Women in Plumbing Breakfast at Parliament House

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women in plumbing breakfast at parliament house

On Monday I had the pleasure of attending the Women in Plumbing breakfast at Parliament House. The event was supported by the Master Plumbers’ Association of Queensland (MPAQ) and the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC).

Two weeks before the event, I received an email from the head manager of QBCC asking to ‘save the date’ for the breakfast. Due to the timing of getting Esther to Kindy, and already organsing babysitting for her school interview on the following day of the breakfast, I declined the invitation, even though I really wanted to go and of course blog about it.

A day later I received a letter from Leeanne Enoch, Minister for Housing and Public Works and Minister for Science and Innovation, inviting me to attend the breakfast and then, I had a request from Penny Cornah, the Executive Director of MPAQ, asking if I could share about why I chose plumbing and a bit about my blog, The Plumbette.

It seemed I was meant to go to that breakfast and I was so glad I could rearrange my morning so I could.

It was a morning of being inspired by women sharing being the ‘first’ in their industry. The highlight for me was listening to everyone share their challenges, but also their motivation of wanting to support women in their trade. It was refreshing and inspiring.

I got to catch up with Carlie, Brisbane’s only female plumbing inspector and Eileen the Manager of the Plumbing Inspectors in Brisbane. I also got to briefly talk to two other female plumbers who have had a son together since the last time we caught up.

women in plumbing breakfast
Myself, Carlie and Eileen

I met another female plumber who runs a family bathroom renovating business with her husband and the rest of the guests were managers or directors of the MPAQ and QBCC.

women in plumbing breakfast
Sitting with Lisa (middle) from MPAQ and Rhonda who is also a plumber and runs a business with her builder husband.

When I sat down for breakfast and saw the logo on the plates, I realized how big a deal it was to be sitting in the Premier’s Hall of Parliament House, and what an honour it was to be asked to share about my journey.

QLD Parliament Plate

Penny (MPAQ) opened the morning’s proceedings, sharing her passion for the plumbing industry, as her dad was a plumber. She had often wondered why she didn’t do an apprenticeship and I almost wanted to yell out ‘It’s not too late’. But it was not a morning for calling out, and Penny’s career is an inspiration for any woman entering a trade environment. She started working for MPAQ 9 years ago and is now the Executive Director.

Penny Cornah MPAQ
Penny Cornah, Executive Director of MPAQ

We then got to hear MP Leeanne Enoch share her successes and her desires to help women in plumbing feel supported as they pursue their career. Leeanne is a genuine, warm and inspiring woman to listen to. As the first Indigenous Woman to be elected into QLD parliament, she understands the pressure and responsibility of being one of the ‘firsts’ in her career and this resonated with me. My blog is the first plumbing blog of its kind in Australia and I think the world (but I could be wrong and happy for someone else to take that claim if they started before me). I never anticipated it to be challenging to build, nor as successful as it has been.

MP Leeanne Enoch
MP Leeanne Enoch

Kellie Lowe, QLD’s first female Commissioner for the QBCC also shared about her career and the highlight of being the first female Commissioner.

Kellie Lowe First Female Commissioner
Kellie Lowe, First Female Commissioner, QBCC

She has assisted the QBCC in prosecuting unlicensed persons from carrying out unlawful building work. The QBCC has issued 17 fines for various plumbing and drainage offences since it took over regulating the plumbing industry in November 2014. The fines have tallied up to $19,467 for unlicensed work. This is why it’s important not to carry out your own plumbing work and why you should always check your plumber has the correct license if they do work for you.

Breakfast was served, on gold initialed QLD Parliament crockery. I took pictures just so I could show you.

breakfast at parliament House

After breakfast, it was time to hear from two female plumbers, Carlie and myself.

Carlie Lowe female plumbing inspector
Carlie, Australia’s first female plumbing inspector.

Carlie shared why she became a plumber and the challenges she has faced both becoming a plumber and a plumbing inspector. One thing that Carlie mentioned, which helped me see my role in a new light, was that there is more to a trade than just being on the tools. The career opportunities are vast and many when you become a tradie. There are careers beyond the tools.

I instantly felt a weight fall off my shoulders when Carlie mentioned that.

You see, since I stopped working on the tools to have Phoebe, I have felt guilty for not being on them in the last two years while on maternity leave. Ridiculous huh? I’ve been self-critical about writing a plumbing blog, and not being on the tools. But I shouldn’t put this pressure on myself when I have three little girls to mother. Writing a plumbing blog is a pretty cool business (which I love) and while I only occasionally get on the tools to help people or review products, my role can still help raise awareness for other women entering the industry to becoming a tradie.

In QLD there are 15,000 plumbers and only 45 of them are female. From memory, I was the 13th or 15th female plumber in QLD to receive her license. That was 5 years ago.

When it was my turn to share about my career, I decided to break up the presentation in three sections – What I did pre-kids, during kids and post kids (now). As I was putting the slides together for the presentation, I surprised myself with what I had achieved in 9 years. I didn’t want my presentation to be solely about what I’ve done. My goal was to inspire everyone in the room on what they can achieve if they dare to dream big and plug away (pun intended) on their career. I wanted them to seize new opportunities and face challenges positively.

Bec The Plumbette talking at Parliament House

 

women in plumbing breakfast Bec The Plumbette

 

This graphic was designed by Kirsten & Co, the quote is my own.
This graphic was designed by Kirsten & Co, the quote is my own.

I walked away from the breakfast with a spring in my step. I realized my part in the plumbing industry was unique and valid. It inspired me to continue to write my blog in a way as to encourage and uplift.

Special thanks to Leeanne Enoch MP, the MPAQ and QBCC for organising the breakfast. It was a memorable morning and I look forward to the next one where hopefully we get to mingle with female plumbing apprentices who need our support and encouragement as they go through their apprenticeship. It’s not easy, but it can be done triumphantly.

Have you ever gone to Parliament House in your state? Ever met an MP in person? Who inspires you in your career or your role as a mother?

I’m linking up with With Some Grace for FYBF.