Objectives of The ASM

The main objective of the Australian Society for Microbiology (ASM) is to advance the science of microbiology in Australia.

The society does this through the production and promotion of reading material, lectures, seminars, symposia and demonstrations on topics relevant to microbiology, as well as establishing and maintaining suitable standards for the practice of microbiology as a profession.

The ASM also promotes the awareness of microbiology and its role in everyday life, and actively liaises with governments and other professional bodies at both State and Federal levels in support of its members and the profession. 

Activities of The ASM

The ASM has Branches in each State and the Australian Capital Territory, as well as a sub-branch in the Northern Territory. Each Branch organises lectures, often by international scientists, in addition to workshops, other scientific activities and social events. Regular newsletters are sent by the Branches to their members, providing information on their activities and local microbiological issues.

The Society's official journal Microbiology Australia is produced four times a year. As well as detail on ASM activities, the journal also contains scientific papers, technical notes, book reviews, conference information, data on new products and services in microbiology, and material for tertiary students.

History of The ASM

By the late 1950s departments of microbiology had been established in the universities in all states and in the Australian Capital Territory. Up to that time, Australian Microbiologists had come together for the exchange of information at the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) congresses (Section A, Section I and later Section 14), but most of them looked at their parent institutions and overseas for intellectual leadership and to learn recent developments in the science. It is largely due to the enthusiasm and drive of Nancy Atkinson of the University of Adelaide that an Australian Society for Microbiology was established. She recognised that an Australian Society would be best achieved by building on the nucleus of microbiologists already well known to each other in the various States.

In 1958, during a meeting of ANZAAS in Adelaide, Atkinson convened a public meeting which was attended by about 50 microbiologists. Eric French of the CSIRO Division of Animal Health was appointed Chairman. The group resolved to examine further the feasibility of forming an Australian "society for microbiology", and a subcommittee consisting of two representatives from each of the six mainland states was established to consider ways and means. It took them just six days, during the ANZAAS meeting, to decide that such a society should be founded.

A subcommittee consisting of Atkinson, Jack Harris of the CSIRO Division of Soils and Lance Walters of the SA Brewing Co., all of Adelaide, was appointed to draft a constitution, circulate it, and to coordinate the views of the states as to how the Society should function.

Committees were set up in all other states to consider the draft constitution, to establish state branches and discuss the functions of the Society; the convenors were David Howes (Australian Capital Territory), David Dorman (New South Wales), Geoffrey Simmons (Queensland), Rose Mushin (Victoria) and Douglas Annear (Western Australia).

In May 1959 the inaugural meeting of the Australian Society for Microbiology was organised by the Victorian Branch as a residential conference held at the University Women's College, University of Melbourne. Sydney D. Rubbo, head of the Department of Microbiology in the University of Melbourne, was elected chairman. The Constitution and By-laws were adopted and office-bearers elected. The Society was constituted as a federation of more or less autonomous State Branches with a governing Council comprising of President, Immediate Past President, President-elect, Secretary, Treasurer and one delegate from each Branch.

The foundation President was Sir Macfarlane Burnet, the Honorary Secretary Jack Harris and the Honorary Treasurer Nancy Atkinson. Initially Presidents served a one-year term but from 1977 onwards they have been elected for two years. The Secretary and Treasurer are elected by national membership for one year but may be reappointed by National Council up to five times.

Councillors are appointed annually by the State Branches and usually serve for two years, although more recently some have served for up to five years.

(extract from History of Microbiology in Australia, (1990) - article by N. F. Millis and D. O. White)