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Sharing learnings at the Queensland Conference 2020

The year 2020 has been one of unprecedented change. If one could dream of a way to round off the year in the Queensland water industry, one would think it was almost impossible for it to consist of an in-person conference, with almost 200 delegates, on the Sunshine Coast, just over a kilometre from the beach, at an idyllic, lush, tree-scaped venue, right?

Or how about a Gala Dinner and Awards night ‘cherry on top’ to celebrate the achievements of the water industry despite having ‘changed the way we work’, operating in a ‘new normal’, mainly ‘in iso’ mode for many moons?

Well, that dream was a reality at the 2020 Queensland Conference, held on 18-19 November at the Sunshine Coast Convention Centre, hosted by Unitywater, with a perfectly suited theme of “Shared Learnings: A Growth Opportunity”.

Also lovingly known as QCon, this conference brought together many of the annual events that usually decorate the Queensland calendar year but couldn’t be held earlier; namely the North Queensland Conference, the Gala Dinner, the Ozwater hopefuls, and of course our Queensland Conference.

To some, the amount of people in the room felt awkward, strange and alien; but for many others it was welcomed with a sense of relief to see other people existing in the same space without needing medical barrier garments of some sort.

The new normal did consist of awkward non-handshakes, no exchanging of physical business cards, copious hand sanitising stations, and seated lunch arrangements, among other requirements to remind us of the year that was. In the off-chance that someone sneezed in the crowd, I’m sure many hearts skipped a beat in the room. The local magpies, however, were not put off by the sea of humans in the rooms and regularly ventured inside to get a better look.

It was hard not to be inspired with keynotes tying the tourism and water industry together, exploring innovation and blockchain from Queensland Chief Entrepreneur, and we cannot forget operational readiness (the whole point of 2020), with a few fortunate poster pitches in between.

The session themes included Reef Catchments, Brownfield Construction Lessons, Keeping People Front of Mind, Improving The Way We Work, A Greener Energy Future, Pushing The Boundaries of Project Delivery, with a dedicated Safety Program over the course of Day 2.

We also want to congratulate again all the Queensland Award Winners who were celebrated at our Gala Dinner event. Acknowledging these achievements in a year like this was humbling and refreshing.

An event like this wouldn’t be possible without a team of dedicated persons to bring it all together; a big shout out goes to AWA HQ employees including Katie Trevor (AWA Senior Events Manager) who went into isolation for two weeks in Newcastle from Sydney to be present at QCon, Sharon James (Queensland Branch Manager) for the extraordinary work that she does, and to all those in the QCon committee from the Queensland Branch Committee, the Queensland Young Water Professionals Committee, and other dedicated personnel who jumped aboard – we are grateful for the time and effort it took to create an all-encompassing event to round off the year.

Many thanks again to our host sponsor Unitywater, and our platinum sponsors Veolia, Hunter H2O and DGH Engineering. Thank you to Interflow who kept our coffee cups filled, to SUEZ and Seqwater as our Conference Supporters, the University of Queensland as our Best Paper Sponsor, and our Queensland Utility Sponsors. Without this support we wouldn’t have been able to deliver this great event. We also want to acknowledge the trade exhibitors for coming out to share your business insights with our delegates. We always value your presence at our conferences.

To the year that was. To what the future will be. Sharing learnings was so much more than just a growth opportunity, it was a time to recognise that if you are in the water industry, your work is essential in your community, state, and country. Thank you to all those working in our essential industry.

We are hosting some smaller, end-of-year events if you’d like to join us. Otherwise, Merry Christmas and we look forward to seeing you all again, whether in-person or online, in the new year.