In the early 1940s, Paul Crivelli, at that time General Manager of ABACUS Instrument, arranged a regular monthly luncheon with a number of Melbourne professionals involved in instrumentation.
Following a discussion with instrument company representatives on 20 July 1943, a public meeting was called for 24 August 1943 at which a motion for the formation of The Australian Society of Instrument Technology (ASIT) was passed.
This is believed to be the first national technical society in the world to be formed specifically to deal with instrumentation. At the meeting, members elected as President, Dr P L Henderson, the Chief Chemist of Monsanto (Australia), and as Vice President, Dr N B Lewis, the Chief Chemist of Kodak (Australasia). P A Crivelli was elected Honorary Secretary.
During 1944 several members travelled to Sydney and addressed a gathering of instrumentation professionals there; as a result, the Australian Institute of Instrument Technology (AIIT) was formed in Sydney. The two organizations subsequently agreed to produce the Australian Journal of Instrument Technology as the official organ of both bodies, management of the Journal being arranged by ASIT.
In 1953 a South Australian Division of ASIT was formed. Negotiations between ASIT and AIIT took place and on 11 June 1957 the AIIT resolved to amalgamate with ASIT to form the Society of Instrument Technology Australia. In November 1957, The Society of Instrument Technology Australia was incorporated under the Victorian Companies Act.
The two founder bodies continued negotiations and on 25 March 1958, ASIT passed a motion authorising its Committee 'to wind up the affairs of ASIT and transfer all its assets to the Victorian Division of the Society of Instrument Technology Australia (SITA) when it deems fit'. The two founder bodies ceased to exist on 1 January 1959 and R B Pearson of ICIANZ became the first President of the new amalgamated Society of Instrument Technology Australia.
On 10 November 1966, the name of the amalgamated body was officially changed to the Institute of Instrumentation and Control Australia. And in October 2002 the Institute's name was changed to the Institute of Instrumentation, Control and Automation Australia (IICA). The IICA has continued uninterrupted for the ensuing 47 years.
The Institute has been a constantly evolving organization, responding and adapting to new challenges and opportunities arising from changes to both the economic and political environments.
As the Institute grew in confidence in Victoria and New South Wales, it recognised the need to attract and form Divisions in the rest of Australia if it was to truly envisage becoming a national body. Considerable efforts by dedicated people such as J David Aspinall, David Paule and others led to the formation of Divisions in Queensland (originally in Mackay), Western Australia, South Australia and later of Branches in the Murray Region, Newcastle and Gladstone. The Institute had at last gone national.
Each geographic location elected its Chairman, Treasurer as well as Secretary who conducted the business of their Divisions and Branches via an overarching Committee plus a number of Sub Committees which managed the differing activities and initiatives that each area devised and carried out.
Each area chose representatives from its Committee to attend an annual Federal Council meeting where they worked to formulate policies and strategies that would meld the Institute into a cooperative national body. This was not always an easy task, as each Division had its own priorities and was keen to retain its autonomy.
It has taken many years of perseverance to allay such fears and to build up trust in a federated system. Nevertheless, it has happened, and it has done so in an evolutionary fashion that has been, on the whole, mindful of the imperative to balance the needs of each geographic area with those of the national interest.
Initially every Division and Branch was manned by the Members, all of who were volunteers. However, over the years the Federal Council in particular, had become much more complex and onerous for volunteers to manage the administrative and logistic affairs of the IICA and it brought in the services of Don Wilcox, originally as Victorian Division Secretary, and later to become Federal Secretary to take charge of these matters.
This was the start of the journey to professionalism and led to decisions by Federal Council to outsource the administrative and financial functions, thereby freeing up members, especially on Federal Council, to concentrate their energies on leadership of the IICA.
In 2009 Federal Council, under the leadership of Federal President Mario Dona decided that the IICA needed to take total control of its affairs. [Mario Dona was awarded the 2011 PACE Zenith Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the industry.]
The institute needed paid staff to take on the administrative functions that had been previously outsourced and appointed Cathie Tynan in 2009 as Federal Secretary, to be followed the same year with Maruta Rodan as the Institute's Executive Officer.
The Federal Office hired additional staff including Caroline French as Event Coordinator and Leigh Hart as Membership Officer. One of the current Federal President Brett Simpson's plans has been to bring in paid administrative staff in every location, and it is pleasing to report that both the Brisbane and Adelaide Branches have just recently appointed their Branch Secretaries.
Nancy Knott (Brisbane Branch) and Lisa Tomblin (Adelaide Branch) join Julie Meynell from the Sydney Branch in looking after their respective local Branch activities. Julie also manages the Institute's email and hard copy newsletters.
Under Mario Dona's Presidency, Federal Council resolved in 2009, to address the vexing issue of the need for a total overhaul of the Institute's nearly 70 year old, Constitution as its Rules and By-Laws were simply no longer 'fit for purpose'. The work was completed in 2010. One noteworthy change was that each geographic location is now called a Branch, and is identified by the prefix of the city where that branch is located.
Another significant milestone is the re-establishment of the professional relationship with our American counterpart organization, the International Society of Automation (ISA). This relationship was reinvigorated under the Presidency of Craig Baade in 2006 and led to the IICA introducing professional training courses under licence from the ISA. These courses are available in each Branch and continue to this day.
In 2011, under Dirk Kuiper's watch as President, the spotlight fell on two important Membership matters. One was the transformation of the existing Corporate Associate Member (CAP) category into the new Corporate Industry Programme (CIP).
The success of the CIP Category has been very encouraging – since its first introduction in the 2013 calendar year, the uptake of companies under CIP has almost rivalled those for individual members.
Jason Freyling and Frank Silberberg deserve special mention for initiating this change. Likewise, the Fellow membership category has undergone extensive revision to reflect more accurately the need for proper acknowledgement of those special IICA members whose contributions to the Institute and to our industry sectors are deemed outstanding.
Mario Dona and Ian Gibson deserve acknowledgement for progressing this change. [Ian Gibson was given a Special Industry Contribution Award by PACE at the 2013 PACE Zenith Awards in Sydney.]
A feature of the Institute that seems to have been set in stone and just continues to shine year in and year out are the Table Top Exhibitions or Technology Expos as they are now known. Around 15 are conducted in each Australian capital city as well as in many regional areas every year.
These exhibitions provide invaluable access for IICA member supplier and service providers to meet and do business with potential end users. Their introduction has truly been one of the IICA's outstanding successes.
There are many more areas that have not been canvassed in this short tribute to the Institute on its 70th birthday year. This is inevitable because space simply does not permit all achievements and those who initiated and progressed them to be mentioned.
Suffice to say that the Institute today stands on the shoulders of all those dedicated men and women whose vision, energy, enthusiasm and foresight has made the IICA into a vibrant professional Institute that is very much looking forward to the next 70 years.
[Cathie Tynan is IICA Federal Secretary.]