Have you ever wondered why we can trust the clean water coming out of our taps? The results of your blood test? That it’s actually a litre when you fill up? Or who makes sure our imported cheese remains fit for an Aussie?
It turns out that elements of our daily lives, which we’ve all come to rely on, like toilets that flush with the appropriate force, the roads we drive on have been tested and are safe, that the food we eat is free of pesticides, are in part thanks to an organisation few have ever heard about.
The National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), has been a pioneering force since it started and this week the world’s oldest accreditation body celebrates 75 years of delivering confidence and assurance for Australian consumers.
While accreditation may not be familiar to all, it does bring competitive advantages to our economy and underpins the most essential parts of our lives. For instance, according to a UTS Report NATA adds between $315m – $421m to the Australian economy every year; that’s approximately $1m a day!
“The partnership with NATA, and the benefit to society is interlinked,” says Tracey Gramlick, Manager – CSIRO Verification Success and Current Chair of Standards Australia. “I can’t imagine a world without NATA.”
“People rely on measurement every day, often without thinking about it. When you fill up your car with petrol or buy meat from the supermarket,” explains Bruce Warrington, CEO National Measurement Institute. And it’s NATA that is responsible for ensuring that those maintaining our everyday metrics are always right.
Speaking about the milestone anniversary, Jennifer Evans, NATA CEO, said: “For 75 years NATA has been in the background, testing the testers, essentially protecting generations of Australian families. People may not know our name, but NATA really is one of Australia’s best kept secrets.
“NATA has been instrumental in the formation of international accreditation agreements, like ILAC’s (the International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation) MRA (mutual recognition arrangement) which has been crucial to trade and ensuring Australia’s position on the global economic stage.
“When I started people had the perception of a laboratory as having four walls and people in white coats. Yet some labs have never seen a Bunsen burner in decades. Now someone by a river with the correct equipment and procedures can be an accredited facility. The change is here and we’re working with industry to better shape the public perception of how science underpins our everyday lives.”
Conceived out of wartime necessity, NATA started its existence in 1947 testing gas marks and defence supplies. And it was Scientific and Industrial Research (latter renamed CSIRO in 1949) that saw the potential for broadening NATA’s scope post-war.
During the 1960’s there was a sharp increase for accreditation across mining, motor vehicles, pollution testing and chemical and mechanical labs, followed by pathology and agriculture in the 1980’s and Inspection Services and Forensic Sciences accreditation programs in the early 1990’s.
Today NATA, a not-for-profit member organisation, has over 3,000 accredited facilities and operates across 20 different programs of specialism; everything from the cars we drive and pathology, to the food and drink on our tables. NATA has been testing the testers for over 75 years. Biobanking is the 20th and latest accreditation program that NATA offers at the start of 2022.
Evans added: “I’ve personally seen a vast change in the organisation in my 35 years at NATA, but our mission remains the same, to improve the standard of testing practices in Australia.
“For 75 years NATA has delivered confidence in the testing that supports the way we live, and we will continue to do so no matter how that changes in years to come. So, while the emphasis we place on standards may alter, the core elements for labs will not. We will continue to provide quality assurance that’s fit for purpose.”
By recognising competent testing, measurement and inspection services that meet international standards of best practice, NATA’s accreditation services work in the national interest and make sure Australians can rely on the high standards of living we’ve come to enjoy.
To commemorate the event, NATA has produced a documentary around the 75th anniversary which is available to be viewed here.