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Stan Ambrose OAM

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.   Stan Ambrose’s career began with his enlistment in the RAAF in 1944 as a Flight mechanic, working throughout Victoria and South Australia on Beaufort bombers before being discharged in 1945 at the end of WWII.Following WWII, Stan attended the University of Melbourne where he first encountered the SAA Boiler Code, almost 75 years ago. He would then go on to become an engineer and work with standards and the development of standards for the rest of his career up to this day. Stan was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1997 for service to mechanical engineering, through the development of Australian standards for safety in the pressure equipment industry.Stan is honoured to be known as a hero but would like to recognise the true heroes of WWII who risked their lives to defend our country.
How did you become involved in standards development? 

Luckily, I was discharged from the RAAF just after WWII ended and allowed to go to the University of Melbourne to start the change from a clerk and Flight Mechanic to an engineer. In second year, the SAA Boiler Code AS CB -1 1931 greatly impressed me.

This impression only grew in the 1950s at my first engineering job where I also saw the value of company standards and commented on a draft British Standard. In 1957 I represented the Department of Navy on two subcommittees of SA ME-001.

These experiences led me to eventually contribute to pressure equipment (PE) and welding standards committees.

What role have standards played in your career?   

Standards use and development have played an important role, not only in my career but also my private life.

Actively engaging in standards has encouraged me to improve conditions and the world outside of Australia. It enabled me to move my family from Melbourne to Sydney to join Standards Australia, to update Australian pressure equipment standards, where I met many wonderful Australian and international experts, many of whom became mentors and great friends.

Standards infiltrated my home life, my wife, Barb, regularly helped with typing, checking grammar, writing and ideas. I regard the OAM as half hers.

Standards development has made me think objectively and holistically - both critical for standards, good living and progress.

Finally, standards development helped me immensely during COVID lock downs. The interaction with my committees kept me from feeling lonely and ensured that I was still contributing positively to the community.

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

There are three projects I am particularly proud of:
AS 1210, the Australian Standard for Pressure Vessels, greatly helped the pressure equipment industry recover after WWII. I did much of the original work with support from the pressure equipment industry who sent me overseas in 1967 to learn latest thinking to help finalize the first draft.
AS 4343, Pressure Equipment - Hazard Levels, is one of only two Australian pressure equipment Standards used in the latest WHS Regulations. This standard resolved regulatory problems and saved millions of dollars.
AS/NZS 3788, Pressure Equipment – In-service inspection, was initiated by me and Ron Read of ICI. At one stage it was classed as the best in the world. Currently it is being revised for Public Comment.

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

WWII training and experience as a flight mechanic on Beaufort bombers in a dangerous non-enemy area in 1945. It had a huge impact on me, helping me grow up quickly and changing my life. It led to making great friends, understanding the importance of valuing all people, a B.Mech.E and my involvement in pressure equipment, welding and standards.

Marrying my wife Barb at 22. She gave me inspiration and great help (as above) that resulted in some leading standards and me being a director of a pressure equipment company that got the Exporter of the Year Award from the Prime Minister.

A probable third was accepting non-standard beer barrels despite heavy subjective pressure from industry, unions and some politicians. These are now standard and saved about 30 lives and $100 million.

Others highlights include:

  • Resolving a significant rally against pressure equipment in an hour
  • Banning, but not banning, fireworks in NSW.
  • Identifying and explaining a new failure mode of metal in pressure equipment.

What do you think the future of standardisation looks like? 

It is always difficult to predict in a world that is rapidly changing in good and bad ways.
I think the concept of UN and then ISO etc is needed and will continue to help nations cooperate for global good. But we will still need Australian needs and innovation and understanding
More attention will be given to human issues especially personal roles and requirements to help improve quality of life and ease movement of people in the big trend to globalization made possible by many technical and scientific innovations.
There will be greater recognition that standards can help to prove and timely implement new ideas and essential changes.  

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

It is a good idea to recall the people who had the vision and resolve to improve Australia with standards.

The standards they started and thousands more since, should be thanked for their great benefit before, during and after WWII, and the progress made in many ways - technical, economic, business, trade, law, political and to help unite Australian States and Territories and cooperate with our neighbours and the world.

Today people and governments really don’t know the huge role that standards and Standards Australia have played in Australian technical and scientific progress in the last 100 years.

The big challenge is the next 100 years, where the principles developed over the last 100 with suitable adaption and innovation, should continue to greatly help all.