In 1891, 57 plumbing contractors paid a £5 entrance fee and £1 subscription to enable the establishment of the Associated Master Plumber of Victoria.
At the time Victoria was undergoing enormous transformation. Between 1883 and 1888, the annual rate of housing construction had doubled. But while population and development across the city had soared, Melbourne was still reliant on an outdated and increasingly dangerous sanitary system. Cesspits and pails were used to deal with solid excremental waste, while household and manufacturing liquid waste found its way into open street channels that lead to the Yarra River or Hobsons Bay, both of which had become fouled and unsightly.
Education was always at the forefront of the minds of the Master Plumbers. As well as proper learning and instruction in the trade and the use of examinations to prove competence of plumbers, the Association also paid close attention to the ongoing learning and self improvement of its members.
In November 1892, Mr Beggs, a committee member, suggested that the Association obtain the services of “some competent gentleman” to give lectures to plumbers on sanitary matters. The training would take place at the Working Men’s College and reflect the fact that the task of fitting sanitary appliances was relatively new to most plumbers. In addition to the electricity lecture series, the Association began a library of relevant periodic journals for their members.