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Barbara Reed

Our birthday Standards Heroes have been nominated by their peers to represent all our contributors - individuals we consider to be the real heroes of standards, in Australia and internationally. We thank those who contribute their knowledge and expertise, service, and time to Standards Australia for the benefit of the Australian community.  

Barbara Reed has dedicated decades of her professional life to Records Management and positively impacted many standards in this line of work.

How did you become involved in standards development? 

I became involved in the development work for writing an Australian Standard on records management way back in the beginning as a subject matter expert – I think 1992-3.  

I was initially involved in the sub-committee level working on writing content for the first Australian Standard in this area. Over the next few years, I ended up chairing the sub-committee as people fell by the wayside and so began to contribute to the main Standards Australia committee.  

In 1997, partly by chance, as I was then in London, I attended the preliminary meeting of an international group interested in adopting the Australian Standard as an international standard. While the votes were there to adopt the Australian Standard internationally, the international community decided to conduct a re-development.  

I was the head of the Australian delegation to the international committee for over 20 years, and prime author for many of the foundational standards established locally and internationally. I retired from the international committee in 2019 and now chair the Australian IT-021: Records and Document Management Systems committee.  

What role have standards played in your career?

Standards work has followed me through a variety of positions through my career, supported by my employers and professional associations. My continued involvement has been underpinner by a desire to guide practitioners into more consistent and defensible information behaviours and actions. I have been very lucky to work with fabulous colleagues both locally and internationally.

As a teacher I have worked to involve emerging practitioners into the evolution of standards, and I continue to teach standards-based practice to post graduate students.

What is a project you’ve been particularly proud to have helped deliver? 

The development of the first Australian Standard (AS 4390) and the work to convert this to a successfully launched international standard on records management, ISO 15489, was a real landmark for the profession in which I am proud to have had a major role. This work unified a community which was fiercely protective of jurisdictional operating practice and significantly influenced practice.  

Outside of standards development, what have been some highlights of your career? 

Writing, researching and teaching in the realm of recordkeeping and contributing to transforming business practice to support accountable recorded information in the form of records has been a highlight. I’ve written extensively with colleagues to support digital transformation of business. As a result, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the leading researchers in the field and translate emerging research into implementable best practice.

I continue this work bringing a social and cultural lens to the role of records supporting rights of individuals who are the subjects of records to participate actively in how records are created, managed and maintained for both short-and long-term outcomes supporting social justice and human rights.

What do you think the future of standardisation looks like? 

Standards remain a potent instrument in the toolbox for organisations, product developers and individual practitioners. Creating harmony across products, resisting overt techno-solutionism and stressing sustainability and longer-term social benefit remains a key motivating feature of the best of standards development. Finding the core principles, features and components onto which practice, and products can be built provide the standards environment with a fertile field of operations well into the future. Making standards more easily accessible, reducing cost barriers impeding their use and, where applicable, making standards machine processible will enhance their uptake.

Is there anything you’d like to say or mention about Standards Australia’s centenary year?

Standards Australia is an invaluable contributor to Australian industry across the board.  

Its support of industry to create consensus represents the best of collegial cooperation of disparate individuals contributing to a shared best practice outcome. In my field, the support of Standards Australia has enabled our community to ‘punch above its weight’ in the international standards domain.