The Australian industry leading the world in textile fabrication

STA Life Member Story: Father & Son Edition

Cliff Bartlett & Keith Bartlett

Cliff Bartlett's Story

C.E. Bartlett Pty. Ltd. was started by Cliff Bartlett in 1956 in Ballarat Victoria. Cliff Bartlett learnt the canvas trade when he worked in the “Tarp Shop” at the Victorian Railways workshop. After he left the railways, Cliff began making tarpaulins, tents and caravan annexes from his home-based workshop in Ballarat. Through hard work, high quality workmanship and strong attention to customer needs, the business grew to what it is today employing over 120 staff and supplying products to all parts of Australia and overseas.

Cliff was involved with the association from the early 1980’s through until his retirement in 1994. Cliff served 2 terms on the association council, serving as president in 1986/87 and again in 1991/92.

Cliff was involved in the association name change from CGMA (Canvas Goods Manufacturers Association) to ACASPA (Australian Canvas and Synthetic Products Association of Australia) in 1983. This came about after it was evident that the industry was changing due to new types of fabrics becoming available. Among these new additions were woven polyethylene and PVC coated fabric. The association needed to embrace these new fabrics and their suppliers. This was not as easily accepted at the time because the core of the association was driven from within the only 3 fabric suppliers available prior to this point, ie: Birkmyre, Bradmill and Brella.

Cliff was also instrumental in initiating the “trade show” to be a key component of the annual association conventions. This followed his visit to the IFAI show in USA during the early 1980’s. Before suppliers could exhibit their products at a convention trade show, issues such as who can exhibit and who is allowed a say on council needed to be resolved.

In 1981 a motion to allow suppliers to be “associate” members was defeated. Following this, in 1983 Cliff was involved in “informal” discussions to allow suppliers of synthetic fabrics to display their products at the new trade show exhibition component of the convention. This was finally resolved at a formal Special General Meeting prior to the 1983 convention where 12 industry suppliers exhibited their goods for all members to view. They were:- Bradmill; Brella; Birkmyre; Capron Carter; Solair; Melbourne Rope Works; Nylex; Rheem; Sarlon; Spectrade; Seidensha and Plastral Trading. It was quickly seen that such displays and focus had wide appeal to the membership.

4 years on, in 1985 Cliff was involved in the resolution at the AGM that 2 representatives from “Major Suppliers” be invited to sit on council without voting rights. This was the start of a much closer involvement and inclusion of Suppliers to the association however it still took some time before they were awarded voting rights. In 1990 and again in 1995 the topic of voting rights for associate members was discussed, debated and defeated.

Cliff Bartlett was awarded life membership in 1994, this was the year he officially retired from the family business.

Unfortunately Cliff passed away in 2018 at age 94 yet his contribution to the association and the industry lives on.

Left to right: Bill Menahem, Cliff Bartlett & Arthur Evans
Keith Bartlett's Story

Keith Bartlett, aged 64 years old, worked in the family business C. E. Bartlett Pty. Ltd. from the age of 17 starting in 1973 and is continuously involved in a day to day bases. C.E. Bartlett’s being a family business, Keith was naturally involved from an early age, making guy ropes and cutting sail track sliders for caravan annexes after school and on weekends.

His official employment with the company started in 1973 after Keith had left school the previous year to work with a local sun blind and fly screen manufacturer in Ballarat that the owner was wanting to retire from. Within 12 months, Keith had taken over this small sunblind company and were making and supplying complete sun blinds in the new sunblind section within the business. 

It wasn’t until the mid-1990’s that Keith became heavily involved in ACASPA (now known as STA). His father, Cliff Bartlett, was heavily involved in the association prior to this. Keith was elected onto council in 1997 and served 4 years with the last year being immediate past president which was a non-voting position. His year as president was 1999/2000 and was delighted with the privilege of being president during the turn of the century.

Some of the key achievements during Keith’s involvement on council were to consolidate the “suppliers” status within the association. Previously, his father Cliff was involved in the association and led the initiative allowing suppliers to become Associate Members who were on council however they still did not have voting rights. This was regard was continuously debated and defeated in Sydney in 1990 and again in Darwin during the 1995 AGM. Finally, at the 2000 election during Keith’s role as president, Keith led and managed to get consensus that suppliers will have equal voting rights to the traditional fabricator members. This robust debating and discussions of varying opinions was healthy outcome for the association.

The key concern for the association during the late 90’s was finance. When Keith joined council in 1997 it was evident that if nothing changed, the association would be broke within 3 years. Keith was fortunate to have the able assistance of James Kelman and Greg Penman on council with him and together with the input and assistance from the other council members, they restructured the finances focus and direction to ensure the association kept financially viable.

There was a lot of effort and focus on training during this period. Fellow council member Greg Penman spent a lot of time working with the training service providers to finalise the Certificate 3 in Industrial Textiles Fabrication training package. Followed by an education and promotional campaign to make the members fully aware of this national training package. To this day, there is a great focus on training at STA.

Because Australia is such a large country with a relatively low population and in addition to the industry not being mainstream, there is a continually struggle as an association to have a strong voice at a national level as well as at all state and territory levels.  

“One cannot underestimate the real learnings and benefits that come from being involved in this association” Keith says.

Whilst we know that the council is always trying to explain the benefits of becoming a member and getting involved on council, the real benefit cannot be measured or seen unless you experience it firsthand. He further explains “I’m sure that everyone that has been involved on council would say that it was a very worthwhile experience both in a personal level and also at their company or business level. The contacts and friendships that are fostered will last a lifetime and the benefits of having various friends within the industry that you can openly talk to or discuss a common issue is one of the key membership benefits that cannot be measured”.

Keith Bartlett was awarded a Life Membership in 2015. His future hopes look forward to STA becoming stronger as an association and continuing to strengthen relationships with other similar industry associations such as BMAA and Lightweight structures etc, to a point where all are under the one united umbrella. This could then expand further to include other market divisions that have a direct market focus similar to what has been done with the motor trimmers, these additional markets segments could include Transport, Sailing, Liners, Agricultural, Medical and more.