Life Membership of PETAA

Primary English Teaching Association Australia Life membership was established in 1995. Life membership is awarded by the Board of Directors to a member in recognition of their outstanding service to the Association, to English literacy teaching in Australia, and to the education profession. The enhancement of the standing of PETAA within the English and literacy community, the publication of articles, participation in research and presentations on or with PETAA are also seen as attributes for gaining PETAA Life Membership.

Current life members


Robyn Cox

Robyn Cox
Life member since 2021

Robyn joined the PETAA board in 2011 and is a past president of PETAA, a position that she held for 6 years, from 2014 -2020. Her PhD was completed at James Cook University in Queensland where she investigated knowledge about language from the perspectives of system and pedagogy – linguistic know-how and pedagogic know-how. Subsequent topics for her scholarship include multilingualism in Australian schools, oral language development, early literacy, creative writing, reading policy, teacher education and higher education change. Her most recent book soon to be published by the Australian Council of Educational Research looks at high impact literacy practices.   

During her presidency, Robyn led publication of The Alphabetic Principle and Beyond. This landmark book was shortlisted in the Educational Publishing Awards Australia, 2019. Robyn broke new ground for the association by founding the PETAA Research Grant, which fosters classroom-based research into issues of concern to the profession. She also initiated PETAA's Climate Change Education program of activity, which has led to further publications and ongoing work with schools, university-based scientists, technologists and literacy experts, as well as a critical partnership between PETAA and ASTA, the Australian Science Teachers' Association. She stewarded the implementation of PETAA's online professional learning program, which revolutionised the way PETAA supports educators across Australia. She also presided over PETAA’s 40th birthday year, worked hard to build up PETAA’s profile and reputation  in mainstream and social media, and was president in a significant time of change with the implementation of the Australian curriculum.

Her contribution extends beyond PETAA to the field of English literacy teaching. She has been involved in the preparation of teachers of English and literacy at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, the University of Worcester UK, the Australian Catholic University, and now at the University of New England where she is currently Head of Department, Curriculum in the School of Education. In 2021, Robyn’s contribution to and expertise in curriculum was recognised in her appointment as Chair of the UNE Teaching and Learning committee and Deputy Chair of the Academic Board – both significant positions that reflect her standing in the education community.  In addition, she is the Bishop’s appointee to the Armidale Catholic Schools Council. 

She champions the needs of rural students and the sustainability of their communities through her membership of Cool Futures and through her membership of the Climate Change Education special interest group at the University of Wollongong. All the while, she has maintained an admirable publication record of more than 20 international referred journal articles, 8 book chapters and five academic books focussed on the pillars of English: language, literacy and literature. Robyn’s track record is indicative of the breadth as well as depth of her academic work, and we are thankful for her tireless efforts and support.

Margery Hertzberg

Margery Hertzberg
Life member since 2018

Dr Margery Herzberg is a highly respected and dedicated PETAA Member. Her commitment to PETAA and in particular PETAA publications began in 1984 when she was a Primary School teacher. She has been awarded a PETAA Life Membership in recognition of her extremely important contribution in guaranteeing the continuing success of PETAA. Margery was a Director on the PETAA (then PETA) Board from 2003 to 2010, being President from 2006 – 2010. During her time as President, significant financial challenges required overseeing the consolidation of PETAA’s operations. As President she oversaw the successful transition to a new model of governance, improvements to membership benefits, website construction and a greater national focus for professional development.

Margery’s teaching experience ranges from Early Childhood to tertiary education. Her current position is Honorary Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney. Margery has been the recipient of numerous academic awards throughout her career, notably the Dean’s List of Scholars award: Master of Education (Pass) with Merit, University of Sydney; Miller-Simpson Memorial Prize for Most Outstanding Academic Record, Bachelor of Education (Primary), Sydney College of Advanced Education; Award for Most Distinguished Academic Record Bachelor of Education (Primary), Sydney College of Advanced Education; Award for Most Distinguished Academic Record, Diploma of Teaching (Primary), Sydney Teachers College; and Award for Most Distinguished Practicum Record, Diploma of Teaching (Primary), Sydney Teachers College.

Her first teaching appointment was at Marrickville Public School in Sydney and is where her interest and research in EAL pedagogy began. As a lecturer at Western Sydney University, Margery’s research focus examined the role of process drama in enhancing language and literacy development for EAL learners. Margery has an ongoing commitment to working with and mentoring teachers. She is especially committed to working with students from socio-economically disadvantaged communities.

In addition to her work over many years to maintain PETAA’s esteemed reputation as a publisher, Margery has also written numerous chapters for PETAA publications and is the author of the highly successful PETAA publication Teaching English Language learners in mainstream classes. She is a sought-after PETAA professional learning presenter and has regularly been invited to contribute to state and national policy, curriculum and syllabus development. More recent publications indicate her on-going interest in the importance of oral language and drama in the learning of English language. Margery’s most recent work for PETAA is a chapter in the award-winning publication The Alphabetic Principle. In addition to her work in schools and universities, Margery volunteers with the organisation Sailability where children with physical and/or developmental challenges learn to sail.

Dr Lorraine McDonald

Lorraine McDonald
Life member since 2017

Dr Lorraine McDonald is a highly esteemed PETAA Member to be awarded a PETAA Life Membership. Lorraine was a Director on the PETAA (PETA then) Board from 1990 – 1993, being President from 1992 – 1993. During her time as President, Lorraine was an energetic and diligent President, overseeing the consolidation of PETAA’s committee structure while making notable contributions to the individual committees. She is the author of the highly successful PETAA publication A Literature Companion for Teachers and has contributed to the multi-modal and literary teaching learning experiences within the Global Words online resource as a content editor and has been a contributor to Reading Australia.

Dr Lorraine McDonald is currently Honorary Fellow, School of Education, Australian Catholic University (ACU), Sydney. Lorraine, a former classroom teacher, has taught pre- and postgraduate teachers in Literacy Education, Linguistics, ESL and Literature for Children and Young Adults. She is a regular presenter at international conferences and currently is teaching at ACU and the University of New England, NSW. When not teaching or presenting engaging and innovative workshops and addresses for PETAA, Lorraine indulges in her other love — travelling.

Peter Freebody

Peter Freebody
Life member since 2014

Peter Freebody is an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney and The University of Wollongong, and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Previous positions include Professorial Research Fellow at The University of Sydney, and professorial positions at University of Queensland and Griffith University. Peter was also foundation Deputy Dean Research at the Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice, National Institute of Education, Singapore.

Peter’s initial studies were at The University of Sydney, where he was awarded 1st Class Honours in Education, and the University of Illinois, Division of Learning and Instruction, Center for the Study of Reading, where he completed a PhD in the area of reading comprehension. He completed a teaching qualification at Sydney Teachers’ College and taught high-school English and French.

Over the last 25 years Peter has secured 15 ARC grants, most as lead investigator, and as many competitive grants from state and Commonwealth bodies for his research in the areas of literacy education, educational disadvantage, and classroom interaction. He has contributed publications from these projects in many international outlets, in book form and in refereed journals, edited anthologies, professional handbooks, and academic encyclopedias. He is on the editorial review boards of several national and international journals including The Reading Research Quarterly, The Journal of Literacy Research, and The British Journal of Educational Technology. He has served on Australian state and national advisory groups in the areas of literacy education and curriculum design. He was lead evaluator of the national online curriculum developed by the Australian Government’s Learning Federation, and lead writer of the framework (“Shape Paper”) for the first national Australian English curriculum.

Along with Peter’s involvement in research and policy advice, he has given many presentations and workshops to primary and secondary school teachers, educational bureaucrats, and curriculum development authorities. These have included workshops for teachers, teacher educators, and researchers, extended symposium programs, and keynote addresses in Australia and numerous international settings.

In 2013 Peter received the Citation of Merit for Research from the Australian Literacy Education Association, and in 2014 the International Reading/Literacy Association’s W.S. Gray Citation for lifelong contribution to literacy education. He is a member of that Association’s Literacy Research Panel. ​

Brian Cambourne

Brian Cambourne, AM
Life member since 2013

Dr. Brian Cambourne, associate professor, is currently a Principal Fellow at the University of Wollongong in NSW. He started his teaching career in NSW in 1956 and spent the next nine years working in a variety of small, mostly one-teacher primary schools before entering academic life. He has since become one of Australian’s most eminent researchers of literacy and learning. He completed his PhD at James cook University before becoming a post-doctoral Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; a Fulbright Scholar; Research Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Reading at the University of Illinois and Research Fellow at the Learning Centre at Tucson.

Returning to Australia and the University of Wollongong, Brian devoted his research to literacy learning and teaching. His major interest is in professional development for literacy education and he is committed to the idea of co-learning and co-researching with teachers. His ‘Seven condition of learning’ revolutionised the teaching of literacy in classrooms and remains current today. His national and international scholarship has earned him many prestigious awards, including being inducted into the International Reading Association’s Reading Hall of Fame, and the Outstanding Educational Achievement Award by the Australian College of Educators. Both awards recognize his long-term outstanding contribution over many years to education.

Brian now lives in a small seaside village 100kms south of Wollongong not far from the Shoalhaven Campus of the University Of Wollongong.

Beverly Derewianka

Beverly Derewianka
Life member since 2012

Beverly began her teaching career at Petersham Girls High as an English/History teacher. After a year or so, she headed off to Italy to do research for a Masters degree in Italian literature, returning to Australia a couple of years later to teach Italian and English in secondary schools and TAFE. Her political activism began with organizing rallies in support of the the fledgling movement to recognise community languages in schools and becoming the first consultant on community languages at the NSW Department of Education while undertaking a degree in multicultural education at the University of New England.

On moving to Wollongong, she took up a position at Warrawong Primary as a community language and ESL teacher. During that period, she completed a Master of Education and was fortunate enough to have Michael Halliday and Jim Martin among her lecturers who inspired in her an appreciation of the powerful role of language in education, particularly for those students whose background had not prepared them for the specialised registers of schooling. On becoming a lecturer at the University of Wollongong, she worked with Jan Turbill, who suggested she write a book for PETAA – Exploring How Texts Work – drawing on insights from the Write it Right project in Sydney around the notion of genres in the curriculum. With that publication began a research career of working with teachers in schools, coming to an understanding of the learning challenges facing students and how a knowledge about language from a functional perspective might support them in achieving educational success.

As Beverly worked with teachers, she observed the need for a resource explaining in accessible terms the various functions that language performs in our academic and social lives, resulting in another PETAA publication: A Grammar Companion for Primary Teachers. Her doctoral thesis tracked the development of academic writing across the years of schooling, leading to an ARC project with Frances Christie that culminated in the publication of School Discourse: Learning to write across the years of schooling.

Over the years, Beverly has had the privilege of contributing to state, national and international curriculum and syllabus development, and as she eases into retirement, she spends a great deal of her time introducing teachers to the Language strand of the Australian Curriculum: English through workshops organized by PETAA across all states and territories of Australia.

Barbara Comber

Barbara Comber
Life member since 2007

Barbara Comber has been at the forefront of national and international educational leadership for many years contributing to the collective knowledge of the education community through teaching, research, publishing and the professional development of teachers.

The quality and importance of her research into literacy, critical literacy and educational disadvantage has been acknowledged through the presentation of prestigious awards including the Australian Association for Educational Research Doctoral Thesis Award 1997 and the Australian Literacy Educators Association, Inaugural Research Award in 1999.

As Chief Investigator, Research Director or Co-Researcher, Barbara has initiated and participated in numerous research projects that have contributed to the advancement of knowledge in the area of language and literacy education. From 2004 to 2007 the Primary English Teaching Association worked alongside Barbara in the ARC research project Literacy and the environment: A situated study of multimedia literacy, sustainability, local knowledge and educational change.

This research project sought to extend the Primary English Teaching Association’s innovative Special Forever, an environmental communications project. The research analysed the Special Forever archive, and documented school-based environmental projects through writing, the arts and contemporary multi-media.

Barbara has co-edited three books for the Association that document the outcomes of significant teacher research: Look Again: longitudinal studies of children’s literacy learning (2003), Turnaround Pedagogies: Literacy interventions for At-risk Students (2005) and Literacies in Place: teaching environmental communications (2007).

Barbara is on the editorial boards for the Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, Literacy, Reading Research Quarterly, Research in the Teaching of English, the Australian Educational Researcher (from 2001), English teaching practice & Critique, and the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. From 2008-2010 she was a member of the Australian Research Council’s College of Experts.

Barbara has presented keynote and plenary addresses at major international professional and research conferences and regularly contributes to community discussions about literacy. She has an ongoing commitment to working with teachers to design creative, critical and enabling literacy curriculum, particularly in low socioeconomic and culturally diverse communities.

Robyn Ewing

Robyn Ewing AM
Life member since 2006

Robyn has valued her membership of PETAA since her student days. She has been a PETAA author and professional learning presenter as well as a board member and finally President from 2001-2006. During her time as President Robyn was keen to work in close partnership with all members of the profession and especially advocate for educators in schools. PETAA also contributed to state and national fora, reviews and debates; reestablished their Life Member awards and used the Living Literacies Dinners to connect and celebrate with PETAA members. Her contributions to the PETAA publishing program included: two editions of Beyond the Script (with Jennifer Simons);  Beyond the Reading Wars (editor); What is a functional model of language? (PEN) and chapters in Taking a Closer Look at Literature Based Reading and Talking to Learn.

Initially a primary teacher, Robyn Ewing AM joined the then Faculty of Education at the University of Sydney in 1989 and is currently Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts and Interim ProDean, Faculty of Education and Social Work. She lectures in Curriculum, English, Literacy and Drama across pre-service and postgraduate teacher education programs and is passionate about the role that the Arts can and should play in transforming learning. She has a commitment to innovative teaching and learning at all levels of education and particularly enjoys working alongside other educators interested in reforming their curriculum practices.

Robyn’s teaching, research and extensive publications include a focus on the use of drama strategies with literature to enhance students’ English and literacy learning. Teacher education, especially the experiences of early career teachers and the role of mentoring, sustaining curriculum innovation and evaluation, inquiry & case based learning and the use of arts informed, particularly narrative, inquiry in educational research are also current research interests.  She has worked teachers in classrooms as a mentor since 1995 and is also working in partnership with Sydney Theatre Company on the School Drama program, a professional learning program to develop primary teachers’ expertise and confidence in the use of educational drama with literature.  She has written about curriculum and assessment; action learning as well as the importance of the Arts, including the literary arts, and creativity in the lives of children.

She is currently National President of the Australian Literacy Educators Association, Vice President of the Sydney Story Factory Board and a Council Member of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

Robyn is a recipient of a NSW Minister’s/Australian College of Educators Quality Teaching Award (2002), the University of Sydney’s Excellence in Teaching Award (1999), the Director-General’s Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education (1995), the Faculty of Education and Social Work’s Teaching Excellence Award (2004), the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Research Higher Degree Supervision (2007) and the Lady Cutler Award for distinguished service to children’s literature (2012). She was made a Fellow of the Australian College of Education in 2013 and a Member of the Order of Australia in 2015.

Jan Turbill

Jan Turbill
Life member since 2004

Jan Turbill has been a member of the Primary English Teaching Association since 1973. She was a Council member from 1978 until incorporation of the association in 1982. First on the Council and later on the Board of PETA, Jan has held the positions of: Minutes Secretary, Public Officer and Vice-President, the last held from 1982 to her retirement from the Board in 1989.

During Jan's time with the Primary English Teaching Association the membership reached approximately 18,000 in 1989. Growth in membership at the Primary English Teaching Association reflected the profession-led revolution that was taking place in Australian primary classrooms and the Primary English Teaching Association was at the forefront of these changes. Entrepreneurial leadership resulted in the Primary English Teaching Association becoming one of the most successful professional teaching Associations in Australia.

Jan also made an enormous contribution to the Primary English Teaching Association’s success as an author and co-author of best-selling publications such as No Better Way to Teach Writing (1982), Now We Want to Write (1983); Towards a Reading and Writing Classroom (1984); and Coping with Chaos (1987).

Jan is now a global educator providing leadership both inside and outside Australia. Her research into professional learning of teachers frames the design of teacher professional development nationally and internationally. Her keynote presentations at international conferences in the USA, UK, New Zealand and Singapore challenge participants. Her membership of various international editorial boards ensures that teachers remain informed of the latest research.

Jan is currently a Senior Fellow in the Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, recently stepping down from eight years as President of the Australian Literacy Educators' Association. Jan's contribution to language and literacy education over many decades was recognised in 2009 when she was inducted into the International Reading Hall of Fame.

Vivienne Nicoll-Hatton

Vivienne Nicoll-Hatton
Life member since 2004

Vivienne's passionate commitment to the Primary English Teaching Association commenced when she joined the Primary English Teaching Association Council in 1978. She served as a councillor until incorporation of the association in 1982 when she joined the Board of the newly incorporated Primary English Teaching Association as Vice-President and then as President from 1984 to 1988.

Within two years of her retirement from the Board, Viv was back working for Primary English Teaching Association as the Acquisitions Editor, a role she held for eight years. In 1998, she resigned from the Primary English Teaching Association to return to the primary classroom to teach language and literacy to primary aged students.

There are many legacies of Viv's time at the Primary English Teaching Association, in particular the environmental communications project, Special Forever. As education consultant and manager of the project when it commenced in 1993, Viv ensured that it was built on a foundation of best-practice teaching and learning. As a consequence, the project was the largest and longest running environmental education program in Australia. It also served as a model for similar projects in the UK and USA.

Other contributions she made to the Primary English Teaching Association are the publications that she both acquired and wrote for the association, including Taking a Closer Look at Literature Based Programs (1993), and May I See Your Program Please? (1996).

From 1999 until 2010 Viv held part-time positions as a teacher-librarian in two small inner-western Sydney systemic Catholic schools, where she enjoyed meeting children's reading interests and teachers' resource needs, as well as developing her skills with new educational technologies. She is now moving into retirement but intends to return at her own pace to writing for teachers.

Mandy Tunica

Mandy Tunica
Life member since 2003

Mandy has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to education and to the Primary English Teaching Association. She was a teacher, lecturer, consultant, inspector and cluster director.

Within the context of the Primary English Teaching Association, she was a member of the Board, Vice President, consultant to the Board and the first Professional Development Officer. In these capacities, she also represented the Primary English Teaching Association on the Joint Council of NSW Professional Teachers Associations Board, the Australian Literacy Federation and the National Education Forum.

In 1993, Mandy organised the first National Conference of the Primary English Teaching Association, Practically Primary – a national conference focusing on language in primary education, which was held at University of Sydney in January 1994. Mandy also organised the Primary English Teaching Association Poetry Festival in 1996. This passion for poetry was shared with all Association members in her aptly titled book, For the Love of Poetry, published in 1995.

Mandy remains dedicated to the Association and continues to engender passion and commitment in teachers of the future.

Previous life members

PETAA honours the memory of six extraordinary individuals whose many lifetime achievements included the accolade of PETAA Life Membership.

  • John Vaughan, 1995 – 2010
  • Barry Dwyer, 2003 – 2009
  • Pat Edwards, 2005 – 2013
  • Maurice Saxby, 2005 – 2014
  • Paul Brock, 2005 – 2016
  • Richard Parker, 2006 – 2013