On 28 November 2022, Australia celebrates a special measurement event: the 75th anniversary of our nation joining the Metre Treaty.
The treaty is the basis for the international system of units of measurement. Australia’s participation ensures international recognition of the national measurement system. It also reduces technical barriers to trade and gives our community confidence in the fairness of measurement outcomes.
The Convention of the Metre, as it is officially known, was signed in Paris in 1875 by 17 member states. It originally only covered the units of mass and length but was extended in 1921 to cover other physical parameters.
The international measurement framework established by the Metre Treaty relies on primary measurement standards, certified reference materials and reference standards.
In the early 20th century, Australia recognised the need for national measurement standards linked to the British and international systems and began developing these standards. Australia joined the Metre Treaty on 28 November 1947, ensuring Australia’s measurement system was recognised on the global stage.
With the introduction of the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1948, the Australian Government became responsible for weights and measures throughout Australia. Each state was required to have a laboratory with measurement standards calibrated against the standards held at the National Standards Laboratory (NSL) in Sydney. The NSL, later the National Measurement Laboratory in CSIRO, was one of the forerunners of the National Measurement Institute (NMI).