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Recognising the critical link in the water industry: people

In my last column, I introduced the idea that in 2019 the Australian Water Association’s Queensland Branch would be focusing our efforts on improving water literacy or our knowledge about water sources, water management and water-related issues. I’m glad to say that with three sold-out events to start the year, it appears to be a theme that resonates with many of you.

For our first event of the year, we partnered with the Stormwater Association of Queensland to improve knowledge of this water source and its management. At our second event, we heard from Seqwater, Sunwater and the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy about the opportunities and challenges that the management of our bulk water system faces, and at our third event, the Young Water Professionals subcommittee partnered with the United Nations Association of Australia to discuss Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation.

All three of these events challenged us to think past what we thought we knew to expand our understanding of the issues in each topic area. While all important in their own right, these discussions have largely missed the one critical linkage that ties them all together: people.

People are what I would like to focus on in this month’s column.

It never ceases to amaze me when I see the passion many of us have for this industry. It seems that for most, working in this industry is a means to an end where we can all feel like we have made a difference and other people’s lives are better for what we have done. Few other industries are as influential to people’s lives than ours, yet few other industries promote themselves and the importance and value of their work less. I challenge you to find an industry that isn’t reliant on water at some stage of its supply chain or delivery!

So, with people as the focus, two significant opportunities are upon us. The first is the Water Industry Operators Association (WIOA) Operator of the Year Award and the second is the Australian Water Association’s Queensland Branch Committee elections.

Water and wastewater operators are at the frontline of community and environmental health everyday but rarely is their trade recognised in this fashion. In fact, in September 2018, the Local Government Association of Queensland Workforce and Future Skills Report identified that wastewater and water operators were the two technical trades where councils faced the highest future skills shortage.

The WIOA Operator of the Year Award is a chance for us to highlight the amazing work being done in our industry by two under-recognised trades and contributes to lifting the stature of the profession. If we don’t start now, our next wave of operators may not find the profession; how will we sustainably and suitably staff these essential roles.

Please take a moment to recognise an operator in this year’s awards.

As outlined earlier, the second ‘people’ opportunity we are going to be presented with is our annual Queensland Branch Committee election cycle. The Branch Committee is a fun and rewarding way to give back to the industry and we will be calling for nominations in May.

To be eligible to nominate – and vote – however, you must be a current individual member of the Australian Water Association as of 30 April; meaning Water Supporters and employees of Corporate Members without an individual membership are not eligible. If you are interested in being part of the committee, please check your membership status now.

Thanks for staying with me through another column. As always, I look forward to meeting you at one of our events and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

This column was written by Justin Simonis, President of AWA’s Queensland Branch, for the April 2019 edition of Queensland Source.