Telling a furphy – the real story behind the Aussie business

  • Business

From humble beginnings, products made by NAB business customer Furphy – and the Aussie slang it inspired – are now used by everyday Australians.

  • 15.12.2023
  • Time to read 1 min read


From humble beginnings, Furphy products – and the Aussie slang it inspired – are now used by everyday Australians.

The regional Victorian family business manufactures a range of metal products used by companies and communities nationwide: the stainless-steel tank used to produce the milk you drink each morning or the shelter you sit beneath at your local park.

The business was established by John Furphy, who worked as a blacksmith in Kyneton. In 1873, he relocated north to Shepparton to capitalise on the region’s riches.

Furphy started a new foundry there, and business quickly grew. He is most famous for creating the Furphy water cart – seen everywhere across farms and military camps during World War I and the inspiration for the common phrase ‘to tell a furphy’.

“It started out as a little project, but became the iconic product of the business,” great, great grandson Adam Furphy and fifth generation business manager said.

“It’s been a long, evolutionary-type journey in terms of the business and what it does,” he said.

The original business was divided in the 1980s, with Adam now leading J. Furphy & Sons, specialising in tank design and fabrication and hot-dip galvanising, and his cousin Sam Furphy running the Furphy Infrastructure Group, a leading manufacturer in public open space infrastructure.

“We couldn’t be prouder and more respectful of our forefathers … we have two successful businesses operating in Shepparton … and distribute nationally around Australia,” Sam said.

Community the heartbeat of the business

Adam Furphy, Managing Director J. Furphy & Sons

The Furphys were among the first 10 families to settle in Shepparton – and Adam Furphy said the location remains the heartbeat of the business.

“You have a much deeper relationship with your suppliers and customers and the community at large,” he said.

“I think it works in a magical way to ensure that we’ve got really strong and connected businesses.”

Adam said the relationship to Shepparton was reciprocal, with Furphy a major employer in the region.

“After all these years in business, I think the achievement that I’m most proud of is that we continue to be a major employer in a regional location in the manufacturing space in Australia.”

The business also has a special relationship with NAB, as a longstanding customer of 30 years.

“The benefits of the relationship that we have with NAB is that they understand our business, they can have some confidence in the way that we operate our business, and they’re now more familiar than ever with the space that we’re working in,” Sam said.

“That relationship [with NAB] is really the cornerstone of the ongoing success of our relationship.”

The Furphy cousins met NAB CEO Ross McEwan when he visited Shepparton in November 2023.

“It was terrific to meet Adam and Sam and learn more about their businesses. The history behind Furphy is a great Australian story and the family is ambitious to keep growing what is already a leading business,” Ross McEwan said.

“Not only do the Furphy companies make a significant contribution to the local economy but they are a great example of how businesses can evolve, with a focus on modern and sustainable methods.”

Preparing for the future

In its 150-year history, the Furphy business has witnessed wars, weather events, economic disasters, and more recently, the coronavirus pandemic. But the family has remained steadfast.

“We’re a very old business, and I think by the nature of that, we tend to take a longer view about what we do,” Adam said.

The company’s longer view has encompassed the diversification of products and manufacturing techniques and, in recent years, a growing ambition to safeguard the business and community into the future. That includes a range of renewable energy and emissions reduction initiatives.

“Sustainability means a number of things … how we go about managing our growth, profitability and making sure we’re investing in the longer term.”

Sam Furphy, Group Managing Director Furphy Infrastructure Group

“The other element of sustainability is community led. We’re part of a big community here in Shepparton, but the other locations in which we operate, and the strength of those communities, underpins the strength of our business,” Adam said.

The cousins have a shared vision to ensure the twin businesses – and the communities in which they operate – are ready for the next generation.

“Every single day it’s fabulous to see the business growing and for everybody to be getting a reward in our business and being able to grow,” Sam said.

“But even more importantly, I have three sons of my own who I would like to continue to keep this business going for, to give them the same opportunity that I’ve had as a young man.”

NAB CEO Ross McEwan today discussed the ambition of NAB business customers, like Furphy, in his address to the 2023 AGM. You can read his full speech here.

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