This time last year, the cover of the December 2019 API magazine featured a headline “see the future of plumbing.” If only we had known at the time what 2020 had in store for us.
We started the year with devastating bushfires that consumed a large part of eastern Victoria. By 27 February, when the last fires in Victoria were declared contained, 1.5 million hectares were burnt, nearly 400 homes lost, and five people killed. Across the country the fire season claimed 19 million hectares, 3,500 homes and 34 lives.
That was just the start.
We had a scarce few weeks’ reprieve before COVID-19 started stalking our society and economy. So far in 2020, Victoria alone has experienced more than 20,000 cases, 819 deaths and a yet-unknown impact that will continue to affect business productivity, jobs and livelihoods well into next year. But as we write this column, Victoria is approaching four weeks without a new case or fatality.
Across Australia, states and territories are continuing to be on high alert as it is all too easy for community transition to create the next lockdown as we have seen in South Australia. Still, we are all looking forward to recovery while we await the release of a vaccine.
Throughout the year, Master Plumbers has been extremely busy supporting and advising members during this very difficult period, while actively advocating and representing not only the interests of our members but the industry as a whole to government.
The investment and implementation the association has strategically rolled out over the past few years building a new digital platform has allowed us to capitalise on the benefits of online forums and channels.
Our COVID portal has provided members with clear, up to date and accurate information in an everchanging regulatory environment where uncertainty was common.
Across the year, we stepped up to new levels in our communications with members. We checked in by phone or in person with nearly all members at least once and our online channels also ramped up with 130,000 emails sent, 216,000 website visits and a combined social media audience of more than 12,000.
More broadly, we have been safeguarding the future plumbing workforce, managing to keep training apprentices throughout, with only a short disruption at the peak of the crisis. We also kept our group training apprentices in work wherever possible and made sure those who did not have a host employer remained engaged with us. In this regard, we are delighted to announce that apprentices and plumbing businesses in Queensland are now able to access Master Plumbers Group Training in a new partnership with Master Plumbers Queensland. Following news released earlier this year that All Trades Queensland Pty Ltd had been placed in Administration, Master Plumbers formed Plumbing Apprentices Queensland, a joint venture to save as many Queensland plumbing apprentice jobs and livelihoods as possible.
This strengthens the long-standing relationship between Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia and Master Plumbers Association of Queensland, which represents the largest associations of plumbing employers in Australia.
As we approach the end of a year like no other we have seen, we wish members and their families a safe and enjoyable break over Christmas and New Year. Here’s hoping that 2021 will be a year that builds on all the wonderful efforts, improvements and resilience we have developed over the year past, with none of the trauma.
President, Master Plumbers
CEO, Master Plumbers