The History of the Victorian Vernier Society
Extracted from “Vernier – 1942 to 1992 – A Collective Memory” edited by Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Blainey and published by Paul Anderson.
“Vernier was established in 1942 in Melbourne at a critical stage in World War II as Australia was forced to become self supporting as England and the other allies working to full capacity to meet their own needs. It appears that the government of the time was talking of nationalising the manufacturing industry to support the war effort but Mr Dan Scott, a member of the Brass Founders Section of the Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers, took a position that the industry could still make a valid input into the conduct of the war effort without nationalisation. He called several lunches to encourage the formation of a society or lobby group and this is how Vernier took shape. It formed from the nucleus of Victorian manufacturers who came together to make for the war effort. These owners were mainly in their late thirties and forties, the sons of engineers and metal men of various kinds and most were running enterprises of no more than thirty workers.
It seems that while Vernier meetings in the early days were about supporting the war effort the meetings become much more than that but it is clear from the book what it is not. “Vernier is a fraternity of down to earth engineers; Vernier is neither a formal association of engineers or employers not an exclusive club of manufacturers. Rather … its purpose is to promote dialogue amongst those with a practical day to day involvement in the technical world”.
It seems as the fraternity progressed its interest embraced all aspects of the industry; from the relationship with unions to supporting the recruitment of engineers from the UK to training and development in the industry. It became “a cohort of august gentlemen of similar ilk but varying ages who meet from time to time to express their views on a variety of subjects.” These may be of importance to our daily lives, our businesses or our country, but will make all in attendance more knowledgeable about the economic climate or an engineering masterpiece. Another member explained “Running a medium sized company is a solitary existence; Vernier has been a breath of fresh air, a relaxation – even a crutch in these difficult of times”.
The other feature of the society was its development of fellowship and of socialising. Prospective members were invited to join, knowing they were people who would accept the protocols of Vernier meetings with its procedures interlaced with banter, countless quips and risqué jokes.
The book in general is a memoir of Australia maybe even more than of the Society over those fifty years from Vernier’s inception. But one thing is clear from the book, our early members were passionate about the growth of manufacturing in Australia and the industry was a more parochial affair. Sons followed their fathers into the family business and in turn were introduced and inducted into the Society. The book culminates with a copy of the 1992 Christmas Luncheon address given by the then Emeritus Professor and now Sir Geoffrey Blainey. The Professor’s speech could easily be read at our 2013 December luncheon as it seems the challenges Australia faced then bares remarkable similarity to today.
Post 1992 history kindly provided by Mr Craig Ebeling
- In 1992 the society was formally incorporated as the “Victorian Vernier Society Inc.”
- Of the people who attend that 1992 luncheon, only 6 are still with the society today.
- All of the current committee have joined the society since 1992.
- It appears that in the late 1990’s the Society started a series of tours to visit industries interstate to Tasmania and WA. However, it also seems there was some rivalry between members as two separate two parties were set up – “Endersbee Tours” and “Jems Tours”. One of these tours appears to involve one of our past members taking his own tour in a member’s private plane (for which the member did his own maintenance and modifications. As the tour involved taking wives and included Don Draffin (our blind member) it would seem that the tours were certainly trying to balance educational value with social enjoyment!
- In 2000, the Vernier foundation was formed exclusively for charitable purposes and is established and maintained for providing money for scholarships, bursaries or prizes. The Foundation ran special events under the guidance of member Andrew Wilson, every September invited schools in Victoria to submit entries for a schools’ engineering competition with the prizes provided by the Foundation and presented at that month’s luncheon. With the declining emphasis on science in schools.
- In 2008, the first female member, Caitlin Granowski joined the society followed by Jo Hocking. They both followed the tradition of their fathers.
- The society has now just over 40 members with about a third of those involved in the manufacturing industry.
- Over the past 18 months the Society has become more active in stopping the decline of manufacturing in Australia. For the past 12 months it has had a monthly newsletter covering general information about the public face of manufacturing plus information on specific company growth or decline. The Society has plans for expanding its membership to increase the relevance and contribution to the public manufacturing debate.
- The Society still follows much of the original ethos of the founding fathers. Society ties and pins are proudly presented to new members on joining and they are encouraged to wear these at meetings. Manufacturing and Australia is always toasted at the beginning of our meetings and we still have a strong program of entertaining and informative speakers. At the end of the presentations there is always a question and answer section. Various topics are now addressed during the course of the meeting and members are encouraged to express their, sometimes, provocative opinions in the spirit of fellowship. During the meetings some members offer a story or joke and occasionally they are amusing!