History of the Australian Catholic Primary Principals’ Association

Following the formation of the Australian Primary Principals’ Association (APPA) in 1974 a number of principals of Catholic primary schools attended the annual APPA conference. APPA, at that time, was mainly focused on public education, both in its agenda and its personnel.

In 1979, the Victorian Parish Primary Schools’ Representative Council convened a half-day meeting in Melbourne for Catholic Primary School Principals immediately prior to the APPA Conference. The main agenda item was the widely differing processes, and terms of employment for principals in the various states, and within each state, the systems and religious order-owned schools.

This informal meeting was the catalyst for a more formal meeting which was arranged, again in Melbourne, for Catholic Principals enroute to the 1982 APPA Conference in Launceston, Tasmania. The major outcome from this meeting was a decision to meet prior to the 1983 APPA Conference in Sydney to decide if Catholic primary school principals would form an association. Sister Marlene Monahan, from Victoria, chaired this meeting. It was decided to form an association to be called the Australian Catholic Primary Principals’ Association (ACPPA) and the Queensland Catholic Primary Principals’ Association was asked to organise the first ACPPA Conference in Brisbane eleven months later.

“ACPPA currently represents Catholic Primary Principals and Leaders from over 1220 primary schools and 150 combined primary/secondary schools, who educate more than 400,000 primary students.”

This resulted in the Inaugural Australian Catholic Primary Principals’ Conference being held at Marist College Ashgrove 27-29 June 1984. It was attended by 109 principals representing each state and territory. The ACPPA name was formally adopted, the Constitution presented and accepted and the ACPPA badge approved. Frank Hennessy was elected the inaugural president.

ACPPA’s original aims, as detailed in the Constitution, were visionary, but action to implement some of the national ideals was limited for a number of reasons. One reason being the fact that the Executive comprised only members from the state or territory hosting the annual conference and the fact that only one meeting of the association a year was possible. What was most successful was the Annual Conference, which brought together increasingly larger numbers of Catholic primary school principals and which had a professional development focus firmly fixed on the religious dimension and responsibility of Catholic schooling.

From 1984 until 1992 each state and territory hosted at least one ACPPA Conference. These conferences were held prior to the APPA Conferences. In 1993 it was decided to combine the ACPPA conference with the APPA conference. In many ways this was a sound move, although the very Catholic content of the previous conferences was no longer possible. At the same time, ACPPA went through a major restructure which brought into play an elected secretariat no longer tied to the conference roster and an Executive comprising one representative from each state and territory association.

Following the finalisation of a revision of our constitution in 2013, the Association focused on the development and implementation of organisational structures and a financial model that would support the advocacy and representative work undertaken by the Association. This included meeting as a National Executive Council that included two members from every state and territory association, one of whom also represents their State Catholic Primary Principals’ Association on APPA. Key purposes of this change were to promote more diverse dialogue and experiences, to support ongoing transition of roles and maintenance of corporate knowledge and partnerships, and support the sharing of a genuine ACPPA voice when engaging with other peak organisations and advocacy work.

In 2016, after a long period of consultation, the ACPPA National Executive Council made the decision to strengthen and broaden our footprint with a new governance model. This model included the role of Executive Officer. This now means that in addition to a President and 16 State and Territory representatives, we also have an Operations Manager and Executive Officer as part of the Management Team, who now have greater capacity to deliver on our strategic plan. Over the last 6 months, we have been working to create a new model which will allow ACPPA to deepen and strengthen its role nationally and become a more dynamic and relevant association for all its members.

ACPPA represents Catholic Primary Principals and Leaders from over 1220 primary schools and 150 combined primary/secondary schools, who educate more than 400,000 primary students. This represents 20% of primary aged children in Australia.