UKMA has recently acquired two pamphlets from the 1970s Australian metric conversion programme. One about the switchover to metric units for weather reports, and one about the switchover for motoring.
Each pamphlet was part of an intensive public education campaign centred around M-days, specific dates on which certain sectors made the coordinated switchover to metric units.
The Australian metric conversion programme made use of M-days. An M-day, or metrication day, was a target date that was set for a key element of a sector’s metric conversion programme. Each M-day was accompanied by an intensive public education campaign. Pamphlets and other information material were issued, and newspapers, radio and television all cooperated in explaining the new units, and how they would affect the public.
M-day for weather reports was 1 September 1972. This was 10 years after the UK made the nominal switchover to degrees Celsius. Analysing the pamphlet, it is clear that the Australian metric conversion benefited from lessons learned from the British experience, where daily weather temperatures had been given on television in both °F and °C, but a survey after years of exposure revealed that most people had totally ignored the metric.
“Temperature reports in public advices issued by the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia’s official weather service, will be only in degrees Celsius from September 1.
The Bureau does not favour a dual system of publication because overseas experience has revealed that this makes it harder for people to adapt to the new unit.
Some news media may wish to use a dual system for a limited time period, but it is expected this will be discontinued from September 1.
If temperature were expressed in both units every day, the public would find it difficult to learn Celsius.”
In 1974, Australia also had a successful conversion to metric units for motoring. This was in sharp contrast to the UK, where the planned 1973 switchover was postponed indefinitely following the change in government in 1970. Nearly 50 years later, the metric switchover for UK road signs has yet to be rescheduled.
Both pamphlets can be downloaded from the following web page: