise the dramatic change in the world of publishing. Our knowledge is no longer limited to those books and texts physically available to us.

And just as this library now plays a different role in the world of Google, Wikipedia and online publishing, so do you.

Specific challenges and technology may have changed since the day of Redmond Barry, but the mission remains; to deliver high quality publishing to as many people as are willing and able to use them.

So it’s my great pleasure to be here tonight to represent the Commonwealth Government and the Hon Christopher Pyne, the Minister for Education, in celebration of the Education Publishing Awards Australia for 2014.

First, I would like to congratulate and acknowledge all those involved in the past 21 years of these awards and to congratulate all involved in the production of short listed entries: publishers, authors, editors, designers and other contributors.

When Mike Horsley and the Australian Publishers Association inaugurated the awards in 1993, the aim was to “promote innovative and leading edge educational publishing”.

You have delivered on that and done so in an era that has seen a dramatic increase in the rate of change for the publishing industry.

The short-listed entries highlight the innovation, quality and research publishers dedicate to developing the very best resources for Australian educators.

These awards recognise your efforts and remind us that the quality of educational materials in Australia is a real achievement of a flexible, responsive and innovative industry driven by skilled and creative professionals. It is not something to be taken for granted.

The range of categories and the diversity of the short listed entries illustrate an industry that is there to support the formal education system.

We are celebrating success tonight in a range of categories- primary and secondary schooling, TAFE and vocational education, and tertiary education – as well as the Primary and Secondary School Publisher of the Year.

These categories reflect what Penny Martin has described as “both the digital and print convergence and current open ended multipurpose nature of educational publishing”.[1]

The short-listed entries tonight include iPad apps, e-collections, and CourseApp modules as well as what I still favour, as the traditional form of ‘books’ – that is, printed on paper between two covers. It sounds off to require such a description, but that is a sign of the rapid change your industry is dealing with.

The contribution of authors, creators and publishers to effective and inspiring teaching in our classrooms isn’t always given the recognition it deserves.

For generations, teachers have relied on good textbooks and, as we heard earlier tonight, other curriculum resources to support their teaching in the classroom. Good support resources will always be needed.

The changing digital landscape and different expectations in younger generations about ‘free’ material online may present a challenge to educational publishers; but I know the industry is responding to this challenge.

The Australian educational publishing industry is a key educational institution.

Australian students need to access high quality print and digital learning resources that meet the needs of our education providers.

The importance of educational publishing was recognised by the 2011 Book Industry Strategy Group.

Its report[2] noted educational publishers’ considerable export success; the historical role of school textbook publishing in the development of an Australian publishing industry, and growth in the higher education sector, despite strong competition from the much larger players operating particularly in the US market.

We’re here tonight to celebrate the creativity and expertise of those who create educational content used in our classrooms around the country.

Appropriate recognition and remuneration for that contribution is of course an important concern. I know that there is much interest in copyright issues in your industry.

The Australian Government is considering its response to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report, Copyright in the Digital Economy.

Minister Christopher Pyne recognises the current anomalies in the Copyright Act require rectification.

He also recognises the need to protect the rights of artists, authors and other creators so that they receive appropriate remuneration for the use of their creative work.

As the Attorney General George Brandis told the Digital Alliance in February, even after dramatic changes in technology “the fundamental purpose of copyright remains unchanged – to ensure that those who take on risks of creation are appropriately rewarded for their abilities and efforts”.[3]

The development and maintenance of intellectual property rights which are, after all, legislative creation, must always seek to balance incentive for innovation and creation and the benefits they bring, with costs imposed.

We must also ensure that these interests are balanced at the lowest possible cost to consumers.

I’m excited tonight to get the chance to see firsthand some of the nation’s best educational publishers and see them receive the recognition they deserve.

It’s a pleasure to be here with you this evening and once again my warmest congratulations to not only the award winners, but also all the nominees.



[1] Penny Martin, The Australian Educational Publishing Awards: raising the benchmarks and extending the scope of Australian educational publishing (TEXT Special Issue 23. Textbooks and educational texts in the 21st century: writing, publishing and reading, eds Mike Horsley and Donna Lee Brien, October 2013)


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