Kate Jones meets Brian and Sarah Curran, Australia’s most remote plumbers, and finds out the challenges and rewards of their unique working environment.
Lorena Kollar tells Kathryn Kernohan that no two days are ever the same as the HR Officer with Melbourne’s plumbing company, Chadoak.
“I am the standalone HR [officer] at Chadoak, so I get involved with all facets from performance management to inductions, as well as WorkCover and injury claims,” Lorena Kollar explains.
“I love working here, it is always challenging because I have so many different roles but there is always something exciting to work on.”
Lorena’s job description has become even broader in 2020 as Chadoak, like every other business in the country, has had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had to stock up on PPE [personal protective equipment] and provide our staff with everything they need to enter high-risk facilities. I have also been involved with the development of COVID policies, high-risk plans and staff training,” she says.
Fortunately, Chadoak, one of Melbourne’s largest plumbing and building maintenance businesses, has not been impacted by the pandemic as much as some others.
This is because of the “huge growth” the business has undergone in its construction and commercial departments and its involvement in many major projects that have continued throughout 2020.
“We have been working on the Victorian Government’s Metro Tunnel project, providing infrastructure for the new stations going underground including hydraulic plumbing.
“Top-tier Government jobs like this haven’t stopped during COVID.”
The $11 billion Metro Tunnel project, estimated to open in 2025, will add five new underground stations to Melbourne’s train network.
Other projects Chadoak has been involved in include redeveloped train stations at Reservoir and West Footscray and a relocation of reticulated gas, water and sewer mains at the iconic Flinders Street Station.
Another major success has been the construction of the Burwood Brickworks precinct, designed and built as Australia’s first fully sustainable shopping centre. Chadoak’s brief was to promote recycling and the use of blackwater from the centre’s onsite wastewater treatment plant. The finished product is Australia’s first retail build to receive a 6 Green Star Design and Living Building Challenge (the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard).
Chadoak also works closely with Melbourne’s three water boards - Yarra Valley Water, City West Water and South East Water.
“We also do a lot of work as allocated contractors with aged care homes, hospitals and apartment blocks,” says Lorena.
Working in high-risk locations including aged care facilities and hospitals during the pandemic has provided some new essential considerations such as PPE and COVID-safe training.
The business has also had staff wellbeing as front of mind throughout the pandemic - a crucial element of Lorena’s role.
“We always acknowledge and respect our employees, and COVID has affected us all in different ways. Through Incolink’s wellbeing and support services, we provide free counselling services to our staff and we have ensured they know how to access these services during COVID.”
Chadoak was founded in 1963 by Richard ‘Dick’ Griffin, who left his brother’s business to start his own, and employed three of his sons.
The business has grown from humble beginnings operating from the family home to its current location in Clayton in Melbourne’s south-east. The business now employs about 130 people, with about 30 in administration and the rest working as plumbers, apprentices, machine operators and estimators.
Lorena says that the family business feels like a second family to many, which has held them in good stead through a challenging year.
“Everybody works closely together and we all have great working relationships,” she says.
“COVID has of course been tough for everybody, but we are working extremely hard to keep the business strong and to continue to win jobs. We want to keep all of our employees.”
“I think we will come together as a company to comply with the new COVID norm when it arrives. As for the future, I don’t think it will ever be the same again but we will get through it together.”