The History of ASOFIA

Next year, 2017, is the 50th anniversary of the founding of ASOFIA. To mark the event, Interior Fitout will present a series of articles over the coming issues highlighting not only the history of the association, but also of the stories and the issues that fuelled its development. We will also acknowledge some of the key players who were instrumental in establishing the association.

More broadly, we will look at how the industry began, what it looked like, how it developed, and the many and various reasons why it did so.

The first association of shopfitters was formed in NSW sometime in 1927, however it did not survive. The reason for this is unknown, but the Great Depression of the 1930’s may well have had some bearing.

In early 1967 a small group of shopfitters met for a pre-arranged meeting in the Marble Bar at the Adams Hotel in Sydney (pictured above) to discuss the formation of an association of NSW shopfitters The meeting had been brokered by the NSW Employers Federation, and as a result of that meeting, the first general meeting of the Master Shop and Office Fitters Assoc. of NSW was held at Adams Hotel on 20 July 1967.

The 17 companies attending were amongst the most prominent firms of the day. Sadly, 50 years on, only two are still in existence. Those attending the inaugural meeting are listed opposite.

At this meeting, chaired by Bob Johnson of R. A. Johnson Wagga, Bill Sparkes of Sparkes and Colquhoun was elected President, Doug Johnson of James Sandy and Arthur McPherson of McPherson & Davies were elected Vice Presidents and Emile Barden, Eric Soul (pictured), Bryan Sidgreaves and Bob Johnson were elected to the management committee. Bryan Sidgreaves as inaugural President, with QLD, SA, WA and TAS joining the Association in due course.

Over time, the need for change became apparent and in 1994 the national committee agreed to form ASOFIA, allowing the opening up of membership to any individual or company who had a vested interest in the industry such as suppliers, associated trades and subcontractors.

With the appointment of Gerard Ryan as our executive director, many aspirations of the national committee came to fruition, and the organisation has since grown beyond all expectations.

Amongst the many practical successes of the Association is the ongoing involvement with training through TAFE and the establishment of the post trade Project Management certificate course. Just as important is the interaction and friendships formed, fostering co-operation and consultation with our peers and an enhanced awareness of the importance of the industry by retailers, designers and shopping centre management.

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