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Our History

Standards are an invaluable resource. Globally there are well over half a million published standards from over 1,000 recognised standards development organisations.

A brief history of standards

Standards have been around a long time. There is evidence of standards being used 7,000 years ago by the civilisations of Babylon and ancient Egypt.

Standards started as a benchmark for weights and measures. They provided a single reference point against which all other weights and measures in that society could be standardised. As societies evolved, the need for mutually-agreed standards grew too. With the development of trade and commerce, standards extended into agriculture, ships, buildings and weapons.

A uniform set of criteria evolves

Initially, standards were unique documents and part of a single contract between the supplier and purchaser. Later, the same standard could be used across a range of transactions. This uniform set of criteria, using common knowledge, requirements and needs, is the basis of modern standardisation.

After the Industrial Revolution

After the rapid industrialisation of the early nineteenth century, the lack of national standardisation caused huge inefficiencies. Proof of this lack of conformity is still apparent today, for example, in the number of different railway gauges that exist.

After the Industrial Revolution, occupational injury became a major issue for many workers. By the late 1870s, workplace explosions were causing more than 50,000 fatalities each year. In response to this, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), one of the first voluntary standardising bodies, was established in 1880.

Standards in contemporary society

By the end of the nineteenth century, the value of standardisation was recognised as a national priority. From then on, standardisation started to flourish and is now intrinsic to modern society. From its industrial roots it now includes consumer safety, occupational health, energy management and more – all with the purpose of improving the quality and comfort of everyday life.

Company History

  • 1922Standards Australia, originally called the Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association, was founded. Main Committee of the Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association had been gazetted in 1922.
  • 1925 Australia joins the International Electro-technical Commission [IEC] with the Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association as its representative.
  • 1929 Renamed the Standards Association of Australia (SAA) to recognise wider role in society.
  • 1947 The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is established with SAA as founding member.
  • 1950 SAA receives a Royal Charter to develop Standards in the national interest.
  • 1951 SAA incorporated under a Royal Charter.
  • 1973 SAA becomes an inaugural member of the Pacific Area Standards Congress [PASC].
  • 1988 SAA drops 'Association' from name and becomes Standards Australia. Signs a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Government which recognises Standards Australia as the peak non-…government Standards development organisation.
  • 1990 Standards Australia establishes a wholly owned subsidiary business, Quality Assurance Services Pty Ltd (QAS).
  • 1991 Standards Australia acquires the Industrial Design Council of Australia (IDCA) and its Australian Design Awards (ADA) program.
  • 1997 Standards Australia launches new application and assessment process for the Australian Design Award, making it one of the first on-line design award programs in the world.
  • 1998 Standards Australia is one of the first national Standards bodies to develop an Internet delivery system for its Standards and technical publications. ADA becomes Australia's promotional member of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID).
  • 1999 Standards Australia changes its name to Standards Australia International Limited (SAI Limited) and becomes incorporated as an Australian public company limited by guarantee.
  • 2001 Standards Australia moves its headquarters to Sussex Street in Sydney's CBD.
  • 2002 Standards Australia acquires parts of the former Australian Quality Council [AQC] including the Australian Business Excellence Awards program. Standards Australia signs revised memorandum of understanding with the Commonwealth Government.
  • 2003 Standards Australia sells its commercial assurance business and grants an exclusive license to publish and distribute Australian Standard® brand standards for an initial term of 15 years to SAI Global Limited, a newly founded company that is floated on the Australian Stock Exchange.
  • 2007 Standards Australia moves its headquarters to Bridge Street in the Exchange Centre. Australian Design Awards opens its entry criteria to include all professionally designed products on the Australian market and changes its name to the Australian International Design Awards (AIDA).
  • 2019 Standards Australia’s exclusive distribution arrangement with SAI Global, that had been in place since 2003, ends. Standards Australia continues to work with SAI Global as a non-exclusive distribution partner.
  • 2022 Standards Australia celebrated its centenary year, marking 100 years of driving innovation, 100 years of empowering imagination and 100 years of keeping Australians safe.

Our Centenary

In 2022, to mark Standards Australia’s centenary, the organisation created a souvenir book which captures key moments in its important story.The book acknowledges the organisation's heart and soul – its contributors – who generously give their time, knowledge and expertise to make a safer, more efficient Australia.During 2022, significant contributors were honoured on our standards heroes page.

History of our Executives

Chair of the Board
  • 1922 to 1926 Sir George Knibbs
  • 1926 to 1939 Sir George Julius
  • 1939 to 1948 Alex Gibson
  • 1948 to 1956 Thomas Upton
  • 1956 to 1958 Sir John Tivey
  • 1958 to 1965 George Hutcheson
  • 1966 to 1980 Frank Matthews
  • 1981 to 1988 Robert Mitchell
  • 1988 to 1994 James Davidson
  • 1994 to 2001 Don Gray
  • 2001 to 2003 George Edwards
  • 2004 to 2010 John Castles
  • 2010 to 2014 Alan Morrison
  • 2014 to 2020 Richard Brooks
  • 2020 to present Tracey Gramlick
Chief Executive Officer
  • 1924 to 1953 William Hebblewhite
  • 1953 to 1974 Allan Stewart
  • 1974 to 1979 William Ian Stewart
  • 1979 to 1988 John Paton
  • 1988 to 1996 Stewart Horwood
  • 1996 to 2003 Ross Wraight
  • 2004 to 2009 John Tucker
  • 2010 to 2013 Colin Blair
  • 2013 to 2019 Bronwyn Evans
  • 2019 to 2024 Adrian O’Connell
  • 2024 to present Emma Harrington