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The Akubra has been an icon of the Australian outback since the 1870s, so our Year 11 Business Studies students were thrilled to travel to Akubra’s manufacturing plant in Kempsey last week to learn first-hand about the operation management side of this 100% Australian-owned business.
The thirty-six students stayed overnight in Port Macquarie before arriving at the factory early the next morning where they were greeted by Managing Director, Mr Stephen Keir IV, whose family has owned the business since 1905.
What immediately struck our students as they toured the plant and met some of its 90 employees, is that most of the manufacture is still done by hand. Given that there is a minimum of 11 key steps involved in making each individual hat, it’s little wonder that Akubra is synonymous with quality around the world.
The “Cattleman”, “Stockman”, “Snowy River” and “Riverina” styles continue to be perennial favourites with Australians on the land, but as sales grow in countries like China and Tibet, there is an increasing demand for hats made with barramundi skin or farmed crocodile skin.
After touring the plant, the students travelled to the local golf club where they heard directly from the operations, finance and marketing managers about their roles, as well as the opportunities and challenges they faced. The students were encouraged to ask questions and gained an invaluable insight into every aspect of the business.
As manufacturers abandon Australia in a bid to reduce costs, it was wonderful for students to learn about a quintessentially Australian brand that has deservedly retained its place in our not-so-sunburnt country for more than 130 years.
We are grateful to Mr Keir and his staff for making our students feel so welcome and for taking the time to educate, inform and engage them. Thank you!