AGM - Chair's Report

Chair's Annual Report 2019-2020 - Harry Galatis

One of the most pleasing aspects of taking on the role of VAPS Chair in March 2019 has been the opportunity to work closely with many of you on a range of projects, training days and initiatives, and I think it important to individually acknowledge and thank the many people who have stepped up to ensure that VAPS has continued to thrive. This has been especially important because 2018-2019 has seen some longstanding contributors, including Bonnie and Tristan, scale back their involvement to look after their young families.  And its great to see them here.

I won’t go through our all our events chronologically or list everyone individually, because we’ll be here all day. Instead I want to mention just a few of things that are worth noting and are particularly memorable. 

I’ll start by thanking Janette Poulton, who has continued to be a leading figure in VAPS, representing us at FAPSA and stepping up to assist FAPSA when its Executive Committee unexpectedly dissolved. Janette has continued to develop, coordinate and deliver many of our events and I’ve seen her do this most recently in our soon to be submitted application for the Department’s  Victorian Challenge and Enrichment Series funding opportunity which if successful will see us broaden our reach considerably and to include high achieving students, who are often forgotten. Her collaboration with the NGV, Museums Victoria, and other educational providers has continued and I look forward to working with Janette in our upcoming teacher professional development days at the NGV. 


I’d like to thank Jill Howes who has acted as Deputy Chair this year and has again leant us Brunswick East PS for us to facilitate Community of Inquiry training. 


I’d especially like to thank my right hand (wo)man for stepping up to the plate and serving as Secretary on top of all the additional work she is doing at MGSE and of course her travels.


It was fantastic to see Bonnie and Kristy at the VCE Philosophy Day Forums assisting at the front end. The two days I thought were well attended and I’m looking forward to seeing them grow. I appreciate Bonnie and Kristy who voluntary given up their time on these weekends to ensure than everything ran smoothly. I have had nothing but encouragement from MGSE, who have permitted us to use their learning spaces for free.


Ben Kilby, has probably had the most difficult of jobs in ensuring that our funding flows have remained transparent and that we have not left VAPS in a worse state that what we inherited. 


Ben and I ran the PIPS (Philosophy in Public Spaces) at the Immigration Museum which I think went well. We didn’t kill or lose anyone which is always good. But, in all seriousness, I am confident that that people like Ben Kilby and Kristy and Bonnie will be able to lead these initiatives and others like them into the future. 


I’d like to thank Daniel Nguyen who has been a frequent attendee and contributor to the VAPS since coming on board. He has guided all of us on the issue of the Website (along with Ben Kilby) which I’m going to strategically handball to the incoming Committee to oversee the maintenance of the new website and creation and subsequent development of a communication strategy. This will ensure increased visibility and registration. We currently remain steady with 179 members. Daniel also accompanied Janette and to the many provisional meetings we had with a variety of different stakeholders in regards to the initiative to introduce Philosophical Inquiry opportunities to disengaged youth. While the initiative, with Rob Wilson’s move to Western Australia, has stalled, it was a fantastic opportunity to network with key stakeholders, and if it is to proceed it will need to be approached very carefully because of the vulnerabilities of the children whose learning interests and educational engagement we are wanting to address. 


I’d also want to commend Ben Reeves who took carriage of the Secondary Philosothon last year which I think was the pinnacle event for 2019. No one could believe that he landed A. C. Grayling. So well done to you and the amazing effort that Wesley College did in running the event. It certainly made headlines, MGSE was very envious and the dinner that was laid out for everyone has certainly set the standard. So its all the way down from here.


You all may be aware that VAPS will no longer be hosting the Philosothons for a range of reasons. There was unanimous agreement by VAPS that the competitive element does not quite cohere with VAPS pedagogical philosophy. Lack of agreement between various parties at the FAPSA Level has also resulted in FAPSA no longer taking carriage of it. Matthew Wills will now be coordinating the Philosothons in Victoria and elsewhere, and on behalf of VAPS I’d like to wish Matthew every success. While the Philosothons will add another event on the Victorian Philosophy calendar,  I definitely think that this is a good thing. If VAPS members happen to be approached to assist Matthew, then as the outgoing VAPS Chair, I think that is a worthwhile thing to do and VAPS is supportive of that.


Our decision to part ways with the Philosothons now leaves us with the freedom to pursue new evidence-based initiatives, and if there was one wish I would like to see fulfilled, it is that VAPS turn its attention and considerable clout and high standing in the sector to providing professional development and training to the teaching profession, (Primary and Early Years, Secondary, as well as Tertiary).


So what has Harry contributed to VAPS this year I hear you ask? 


Well one of the items we as an AGM need to do is to vote for the amendment to the Constitution to include reference to our Child Protection Policy and Process. It has taken considerable time crafting these documents and I want to thank Jill, Janette, and Marilyn who have given up their time to be part of the working group to ensure that we have something sufficiently robust to protect children which, I’m proposing ought be our first order of business at every VAPS Committee Meeting henceforth. I would encourage you all to vote ‘Yes’ as having a Child Protection Policy in place, in addition to being the ethical and prudential thing to do, will greatly reduce our insurance costs. One will notice too that in order to fulfil our professional duty of care, all VAPS members and office bearers must have either a current Working With Children Check or be a Registered VIT holder.


I have also completed the online application to register our organisation with The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission as a Charity, which if approved, will entitle VAPS to particular tax concessions, donations that can be tax-deductible, etc.


VAPS-styled Communities of Inquiry (now called Philosophy in Public Spaces) will now replace Philosothons and I’m pleased to say that Selena Prior’s employment into this role, VAPS will be extending its reach to regional centres.


To conclude, I want to finally, mention two final matters:


I think it is vitally important, if we are to remain relevant that we continue to apply for and attract grants and that we continue to publish our contributions. Well done to Ben Kilby for radio interview, his recent Conversation Contribution, to Kristy Foster for her EPAT articles and to Bonnie who has likewise published this year. We need to celebrate these successes far more than what we have in the past.

The second and final thing I’d like to leave you all with,  is that I have the highest admiration for those of you working in the teaching profession and selflessly contributing your time to VAPS, despite your busy schedules; promoting Philosophy as a way of thinking and as a discipline in schools. The pedagogical and personal knowledge on how best to impact students and to do so while not causing harm is sometimes forgotten but fundamentally important and on a par with what Philosophers bring. This has become apparent to me this year more so than in previous years and I certainly wouldn’t have discovered this if I had not accepted to role of Chair. 


Harry Galatis