ARTD founding directors, Chris Milne and David Morrissey, met when they worked together at Tranby College in Glebe in the early 1980s. Tranby was an Aboriginal-run adult educational organisation with a strong sense of political activism and deeply involved with the land rights movement around Australia. Chris was running various courses and set up the first training in computers at the college, and David, with a background in anthropology, ran programs in Aboriginal heritage protection, and set up Blackbooks, Australia’s first specialist Aboriginal bookshop. Later Michael Brooks began teaching maths and computing at Tranby.
In the mid-1980s Chris and David set up a consultancy unit for the college and won contracts to provide training and development work with Aboriginal organisations, especially land councils in NSW. They travelled to large and small towns all over NSW and got to know many people with varying degrees of interest in organisational management. After 10 years at Tranby they decided to set up their own consultancy and work on a wider range of issues. Kevin Cook, the Aboriginal director of Tranby, lent them the money for the costs of incorporation of ARTD. He was a fantastic operator, really well connected, fantastic strategically and he knew everyone from Neville Wran (the then Premier) to the guys working at Tempe Tip.
Through the new consultancy company, at first they designed and ran training courses. They pioneered a computer-based training program on management for Aboriginal organisations that could be used around New South Wales. The program won an and award from the Australian Institute of Training and Development — at this time computer-based training was almost exclusively the preserve of large corporations. Michael, who was still teaching at Tranby, wrote the software which was in binary (many years before Windows). Soon after this Michael joined Chris and David at ARTD and became the third director.
Chris joined the new Australasian Evaluation Society, went to the first conferences, and was soon coordinating a fledgling NSW group. Some years later in 1995 Chris and Sue Funnell ran a workshop on program logic that introduced it to experienced US and Canadian evaluators at the first-ever international evaluation conference in Vancouver.
In the 1990s Chris and Michael designed a computer-based training program (again in binary) on using program logic and the NSW method for evaluation. The disk came in a very cool orange box (remember this was before the web) and they sold copies to evaluators and organisations around Australia (the SA government bought a whole of government licence) and internationally, particularly in the US. Kerry Hart took a copy to the White House and ARTD negotiated with some US organisations about partnering with them to develop a version that would use program data, but decided this was not the way to go. ARTD sold over 200 copies.
‘In those early days evaluation was just starting off so we were very lucky that we came in on that wave, and discovered ourselves working in a huge range of different areas. Our projects were diverse, we worked with the Aids Council of NSW and with the NSW government in regards to cleaning up Sydney’s storm water system before the Olympic Games. Retrospectively, one of the things that was important to ATRD was the involvement in Aboriginal community groups and this is still ongoing. We are still working in child protection, and sadly the issues have not gone away. The eagerness to explore new technologies is also a defining aspect of this company and it is time for our current consultants to take it on in a bigger, broader way in the digital age. One of our most important values was and still is concerning the workplace being reasonably relaxed and valuing home life. The message here is diversity, strategic needs as they arise and that we have a skilled team of consultants who will continue to be able to adapt to changes and thrive in the consultancy industry.‘—Chris Milne -Founding Director 2016.