The History of ASGA/SAA

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Eventually, Bruce Cattenach suggested and hosted a meeting at his home to discuss price stabilization. The meeting was attended by Bruce Cattenach, Bruce Ruston, Carl Dawson, John Clifton, Howard Bressington and Tom Hughes. A second meeting at Bruce’s home a couple of weeks later was held with Ron Bidwell. Barry Russell, John Craig and Ken Miller were others who attended ensuing meetings. On 6th March 1967, this ever growing group attended a meeting at Howard Bressington’s place, with the inclusion of Ray Boyd (Merrylands) and Peter Elmore, an employee of Westside Signs (Howard’s firm). Bruce Cattenach was elected Chairman for the night. After some debate, the title Signpact Signwriters’ Association was adopted, which was later abbreviated to Signwriters Association by Mr A H Kington (the solicitor who drew up the Articles of Association). Bruce Ruston moved that the night be declared the Association’s Inaugural Meeting, Tom Hughes seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously. The first working committee President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, three Committee members were then elected and comprised the following: Bruce Cattenach, Tom Hughes, Howard Bressington, Bruce Ruston, Carl Dawson, Ray Boyd (Ray dropped out in July 1967), John Clifton. Invitations were mailed to all signwriters in the Sydney metropolitan area as listed in the Pink Pages, inviting them to the first official meeting which was held in the Parramatta East Progress Association Hall, North Parramatta. More than 40 signwriters attended, some accompanied by their wives. Two representatives of the Master Painters Association (MPA) offered the opinion that the Association would never get off the ground. They claimed it had been tried before by Dave Claney and others and that it would be better if all became members of the MPA. The first Price List recommended an hourly rate charge out of $3.00. This price list prompted Max Picard, visiting Australia from New Zealand, to forward the NZSDA Newsletters and price list, the format of which was then adopted by NSW. In October 1967, Russell Martin, Melbourne signwriter, visited Carl Dawson’s workshop and was invited to attend the Signwriters Association’s General Meeting on 5th October. Russell accepted the invitation and noted that the Victorian Signcraftsmen’s Association had been formed in 1963 and that the members might entertain some liaison with their NSW counterparts. The first Social Event was held on 6th December 1967 at the Westella Ballroom Auburn. The cost was $4.00 per head and 160 participated.

The name was changed to Signcraftsmen’s Association as an acceptance of the Victorian Association’s description of the varied application in our industry.

The first Convention was held at Strathaven Country Club, Wyong on the Queen’s Birthday weekend. The title was “Sign Seminar Seventy Two” and representatives of the Victorian Association attended.

The first national magazine was produced to publicise the existence of the Signcraftmen’s Association and to promote “Sign Seminar Seventy Three”.The second convention was attended by Canberra and District Signwriters’ Association representatives Joe Deren and Ian Hodges. This Association had evolved during the previous year. Also participating in this seminar were writers from the Newcastle area – Keith Greenwood, George Bear and others who informed us that the Master Signwriters Association had been formed in Newcastle in 1964, growing to a membership of more than a dozen in 1965, when the first Annual Dinner was held. Through lack of support, the Newcastle venture petered out in 1967 or 1968, winding down just as the Sydney Association emerged.

John Cox of Kiwi Signs Western Australia was the prime instigator of the formation of the Signcraftsmen’s Association of WA, which was inaugurated in September of that year and was affiliated with the Confederation of Industry in the State. 

The first national meeting was held at “Sign Seminar Seventy Six” on 11th September. This was, of course, not the official first National Meeting, as the Queensland Association had not yet been formed. However, the Queensland contingent, the NSW and Victorian Committees were in attendance. Later, on 8th November in Brisbane, the inaugural meeting of the Queensland Branch was held. With three members of the NSW Committee in attendance, Brian Oxley (NSW President) chaired the election of officers. The South Australian Signwriter members of the MPA altered their title to become the Signcraftsmen’s Association of South Australia, however remaining affiliated with their State’s Master Painters Association. 

Don Prairie from Tasmania attended a National Meeting in Melbourne in November 1980 with a view to forming a Tasmanian Association. It was eventually decided, however, that affiliation with Victoria was the most feasible course because of lack of sufficient numbers to set up a committee. The Sign Association of Australia became operative in the entire eastern sea board of Australia, with the West Australian Signcraftmen’s Association operative in WA. South Australia remained the only State where the Signcraftsmen were listed under the MPA.

During 2005 and 2006, the various State Sign Associations met and formally agreed to amalgamate and become the Australian Sign & Graphics Association Inc (ASGA) with its own Constitution. The ASGA Head Office was set up in Chatswood, Sydney and Michael Punch was appointed the first General Manager with David Hay (NSW) National President. Each State elected its own State Regional Sub-Committee with the State Chairman being a member of the ASGA National Executive. John and Julie Hadfield, together with David Hay, Paul Price and others set up the first ASGA National Awards Event in 2005. Further Awards Events have been held every second year since 2006.

Membership of the Association has continued to grow during these years. Thanks to numerous member benefits, especially in a free Legal Advice Line, Industry Awards templates and a set of OHS templates, membership grew from 260 in 2005 to 480 by the 2010 AGM held in June of that year. Membership has stabilised in the years that followed to around 350 nationally.

Michael Blazek, the Queensland Chairman, was elected President, replacing the inaugural President, David Hay.  As a mark of respect for all his work in setting up ASGA as a national entity, David was elected a Life Member of the Association at the 2014 Annual General Meeting.  The National Executive continued to meet four times annually with face-to-face meetings at each Annual General Meeting and at the Awards for Excellence events held every second year. 

By the 2016 Awards event, entries across twenty categories had grown to over four hundred and the attendance at presentation dinners was over three hundred.  The 2018 and 2020 Awards for Excellence events were co-hosted by ASGA and FESPA Australia.

Julie Rochester, the South Australian Chair, was elected the Association’s third national President at the Annual General Meeting in July, replacing Michael Blazek after six years of excellent leadership.  Elizabeth Bouzoudis was appointed national Marketing Manager at that meeting.  Warwick Ryan from Hicksons Australia continued to provide legal and business advice to members, advice that would be really important to them in this challenging COVID year.  That advice had begun in 2008.  In 2019, Glenn Hain was appointed ASGA’s Risk and Compliance consultant, so that the many WHS issues could be addressed in a professional manner.  The website and eNews continued to be sponsored by numerous industry suppliers. 

The 2020 year was a tough one for the entire industry, indeed for all Australia and the whole world due to the COVID pandemic.  The 2020 Awards for Excellence was twice postponed, from the Gold Coast Trade Show in April to the Sydney Show in September and finally to February in Sydney.  An industry Conference would be held concurrently with this Awards event.  Greater emphasis began to be placed on promotion of industry training centres, promotion of apprenticeships and an interactive updated website. 

May: ASGA Sign Industry Directory launched. The Directory's simple, easy-to-navigate interface has been designed to make searching for sign related businesses easy and a dedicated trade supplier section also makes it easy for sign businesses to find products and services.

August: ASGA partners with Ai Group to deliver secretariat, administration, financial and advisory services. 

October: After ongoing delays due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 Awards presentation dinner was finally able to take place in  It was held in October 2020.

Webinars were held throughout the year covering: Sub-contracting Considerations; Employment Law; Neon Lighting and LED Lighting.

Golf Days were held in NSW, QLD and WA.

February: Mick Harrold is elected new President as ASGA AGM.

June: ASGA exhibits at PacPrint and presents ‘Changes to the National Construction Code and how it affects Signage’ at  PacPrint’s Forum.

2022 National Sign & Graphics Awards: 478 entries were received. The HP 2022 ASGA National Sign & Graphics Awards Gala Dinner is held at Aviary Crown, Crown Melbourne where winners were announced across 23 categories.

Networking events: ASGA hosted golf events were held in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia throughout the year and a lawn bowls event was held in South Australia. Networking evenings were also introduced in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.

Webinars: these were held throughout the year covering: LED signage, training and education, recruiting overseas workers and managing bullying and psychological injuries in the workplace.

Career expos and signage taster courses: ASGA’s industry education liaison managers, AusSIP, represented ASGA at nine career expos across five States between May and September. They were joined by a host of TAFE signage teachers, ASGA Directors and industry personnel to promote the sign industry to students, job seekers and career changers.

Follow-up signage taster courses were held in Queensland and South Australia. The courses were held in collaboration with various training institutions and industry suppliers and were designed as a hands-on introduction to various aspects of sign making.

Early in the year, Visual Connections took over the secretarial and marketing responsibilities for ASGA.

The Association was closely involved in the Visual Impact Sydney expo in May, and held a number of webinars on subjects including Channel Lettering, Glues for Sign Making, Business Success and more.

Popular golf events were held once again in NSW and Western Australia, with more to come in Queensland and Victoria.

In collaboration with Visual Connections, ASGA has expanded our education initiative.

This kicked off with a 'Try-a-Trade' booth and Industry Round Table Lunch at Visual Impact Sydney. Well over a hundred students attended to connect with industry.

Across June and July, ASGA’s industry education liaison managers, AusSIP, were joined at five career expos by TAFE representatives and industry professionals to present career and training opportunities to students, parents, teachers, careers advisors, job seekers and those looking for a career change. 

Follow-up signage 'Taster Days' will be held in the second half of the year to provide interested parties with further hands-on experience of the various aspects of sign making 'in the real world'.