ETU members and supporters in Queensland and New South Wales showed their true Union values by dropping everything to assist flood-affected communities in getting the power back on in their homes.
In Queensland, Operation Energise was quick to mobilise after major floods in Brisbane and Gympie. This is their tenth deployment since the group was first established after Cyclone Larry in 2006. The operation prioritises not-for-profit organisations, pensioners, single parents and people who are uninsured.
ETU QLD and NT President Keith ‘Macca’ McKenzie leads the group.
“When you do work like this, you can see it changing people’s lives,” he said.
Set up by the Union, Operation Energise works in partnership with publicly-owned Energex, Ergon Energy and Powerlink Queensland and alongside the support of electrical contacting companies. Contractors help by supplying workers and a fully equipped vehicle and their meals, accommodation and PPE equipment supplied by Energy Queensland. The ETU then trains and briefs them and coordinates the deployments.
The most recent crew included nine tradespeople and four apprentices who worked together for more than two weeks.
Nilsen, Perigon, Stowe and Powerlink participated in the current deployment.
We were extremely grateful that brothers Cameron and Bruce Humphrey were again able to participate in the deployment. Both these men have been involved in numerous deployments and their knowledge is invaluable.
Affected community members would call a 1800 number to ask the unit for assistance. ETU staff at the Queensland & NT office in Brisbane fielded calls from distressed community members, listening to their stories and adding them to the list of homes to reconnect. Often ETU staff on the phones were the first people to hear their stories.
The crew restored power in over 60 homes across the flood-affected areas of Gympie and Goodna and Bundamba in Brisbane. They also restored power to community organisations such as the Cooloola BMX bike track and Goodna Bowls Club, giving the local community somewhere to go and restoring a bit of normality back into their lives.
NSW sets up ‘Community Connect’
In NSW, the first ever ‘Community Connect’ crew has also been busy reconnecting power in homes and community centres in Ballina and other towns in Northern NSW.
Community Connect was Inspired by Operation Energise in Queensland, with Macca providing vital advice and assistance.
“We will do everything we can to assist our members and communities who have suffered massive flood damage,” said ETU NSW & ACT Secretary Allen Hicks.
The ETU’s ‘Community Connect’ initiative was backed by five electrical contractors and the ETU is calling for more to get on board.
“The ETU congratulates Stowe, FIP, Fredon, Downer and PM Electrics for contributing skilled workers and resources to the Community Connect project.,” said Allen.
“Let’s bring the industry together on this because thousands of people urgently need the expertise we can bring.”
Similar to Operation Energise, the Community Connect Crew has worked together to provide at least a basic electrical installation that includes at a minimum a safety switch and power point to flood-affected homes.
In both states, volunteers have also assisted at local donation services by testing and tagging donated appliances, making sure they are safe to give to people who have lost everything.
Looking after the community
ETU QLD and NT President Keith ‘Macca’ McKenzie says that one of the most important things they can do when they go into people’s homes who have lost everything is to sit and take the time to listen to them and learn about what they’re going through.
“Sitting down and having a cup of tea with them, once we’ve sorted out the electrical part, is also really important. It gives them a chance to tell their stories and an ear to listen to them.”
“We’re unionists, so looking after the community and social justice is part of what we do.”
The crews also give them practical information about services they can access, or government grants they can apply for to help them rebuild their homes.
He says that doing this kind of work is very different to the everyday job of an electrical worker.
“When you do work like this, you can see it changing people’s lives.”
ETU Hardship Fund
The ETU has set up a hardship fund for members affected by the floods. If you’d like to support the fund by making a donation, please use the details below. The ETU is not a charity so donations are not tax-deductible. All money in the fund will go to affected members and their communities.
BSB: 062 000
AC Number: 19379635
Account Name: ELECTRICAL TRADES UNION OF AUSTRALIA NATIONAL COUNCIL – CEPU-ETU FUND ACCOUNT
If you’ve been affected by the floods, please contact your branch to see what assistance is available to you.