Heartfelt celebrations are in order with the SSAA ready to savour its 70th birthday this month. The momentous day arrives on April 15. That was the date back in 1948 when about 100 shooters assembled in the Railway Institute Building in Elizabeth Street, Sydney and agreed to the formation of the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia.
Seventy years later, our organisation is a national icon, with world-wide connections, fast approaching a burgeoning membership of 200,000 for another heady milestone.
It has not always been a smooth road to reach our current esteemed status. When the SSAA came into existence those 70 years ago, 500 publicity notices were printed and distributed throughout gunshops. But it took time for word to spread. By 1950-51, NSW membership had increased from 250 to 357 yet bids to establish rural and interstate branches came to nothing. Gradually the tide turned and, one by one, state branches sprouted up. First came Victoria in 1951, ahead of Queensland in 1957. They were followed by South Australia (in 1964), the Northern Territory (1965-66), the ACT (1965), Western Australia (1967) and Tasmania (1969).
Amid these developments, it was still felt that the organisation needed a federal bedrock to bind it together. So on August 18, 1962, National SSAA came into being after a convening meeting of 12 members. John Bradbury, of Queensland, became the inaugural President and some of his early thoughts still resonate today. He felt there was “a need for a unifying force so that a federal body could advise and co-ordinate state bodies”.
“The SSAA name is becoming widely known and respected,” he added.
Since Bradbury there have been 16 Presidents, with fellow Queenslander Geoff Jones currently at the helm to further increase its standing and influence. The SSAA addresses issues relating to politics, conservation, competitive shooting and recreational hunting - with the accent on safety as we look to recruit and train new members in the arts and skills of sports shooting.
Another offshoot of Federation has been this very magazine and its sister publications, which have evolved from the quarterly printed newsletter titled the Report, initially appearing in 1959. The first Australian Shooters Journal came out in 1963. Expansion and innovation saw the Journal take on the guise of Australian Shooter from 1999.
Taking stock of such relentless progress, it would be hard for us to imagine the kind of world that people were living in when the SSAA took its fledgling steps in 1948. Australia had suffered terribly during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Hard on the heels of this social catastrophe, the country was plunged into the turmoil of the WWII. The aftermath of those tumultuous events was still being felt with rationing of meat and clothing finally ending on June 24, 1948.
Despite the hardships, there was a sense of hope and renewal as the soldiers gradually returned to their homeland from various theatres of war and families were brought back together again.
1948 was certainly a year laced with sporting connections. The cricket legend Don Bradman, playing his last Test match against England at The Oval, was bowled in his final innings for a duck. However, Bradman’s Invincibles won by an innings and 149 runs and claimed The Ashes 4-0. As one Australian star stepped off the stage, so another arrived in the world with the birth of future Australian cricket captain Greg Chappell on August 7, 1948.
And if the SSAA was looking for an omen about the future, those early members could have revelled in the deeds of a horse named Rimfire, who won the Melbourne Cup at odds of 66-1.
Elsewhere, Ben Chifley was in office as the 16th Prime Minister of Australia. He served from 1945 to 1949 and was leader of the Labor Party from 1945 until his death in 1951. Another notable landmark was the first Holden to roll off the assembly line as “Australia’s own car” at the Woodville plant in South Australia and Port Melbourne in Victoria. The cost of a Holden Sedan was £760.
To compare our modern existence with the days of the SSAA’s inception in 1948 would be almost akin to jumping into a time machine. Enormous ground has been covered by our organisation during those decades. But on our 70th anniversary we must acknowledge that the SSAA cannot stand still. We remain as committed to protecting the rights of our members as did those pioneering souls in 1948. Happy anniversary!