This year, the Australian Human Resources Institute is turning 75. CEO Lyn Goodear tells the tale of its humble beginnings, highlighting three significant years in particular.
This year, 2018, commemorates AHRI’s 75th year. The year of AHRI’s birth, 1943, saw a group of industrial welfare officers in the Victorian and NSW Department of Labour and National Service working against a background of gloom during Hitler’s war. Though the institute has faced some difficult times since, I can happily say that I don’t see our narrative as one punctuated by successive problematic stories.
Even in that tumultuous time during the 1940s, those officers had turned their minds to the question of motivating a largely female workforce to contribute to the war effort when able-bodied men were fighting in far-away places. The same officers were also determined to plan for a workforce that included the return of men when the war ended. They were the beginning of what is now the Australian HR Institute.
In that spirit of national interest and restrained optimism, the AHRI narrative I see most strikingly includes stories that, taken together, amount to measured but steady achievement. After three state-based iterations tracing back to 1943 in an unbroken line, the inaugural national president, Jim Bailey, announced in 1992 the unveiling of a national body signified by a logo suggesting unity, a logo which remained unchanged for 24 years until 2016.
By then the national character of AHRI was well established, but what was not so well established was the call that Jim Bailey’s successor made in 1994. I refer to Graeme Andrewartha’s prompt to members that the institute needed to recognise the larger responsibility “not just to our members, but to the employers in our members’ firms and the wider community”.
Andrewartha was talking about what all occupational groups are expected to do in order to be regarded as reputable professions. They must assure those who employ their services that the profession has in place safeguards that protect the public from people coming in off the street and claiming to act in the name of the profession, but without appropriate indicators of competence in terms of knowledge, skill and professional behaviours.
It took twenty-one years to properly realise Andrewartha’s call. It finally came about at the annual strategy planning sessions for 2015, at which the combined voices of AHRI’s elected state council presidents, board members and executive agreed to draw a line in the sand and do what was required to establish a robust postgraduate-level standard of practice and an independent certifying body to oversee the standard.
If I had to point to the calendar years that signify critical milestones of the HR profession over the 75 years of AHRI serving the profession in Australia, I would name the three years 1943, 1992 and 2015.
The last of those takes us to where we are now with real momentum happening in HR certification and fulfils the promise of 1994 to regulate ourselves and accept responsibility for supplying business with highly credentialed HR professionals.
If AHRI were a shop we would emblazon the window with a sign that says: “Established 1943”.
We aren’t a shop, of course, but we are privileged to be servicing a vital profession and we look forward to seeing its practitioners prosper and be proud of the legacy they leave to future generations.
This article was originally published in the November 2018 edition of HRM magazine.