Loma Snooks, then Principal Editor of Kinhill Engineers, started it all, back in 1990, when she moved to Canberra and began looking for well-qualified editing staff for Kinhill. Discussions with freelance editor Chris Pirie and publications manager Dr Sandra Child firmed up the idea of a society of editors in Canberra, similar to those already existing in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. That led to an invitation, in May 1991, to address a meeting of the publications staff of a number of government agencies.

Loma’s address led to the formation of a steering committee, which advertised the proposal for an editors’ society in the newspapers and circulated it to ‘any organisations where editors might be hiding’. A good response to this publicity led to the first general meeting in May 1992, with 58 attending. An interim committee, appointed with Graham Grayston as President, sent out a questionnaire to members and, based on the responses, did much to set the pattern of subsequent activity – meetings, newsletters, speakers, training seminars and so on – aimed at fostering professional and social interaction between members and promoting editorial standards and services. The newsletter was first published in June 1992—issues of its successor, The Canberra Editor , from 2001 to current, are available on this site.

At the first AGM, in September, 1992 Loma was elected President, Nigel Harding Vice-President, Maureen Wright Secretary and Sandy Paine Treasurer. Roger Green was newsletter editor and Peter Judge and Gregg Berry were the other committee members. Stefanie Pearce was elected President in 1994, followed by Peter Judge (1996), Clare Booth Steward (1998), Louise Forster (1999), Lee Kirwan (2000), Ed Highley (2001), Claudia Marchesi (2003), Virginia Wilton (2005), Ted Briggs (2007) and Cathy Nicoll (2009).

The society has grown steadily and now has about 200 members, including two Honorary Life Members (Loma Snooks and Peter Judge). Besides its regular monthly meetings, it has put on well-attended training seminars. Its ‘Commissioning checklist’ (1994) offers a guide, for employers and editors, to the questions that need to be resolved before commencing editing work. It has now been to some extent overtaken by the Australian Standards for Editing Practice (2001), available at <www.iped-editors.org>.

Peter Judge produced the first register of Freelance editors in Canberra in 1993 with 34 entries, updating it in 1994 and 1995; Leonore Hardy took it on in 1996 and 1997, and she was followed by Sylvia Marchant in 1998 and then Margaret Pender with the 7th and current edition in 2002, which ran to 59 entries. These registers are mailed free of charge to several hundred potential employers, and seem to work well for both the employers and the freelances – see the ‘find an editor’ page on this site.

The society’s website was brought into being by Peter Judge and launched on 24 June 1998. Quite early on it included a page, which now has 56 entries, modelled on the printed Freelance Register. Full members of the society could put their entries on this web page at no cost, but an entry in the print version cost $50. This seemed discriminatory, so at the suggestion of President Lee Kirwan in 2001 both were made gratis when the current print version was being prepared.

An online discussion group was initiated in 2001, to facilitate an exchange among members of their views on a wide variety of professional matters.

A member survey at the end of 1996 identified professionalism as a key issue, linked to the issues of criteria for ‘full’ membership of the society, training and eventual registration or certification. These are large questions that really need addressing at the national level, and a meeting in Melbourne of the presidents of six out of the eight societies of editors in Australia on 2 August 1998 initiated moves towards this. The meeting resolved to establish a Council of Australian Societies of Editors (CASE) , comprising the presidents of the eight societies or their delegates; to develop a set of national standards for editorial services; to investigate models for accreditation for discussion by members of the state and territory societies; to develop objectives and a business plan for a national magazine; to set up a national website and to plan a national conference for 2001.

The national magazine didn’t continue past its second issue, but everything else has happened or is under way. CASE was superseded at the 2005 national conference by the Institute of Professional Editors, IPEd, which was registered as an Australian Public Company in January 2008. IPEd’s aims are to advance the profession of editing, by planning and implementing national initiatives—an accreditation scheme, promotion and communications campaigns, training and mentoring—and other activities to support Australian societies of editors and their members, and editors in general.

IPEd also supports biennial national conferences of editors, which have been held in Brisbane (2003), Melbourne (2005), Hobart (2007), Adelaide (2009), Sydney (2011). The next will be in Perth in 2013. The conferences are organised and hosted by the local society of editors.

What next? But this is history, not futurology. Clearly it will need regular updating… watch this space!

Source: Abridged and brought up to date from an article by Peter Judge (written with much help from Loma Snooks) originally published in The Canberra Editor 6 (7), August 1997 (later revised by Peter Judge in 2009). Cathy Nicoll has since made a few minor changes since mid-2010.