Transformation is a key concept in social-ecological systems research, and transition theory in particular; however, the essential elements of a transformation are yet to be clearly articulated. This article explores the changes that took place when Australian governments deliberately set out to restructure the Australian dairy industry. Using the subtropical dairy industry as a case study, we conducted semi-structured interviews with industry stakeholders. Our analysis was structured around transition concepts thus testing the framework's efficacy. We found that deregulation substantially altered the culture of the industry and the structure and working practices of the production system, supply chain, industry organisations and government agencies. Transition theory and its concepts provided a useful framework to explain how systemic change transformed the industry. Transition theory identified the multi-scalar nature of the interactions between structure and practice and the social and power relationships that reinforced change.