Few people in the plumbing industry have chalked up as many unique experiences as Shane Bilson, he spoke to Kathryn Kernohan from one of Australia’s permanent research stations in Antarctica.
Kate Jones meets Brian and Sarah Curran, Australia’s most remote plumbers, and finds out the challenges and rewards of their unique working environment.
Brian Curran is possibly Australia’s most remote plumber. He covers jobs across more than one million square kilometres.
Living in Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory with wife Sarah and their three young children, Curran works on far-flung cattle stations and for outback indigenous communities. Sometimes, he travels for two days just to get to a job. Once there, Brian or his employees can spend up to a month doing everything from ordinary plumbing work to odd jobs.
“Because of the distance and the logistics of getting to some of the cattle stations, we’ve been asked if we know anyone to do this or that, and we just jump on and do it, and it could be building sheds or concreting,” he said
Brian, who runs Barkly Plumbing Services with Sarah, is now urgently looking for three more plumbers to come on board and join his team of 10.
Having won some major contracts recently, their workload is increasing and the couple need more hands on deck.
“With the contracts we’ve been winning lately, we need more people to do a really broad scope of work; town work and remote work,” Sarah said.
“Sometimes our fellas are out for three to four weeks at a time and we cover Katherine to Alice Springs and WA to Queensland.”
The work would not only suit anyone looking for a tree-change, but also those who are self-sufficient, relish a challenge and have a spirit of adventure.
For example, most customers needing overnight jobs offer meals and accommodation, but there are times when a spare bed just isn’t available.
“If you’re on a cattle station the accommodation and meals are usually supplied, but sometimes we do have to swag it, so it does get a little rough and you might just have to sleep on the back of the truck,” Brian explained.
Above all, applicants also need to be three or four steps ahead of the game in terms of preparedness.
“The big thing here is you have to make lists so that you bring more stuff because you’re better off having more than having to come back for things,” he said.
“You could be 600kms away and there’s no point in ringing the office because I can’t help you when you’re out there.”
The employees who work with the Currans are accustomed to the wide variety of jobs and some specialise in the long stints of work on outback cattle stations or remote communities. Sarah said new staff would be best to take on the diversity of work.
“We’ve got longstanding staff and some of them have been through their apprenticeships and have stayed on with us,” she said.
“The qualities of our staff are: they love the bush work they do, they just get in and get it done, and there’s not a lot of whinging, unless there’s no beer!
“So we’re looking for someone who is keen to get in and do everything.”
Solar technology installation is an increasingly busy work front for the Currans and their team.
With drought impacting many Northern Territory farmers, most are looking for ways to improve their solar pumping and sewerage systems.
“We do a lot of solar boards, especially in the last year when we didn’t have any rain and there was a million head of cattle shipped out of the Barkly region,” Sarah said.
“There were a lot of cattle properties who couldn’t actually water and feed their cattle. So this year they’re preparing themselves in case that happens again.”
Cameron Horsey, plumbing trainer at Master Plumbers, met Brian at a medical gas course three years ago.
Horsey has been so intrigued by the nature of Brian’s remote work, he hopes to one day visit Tennant Creek to work with the Currans.
“It’s a completely different ball game up there,” he said.
“Plumbers need to think well ahead of what the job is and make sure they’ve got everything they need available because they can’t just go down the street for supplies.
To be so organised in such a remote setting would be pretty challenging on a daily basis, let alone over a month.
“That’s why I want to see how he does it because it would be incredible as a business to see how it operates.”
For more information about employment opportunities, please contact Barkly Plumbing Services at [email protected] or call (08) 8962 2502.