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Party like it’s 1991: Celebrating 30 Years of AusAPT – Phil Kerr

The Australian Association for Psychological Type was formed in 1991 at Australia’s first type conference, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: Australian Perspectives. This year we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of those two milestones.

Australians studying theology and spirituality in California in the late 1970s encountered the MBTI and were enthused. On their return they ran seminars and workshops that popularised type in religious communities and schools. During the 1980s, use of the MBTI spread to organisations in the private and public sectors.

In response to the growing interest, Mary McGuiness established the Institute for Type Development (ITD) in Sydney. In 1986 she brought Katherine Myers and Margaret Hartzler to Australia to lead a six-day program in which more than 40 people were accredited to use the MBTI.

Graduates from the program voiced a need for a type association and a conference. Mary convened a meeting of interested individuals who resolved to ‘get people together’ for a conference. They booked Margaret Hartzler and Otto Kroeger (USA) and Terence McBride (Australia) as speakers, and called for session proposals.

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) teamed up with ITD to co-host the conference. John Izard and Peter McCrossin from ACER joined Mary on the conference committee, along with Alan Boxsell, Elizabeth Cain, Noel Davis, John Flynn, Denis O’Brien, Tom Plaizer and Kate Scholl.

Meanwhile, the US-based Association for Psychological Type had enlisted David Freeman of Australian Psychologists Press to form an Australian chapter. At a meeting in Melbourne in 1990, Peter Malone was nominated as interim president of the prospective national body. State-based type associations were formed in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.

In April 1991 Sandra Hirsh drew Australian type practitioners together at a series of workshops in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane on the use of type in organisations.

The vision of an Australian type conference was at last realised in October 1991, when more than 100 local and international delegates gathered in Bronte, NSW. To emphasise type’s Jungian foundations, Terence McBride opened the proceedings. Otto Kroeger entertained with a dinner speech on type and humour. Margaret Hartzler, Janet Theusen, Denis O’Brien, Noel Davis and Mary McGuiness also featured as keynote speakers.

During the conference, leaders of regional type associations resolved to establish an Australian Association for Psychological Type. An interim national committee was formed, with Peter Freney stepping up as national president in anticipation of another conference the following year in Queensland.

The 1991 MBTI: Australian Perspectives conference set the course for the propagation and application of psychological type in Australia over the ensuing 30 years. Within 6 months, the new Australian Association for Psychological Type launched a periodical, the Australian Journal of Psychological Type (later Australian Psychological Type Review, and ultimately Personality).

Selected conference papers were published in a book distributed widely to public and institutional libraries all over Australia. In his Foreword, Peter McCrossin praised the foresight of his co-editors Mary McGuiness and John Izard “in proposing and seeing to fruition the first national conference”, and anticipated that “more conferences of this type will be held in the future”. 

That has proved to be prescient. Within a year, AusAPT convened its first conference in its own name, in Twin Waters, QLD. And we’ve continued to hold conferences: 16 now over the three decades of AusAPT’s life. 

In the COVID world of 2020 and 2021 we held our conferences online. Joining us for our 30th anniversary conference were Mary McGuiness, Meredith Fuller and Peter Geyer – who had all participated in the 1991 conference. The historical threads are strong.