No words can better describe the focus and energy of the 2017 VATE State Conference than the wonderfully descriptive Conference theme written by VATE Life member Margaret Saltau and the 2017 State Conference Planning Committee. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the theme and focus of this year’s Conference generated some attention and interesting discussion in the media, some elements of which questioned the need for English teachers to engage in social justice and political issues and, instead, called for English teachers to ‘return to basics’—teaching students ‘how to read and write’. The range of articles in this State Conference edition of Idiom, a snapshot of the many diverse sessions on offer at the Conference, clearly demonstrates the complexity, and the richness, of the role of English teacher in the classroom today. Conference delegates, who gathered at a newly renovated and refurbished Deakin University in Burwood on Thursday 30 November and Friday 1 December 2017, attended a wide variety of sessions. Some of these focused, indeed, on the ‘basics’— reading, writing and grammar. Others engaged delegates in a discussion of the wider social context and contemporary issues that challenge English educators, and that clearly influence the types of conversations going on in English classrooms as teachers and students explore the world through texts and language. VATE was particularly fortunate to have as keynote speakers, Gillian Triggs, former President of the Human Rights Commission, and Shen Narayanasamy, Human Rights Campaign Director at GetUp! Their passion and commitment to their work and values was indeed inspiring. Thanks to all the presenters at the 2017 VATE State Conference for sharing their insights and expertise but particular thanks to those who have taken the time to write for this edition of Idiom, and share the experience of the 2017 VATE Conference with all VATE members.
Contributing and Managing editor