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John Furbank

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.  

John Furbank has had an extensive career as a compliance professional, involved in consumer protection, consumer advice and consumer / fair trading regulation.

How did you become involved in standards development?  

My first involvement with Standards Australia was when I joined the South Australian Consumer Affairs agency in the late 1970’s and became involved in product safety. I cannot recall which committees but at that time, the South Australian Government was actively participating in developing new product safety standards with a view to protecting consumers over a range of products that were causing death or injury. This included standards we now take for granted such as children’s nightwear safety labelling, flotation aids and the structure of bicycles.  

What role have standards played in your career?   

In an extensive career as a compliance professional involved in consumer protection, consumer advice, consumer/fair trading regulation, the development of Australian and international standards have been a significant part of my career. In recent years, I joined the Consumers Federation of Australia (CFA) and Consumers SA and served on their Executive Committees. In this period, I became CFA Consumer Representative on Standards Australia and ISO committees and an ISO/COPOLCO participant. My involvement includes the development of new innovative standards such as Guidance on unit pricing, Organic and biodynamic products, Trampoline Park facilities, Microwavable heat packs, Olive oils and Safety of Household and Similar Electrical Appliances.  

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

I have been able to facilitate and progress several standards development projects of value to Australian consumers. One such project was a Guidance on unit pricing (ISO 21041) which I steered through ISO COPOLCO, the initial international task group and New Work Item Proposal to the ISO Technical Management Board, encouraged national body participation and chaired the ISO and SA mirror committees.      

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

My career in consumer affairs has facilitated working in different countries and metropolitan and regional Australia. One such appointment was Director of Fair Trading, Fiji, where I was tasked with establishing a fair trading/consumer affairs agency. Fiji introduced legislation based on the then, Australian Trade Practices Act and I was tasked with establishing and managing an effective administrative structure in the newly formed Department of Fair Trading and Consumer Affairs. I learnt a lot about developing economies and safeguarding the interest of vulnerable consumers particularly in relation to devious sales representatives and shoddy goods from countries that should have known better. At this time, I worked with Standards Australia to establish Fiji’s first ever standards library providing Fiji government, industry and consumers with up-to-date technical material.

What do you think the future of standardisation looks like? 

There have been many changes in standards development in recent years including the introduction of virtual meetings and digital standards. I believe the quality of virtual meetings will continue to improve and develop. Stakeholder interaction including personal contact and building up trust is a big part of successful standards development which is difficult to achieve virtually so I see a bigger role for hybrid style meetings. Digital standards should make updating and distribution speedier and at less cost. Ideally standards, will be available to consumers, end users and small businesses at little cost. The input of consumers will continue to be important to standards development and with support from Standards Australia and a healthy consumer base should expand to include all relevant committees.

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

Congratulations to Standards Australia for reaching its centenary year. Thanks to its dedicated staff and flexible management, SA has continued to be relevant, able to keep up with continuing economic and technical changes and publish useful and meaningful documents.