Ric New honoured with Robert Law Award
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Midland Brick founder, the late Ric New, has been honoured for his influence on Western Australia’s building industry, receiving the Master Builders Association’s Robert Law Award.
Mr New’s daughter, Marylyn New, accepted the Robert Law Award on his behalf at the Master Builders-Bankwest CEO lunch today.
The Robert Law Award, named after the Master Builder Association’s first president in 1898, is given to an individual or organisation that has made an outstanding contribution to the building industry in the state.
Born in Perth in 1914, Mr New left school to join the building industry at 14.
Responding to a severe shortage of construction materials after WWII by manufacturing his own, Mr New established Midland Brick in 1946 with the help of his brother, Gerry, a £200 loan from his mother, and homemade machinery put together from war surplus parts.
By 1989, the year Mr New died, his Midland Brick business was estimated to have been supplying about 80 per cent of the bricks for WA’s market.
“In these fast-changing times, young West Australians should be inspired by Ric New’s determination and encouraged to think creatively to find simple solutions to what might appear to be complex problems,” he said.
Midland Brick general manager Greg Smith said the company began with one kiln built by the New brothers from second-hand bricks and had since grown to be one of the world’s largest brick-making plants.
“Ric was a great innovator throughout his life and was probably responsible for more advances in brick manufacture than any other West Australian – or indeed Australian,” he said.
Mr New was believed to have used war surplus to make his brick-making machinery, including the gearbox of a Sherman tank, which was modified to become the brickworks’ first auger.
Three Bren Gun carriers were also converted by Mr New into the state’s first commercial forklifts, reaching speeds of 40 miles an hour.
"But bricklayers were in short supply, so Ric helped start WA’s first bricklaying school.
“When the Dongara to Perth gas line opened in 1971, Midland Brick became the state’s first customer for natural gas, converting its oil-burning kilns to this much cleaner fuel.
“In 1972, Midland Brick introduced its first clay paver and the New brothers formed The Midland Contracting Company to train and develop a new skilled workforce.
“The first contract for the team was the Perth Concert Hall. These pavers remain in place today, which is testament to the quality of the product and the skills of those workers.
“By the end of the 1970s, Midland was making 83 types of bricks, including the unique Fastwall – another of Ric’s early innovations.”
Beyond the Robert Law Award, Mr New will continue to be commemorated with two Master Builders awards for young people – the annual Ric New Rising Star Award, given to an outstanding person aged up to 25, and the Ric New Medal for Excellence, awarded to someone up to 35 years old who has displayed strong innovation and work ethic in the building and construction industry.