Barbara Kerlen is a national leader in quality assurance and compliance. She’s worked with Standards Australia since 2014 as a championing voice for the consumer. In 2020, Ms. Kerlen was awarded the W.R. Hebblewhite Medal from Standards Australia for her dedication and work.
Born in Germany, Ms Kerlen began her career studying fashion design which led to many roles in high fashion manufacturing. Her career took her to Hong Kong, China and eventually Australia in 2006.
She encountered standards in her first Australian manufacturing role, quickly becoming aware of standards in the textile space and their importance in the community.
Her work within fashion and manufacturing, and her affiliations with the Australian Fashion Council and National Retail Association prompted her participation in standards committees.
Ms Kerlen changed roles eight years ago, leaving fashion to work as a Quality & Product Safety Manager for Officeworks, and more recently as Quality & Product Compliance Manager at The Reject Shop. As part of this career change, she witnessed the various cases of harm caused from ingestion of button batteries. As a result, she worked to facilitate a forum to highlight the problem and gain industry consensus on the development of the first ever national standard for button batteries.
In 2020, Ms Kerlen’s dedication to standards and her work, proposing work on button battery safety resulting in the establishment of CS-118 Button Battery Safety,was recognised when she was awarded the W.R. Hebblewhite Medal.
“The award was very unexpected and gratefully received. The acknowledgement of my work to-date was extremely motivating, and I hope I continue to make the company and committees I work with proud,” said Ms Kerlen.
Today, Ms Kerlen sits on 3 committees (CS-118, QR-008, CMC) and liaises with Standards Australia on over 20 committees for the NRA as nominating organisation, working as a champion to enable high standards of safety for the consumer. This includes CS-018 Safety of Children’s Toys, CS-118 Button Batteries, CS-065 Tampons as well as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Consumer Policy Committee (COPOLCO) mirror committee, focusing on effective areas for consumer participation in standards.
Ms Kerlen believes well-developed standards are a great tool for industry stakeholders, especially when it comes to the international stage. She strongly encourages people to get involved in standards development if they can.
“The relationships Standards Australia has with ISO and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) are of utmost importance. International standards development allows us to impact and affect national activity and ensures our local views are reflected as needed. This positively impacts local and national commerce,” she said.
“We need the best possible standards in market to support Australian consumers and businesses. We can only get the best by engaging the best industry experts and contributors. If people have a willingness to get involved and want to give back to their community, they should look into standards development and put their hands up for programs like NEXTgen.”
“It would be great to see some ‘fresh blood’ get involved in the process to provide new thinking and ways of working. The best standards are created with equal and balanced participation, as such I’d love to see more women take an interest in standards, in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field,” concluded Ms Kerlen.
“Barbara is a wonderfully passionate contributor to standards. She has championed consumer safety in all her actions, especially when it comes to children, and we’re indebted to her for her work with button batteries. When I think of women of influence, I think of Barbara," said Kareen Riley-Takos, General Manager Operations of Standards Australia.
 Standards Australia NEXTgen program is a free 10-month professional development opportunity aimed at young professionals with 5 – 7 years’ experience in their chosen field
NEXTgen offers emerging industry and technical experts the opportunity to become involved in national and international standardisation processes. Participants gain a detailed understanding into the world of standards – how they’re made, what impact they have, and most importantly, how to be involved in developing them.