Information for Prospective Members

Message from the National Chair

This is surely one of the most challenging of eras to be engaged in educational leadership. Advances in digital technologies and brain-mind research are changing the way we think about learning and teaching; they are even changing the way we build learning environments and administer schools. Rapid social change is also having an impact on school communities and the pastoral care we offer to students.

In an environment where on any given day a school leader might experience themselves as novice, expert, mentor or pioneer – and possibly all at once – the support of one’s peers is invaluable. This is particularly so for the Head of an independent school who, as well as providing educational, cultural and organisational leadership, is called into a deeply personal relationship with his or her community. At the same time, the position of Head by its very nature brings with it an acute measure of personal isolation within that community.

It is for this reason that you will find collegial exchange with your peers in AHISA one of the greatest supports for the professional and personal demands of your leadership role. There will be no greater assistance to your success as a Principal than the professional and personal friendships you make through AHISA across all sections of the independent sector and in all States and Territories.

As a long-term AHISA member, I know from personal experience how inspiring it is to be with people who passionately value education and who are deeply committed to the welfare of the young people in their charge. I am also very grateful that by working together with my AHISA colleagues we are able to leverage our collective knowledge and wisdom for the benefit of those beyond our schools.

I encourage you to consider joining us, not just for what you will gain, but for what you have to give. In AHISA you will enjoy the privilege of contributing to and participating in a collective that aspires to excellence in leadership, and have the enormous pleasure of knowing that through membership of this collective you are making a difference to school education regionally, nationally and globally.

Dr Mark Merry

AHISA National Chair 2017-19
Principal, Yarra Valley Grammar School


AHISA in Action


AHISA is a professional association for Principals of Australian independent schools. It aims to maintain high standards of professional practice and conduct among its members by fostering a collegial and professional environment of mutual understanding, trust, respect and pastoral care to enhance the opportunities for the education and welfare of Australia’s young people.

To achieve its aims AHISA works both nationally and regionally through its six Branches across Australia to help Principals build excellence in school leadership through expert advice, shared wisdom and formal and informal professional networks and development opportunities. We also have a number of overseas members, mainly from New Zealand.

Professional Networks


Current and former members consistently report that the ‘best thing’ about AHISA is collegiality — the personal support and sage advice members give and receive from each other. This is backed up by the findings of our 2014 Member Satisfaction Survey.

Collegiality is developed and experienced in AHISA in several ways. Attendance at Branch meetings is first and foremost the best opportunity for getting to know other members and sharing expertise. Branches also organise annual retreats and other events to support collegiality and professional learning.

The national AHISA Biennial Conference is a major event, hosted in turn by the Branches, and brings together members from across Australia. The next Biennial Conference (September 2017) will be held in Queenstown, New Zealand.

The development of digital technologies has allowed AHISA to create effective national email networks for information exchange. The key network for members is HeadNet, through which members regularly ask for advice on any aspect of school leadership and school operations. Recent topics, for example, have covered the establishment of foundations, sharing of policy documents on use of social networking sites, recommended consultants for traffic flow into and out of schools, alumni programs for schools graduating Year 12 students for the first time, sharing of job descriptions for management staff, recommendations of staff moving interstate and requests

for emergency relief staff. An archive of information is also available in the members’ section of AHISA’s website which collates the most valuable HeadNet discussions.

While membership of AHISA is limited to the Principal, benefits extend well into the school. AHISA has also established email networks for other key areas of school leadership: ChairNet for Chairs of governing bodies; DepNet for Deputy Heads; MidNet for leaders of middle schools; PriNet for leaders of primary schools; and CareNet for staff involved in pastoral care.


Professional Learning

Collegial sharing of expertise at the time it is needed is an informal, yet highly effective, form of professional learning actively supported by AHISA. As well, AHISA hosts a range of conferences:

• The national Biennial Conference is AHISA’s main conference event. For members only, the conference attracts leading speakers to reflect on school leadership. Partners are very welcome to attend the social elements of the Conference.

• The New Members’ Conference is held annually over one weekend in Canberra, usually in May, and it helps build collegiality between beginning and established members as well as providing an opportunity to share professional experiences.

• The AHISA Leading, Learning and Caring Conference, held every second year, is the only national conference in Australia dedicated to the issues of school pastoral care, curriculum and school leadership. It explores issues specific to the developmental stages of students as well as those pertinent to school leadership teams and aspiring Heads through mini-keynote addresses and workshops.

• AHISA and ISCA have combined to host successful Education Forums in Canberra (2010, 2012, 2016) where the key educational and related political issues of the day are discussed. this format has proved particularly relevant prior to federal government elections.

• AHISA’s biannual journal Independence is also a source of expertise on school leadership issues and information on national issues affecting school leadership. The journal features best practice in members’ schools as well as contributions from members and their staff and leading thinkers and researchers on topical issues. (Previous issues of Independence may be viewed at

The National Office also issues regular e-bulletins of information useful to members, and publishes a national Bulletin three times a year with news of current and past members.

Professional Support


AHISA provides advice to members on employment contracts and is also able to assist Heads in their relationships with their schools. As well as making available draft contracts to guide members in their negotiations with school owners, AHISA has negotiated special rates for members with solicitors and other specialists, including counselling professionals, to help members should problems arise in the course of their employment.

Other key AHISA resources for members include the confidential remuneration benchmarking survey for members and Quality Leadership Profile for Schools (QLPS) online appraisal service.

The biennial AHISA Survey of Remuneration and Conditions provides members with current information about their remuneration and employment conditions.

Members also have the option of an additional service as part of the survey, which provides a comparison of their total remuneration package (TRP) with grouped data on the TRP of other members who are employed by schools with similar demographic characteristics. Grouping of data helps ensure the confidentiality and anonymity of survey responses.

The QLPS is an online 360-degree leadership appraisal tool developed with the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) and now through Voice Project (NSW) that enables leaders to develop their leadership and enhance their own performance and the performance of their areas of responsibility.

The QLPS is an affordable, easy to use, formative assessment tool that summarises self, peer, staff and supervisor perceptions of the individual’s leadership capacities and management behaviour against a five-point scale.

Results of the QLPS can be mapped against the National Professional Standard for Principals, ACEL’s Leadership Capability Framework and AHISA’s own Model of Autonomous School Principalship. A
comprehensive debrief of the report with AHISA’s Survey Administrators (past Heads) is a key part of the exercise, and it is typically held in informal one-hour plus conversations on the school site.

National and International Relationships


Through its National Office, AHISA develops and maintains close relationships with other Principals’ groups and education groups in Australia and overseas, including the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA).

With the other peak national principals’ associations – Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA), Catholic Secondary Principals Australia (CaSPA) and Australian Secondary Principals Association (ASPA).

AHISA has also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with APPA, CaSPA and ASPA to form the Principals Australia Council (PAC). This assists the associations to present a coherent and consistent approach to the Australian Government and other parties on a range of national schooling issues and enable Australian school principals to act together on the international stage.

AHISA is also a member of the governing council of the International Confederation of Principals (ICP). All AHISA members are members of the ICP through their membership of AHISA.

AHISA has a number of overseas members. In particular, AHISA works closely with its overseas members in New Zealand and in complementary fashion with their local organisations to provide the best possible assistance.

Engagement with the National Education Agenda


An important means by which AHISA supports the interests of Principals and students is through contribution to debate and policy developments affecting school education in Australia. Working groups of members track developments in key national education issues and help gather and analyse Member input.

AHISA seeks to promote educational values and represent the professional voice of independent school Principals.

AHISA consults regularly with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and the Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority (ACARA), and liaises with federal ministerial and departmental staff.

AHISA’s Biennial Report 2013-15 gives detailed coverage of AHISA’s recent work.

AHISA’s Organisational Structure


AHISA was formed in 1985 from the amalgamation of associations for Heads of independent boys’ and girls’ schools (HMC and AHIGSA). Today, members’ schools include single sex and coeducational day and boarding schools, and represent a wide range of religious and non-denominational affiliations and educational philosophies. Currently there are over 420 members, which is vested in the individual and not the school. AHISA is a national association with six state/territory branches. NSW and ACT members meet as one branch, as do SA and NT members.

Member participation operates at a regional level through the Branches and nationally through email and web-based networks. Members gather together nationally for the AHISA Biennial Conference which is rotated through the Branches.

AHISA is a company limited by guarantee. Its Board of Directors comprises Branch Chairs and elected members and is supported by national working groups and committees. All members vote for the National Chair, a position which revolves every two years.

AHISA is supported by a National Office based in Canberra led by the CEO who is responsible to the Board.

Financial Status


AHISA Ltd is a not-for-profit organisation. It complies with all legislative and regulatory requirements and is financially sound.

AHISA delivers the best possible value in services to members by seeking wherever possible to defray costs through appropriate partnerships and sponsorship. Thus many major events such as AHISA conferences and the publication and distribution of AHISA’s journal Independence are self-supporting enterprises.

AHISA’s Constitution and By-laws

AHISA’s national story 1985-2010 is set out in its Year 25 Commemorative Booklet 

Autonomous School Leadership


AHISA Ltd supports and promotes autonomous school leadership.

Recent international research has shown that effective school leadership plays a key role in improving school outcomes by influencing the motivations and capacities of teachers, as well as school climate and environment.

Other research has demonstrated that it is a synergy across all the school variables affecting student learning which has the largest impact on learning, and that school leaders are best positioned to create that synergy.

It is AHISA’s view that when principals have autonomy to build a culture of learning and to align the available human and material resources to support that culture, then students and teachers have the best opportunity to achieve and flourish.

AHISA has identified three forms of autonomy that principals need if they are to build successful schools:

Operational autonomy – the freedom to effectively implement the school’s shared vision within the strategic framework determined by the school’s governing body

Professional autonomy – the freedom to demonstrate and apply expertise to effectively lead and manage

Personal autonomy – the freedom to learn, grow and develop self as well as develop professional expertise.

Australian governments are expressing greater interest in school and principal autonomy as a means to drive school improvement. To inform education debate and policy deliberation AHISA has developed and published a model of autonomous school principalship.

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Revised 2017