The Children’s Book Council of Australia (Tasmanian Branch) Inc. conferred their latest Life Membership on Hugo McCann, on Sunday, 26 October 2014 at a convivial lunch event at a popular hotel in Battery Point.
Many of Hugo McCann’s ex-students, friends and former colleagues had pleasure in attending. The group included Rob Valentine, Tasmanian MLC, Angela Briant representing the CBCA National Board and Chris Topfer representing the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA), together with Charles Morgan, representing the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE). The event had a wonderfully warm, moving and celebratory atmosphere with immense good will towards the worthy recipient.
Hugo McCann was a member of CBCA (Tasmanian Branch) Inc. for at least ten years, in the period 1978-1990. Hugo acted as the Tasmanian Judge for the Book of the Year Awards for the two year term of office in the early 1980s.
From 1976 to 1994, Hugo initiated, developed and co-conducted the Literature for Children course in the B Ed. program at the TCAE and the University of Tasmania. Hugo designed and presented the Masters program – Literature for Children and Young People – from 1978-1994. A significant number of educators and longstanding members of CBCA experienced Hugo’s academic courses and many, many more enjoyed his lectures, seminars and workshops offered through CBCA and the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA) across Tasmania. Hugo was always challenging and developed in participants the capacity for informed critical commentary that they take into their continuing work for children and young people, in classrooms, libraries, consultancies and roles within CBCA and associated professional organisations.
When Tasmania took on the role of National Executive in 1989/1990, Hugo willingly accepted the considerable tasks associated with what was initially called ‘Judges’ Secretary’ – now ‘Awards Coordinator/s’. In those days, that officer received all books entered for the Awards, sorted, packaged and posted sets of books to the judges, collected all judges’ reports, circulated and collated them (photocopied and sent by post), helped to prepare the pre-judging Shortlists and supported the judging process. He then corresponded with publishers and the press and assisted with post-judging communications, including preparing the Judges’ Report for publication and associated media releases.
While these were tasks undertaken by each Awards Coordinator at the time, Hugo attended to the duties with assiduous dedication and he instigated processes which have left a lasting legacy for CBCA as a national organisation. For example, Hugo began the documentation of the awards processes that later became the Awards Handbook. He took a lead role in preparing the historical record of CBCA and account of its work and achievements that underpinned the successful application for CBCA’s first Corporate Sponsorship with the Myer Foundation.
Hugo exhibits extraordinary personal vision and a capacity to inspire others. His contribution to the understanding of Tasmanian educators about Australian Literature for Children and Young People cannot be over-estimated. Hugo inspired so many of us to promote ‘Aus Kids Lit’ and the objectives of CBCA through his passion, unique knowledge and leading edge grasp of the issues and many of us still ‘toil in the vineyard’ to that effect today as result of his mentoring.
Hugo’s deep knowledge of and commitment to the Children’s Book Council of Australia is exceptional. He has offered wise counsel and perceptive insights that have enabled CBCA to respond astutely to changing circumstances. As a member of the State and National Executive and before, Hugo has given service to the Council above and beyond the call of duty.