Photo of a man examining a metal weight under glass domes.

The National Measurement Institute’s inaugural CEO and Chief Metrologist, Dr Barry Inglis, in the mass lab at Lindfield. Image: Andrew Wielecki.

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).

Anniversary messages for the Metre Treaty

Hi, I'm Bruce Warrington, Australia's Chief Metrologist and CEO here at NMI.

In 1875, 17 nations signed a new global agreement and set up a framework for measurement. In 1947,

Australia joined that global community in its own right as a sovereign nation. And today, in a very different world, it's even more important than ever to support innovation and trade.

I'm very grateful to those who've gone before and those who deliver those same outcomes today. Congratulations, Australia, and happy 75th anniversary.

‘Standards Australia proudly honours the 75th anniversary of the Metre Convention, an important milestone which set Australia on the pathway to success and made modern standards possible – congratulations to all.’

– Adrian O’Connell, CEO, Standards Australia

‘Metrology is the starting point for science. You simply can’t do science without international consensus about what you’re measuring and how – and this can sometimes prove a surprisingly complex question.’

– Dr Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist

‘On behalf to Asia Pacific Legal Metrology Forum (APLMF), I would like to wish Australia for its 75th Anniversary of signing the Metre Treaty on 28 November. The signing of Metre Treaty is a great achievement and significant to continue its outreach and extend the important roles as the global accepted NMI of trust for metrology into digital era. Perhaps, Australia through NMI will continue to play a vital roles and develop more engagement initiatives to ensure NMI still visible at national and international level.’

– Dr Osman Zakaria, President, Asia Pacific Legal Metrology Forum

‘As the Australian Government’s primary authority on radiation protection and nuclear safety, measurement is a core aspect of ARPANSA’s role. By supporting accurate calibration and measurement of radiation dose, we contribute to patient safety and community confidence. We are also proud to contribute to global efforts to ensure the equivalence of radiation measurements through our work maintaining Australia’s Primary Standards for ionising radiation dose.’

– Dr Gillian Hirth, CEO, Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency