Rich history of a national country icon

MORE THAN A HAT: Tim Fischer says Akubra - Handcrafted History documents in great detail the history of the iconic brand, from its beginnings in Hobart.

MORE THAN A HAT: Tim Fischer says Akubra - Handcrafted History documents in great detail the history of the iconic brand, from its beginnings in Hobart.

THERE are four huge pillars that create and define the success of Akubra.

All are carefully detailed with colour, action and movement in Akubra - Handcrafted History.

The first pillar by a country mile is the Keir family.

They are the authors of this comprehensive coffee table book, which is full of gems.

It was way back in 1876, not in Kempsey or Sydney but in Hobart, that Kensington Hat Mills was set up, mainly by Ben Dunkerley.

The Dunkerleys moved to the big smoke of Sydney and their daughter Ada met Stephen Keir at the Waterloo factory, and married in 1905. 

The Kier family dynasty was launched. 

Through the Great Depression and two world wars, the Kier family battled on, modernised and expanded.

Now unlike Qantas, which was an iconic name and part of the equation from its inception in Queensland, the book details how various trading and company names were adopted along the pathway from Hobart to Kempsey, during which the terminology “Akubra” emerged and went on to dominate all.

In a sense, the second pillar of Akubra was the move to South Kempsey, helped along by the policies spearheaded by then NSW Minister for Decentralisation, Sir John Fuller, a giant in his time.

Kempsey has not always been an easy location, but it has now been the successful base of Akubra hat production for decades.

The third pillar of Akubra was the huge upswing in both country and company uniform sales, along with orders from the Australian Army of thousands of Akubra in contracts for the legendary slouch hat.

The book highlights periods of lean pickings but with new marketing and use of celebrities, Akubra in a sense relaunched as hats of practicality and style, great to be seen worn everywhere.

This led to the fourth pillar, I guess the one with the greatest potential, the export market.

This incredible book is a great salute to the Keir family and to Akubra.

  • Tim Fischer is the former deputy Prime Minister and Farrer MP
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